I’m bent over a dissecting table, a cadaveric hand stretches out in front of me. My scalpel cuts away at the tissue over the biceps muscle. My face is covered in a surgeon’s mask and my hands are gloved. I am alone in the anatomy hall because there I am a Demonstrator Apprentice, a sort of tutor, who usually prepares the prosections for the medical students to see. My marks in Anatomy were very high and this lead to my selection in this unenviable post. I now have to spend Saturdays preparing prosections. My back hurts and as I stand upright to relieve my spine for a few minutes, I watch a reflection on the window across the hall. In it, is a familiar face. The face is smiling.
I turn around to see the Lecturer, Helena Stanchieva, looking absolutely ravishing in a black dress and a pearl necklace with an emerald stone in its centre. She is unsure at first, but as I step forward and take off my mask, she smiles widely and hugs me gingerly. I take off my gloves and my lab coat and step outside the hall with her.
‘You’re the new Demonstrator Apprentice!”
“Yes Ma’am I am”
“Congratulations! It has been far too long since I last saw you. Your hair looks,” she hesitates. She shouldn’t come off as inappropriate, she is, after all, a Lecturer and I am a bottom-of-the-food-chain medical student. “It looks nice”, she concludes abruptly. The two of decide to go down outside for a breath of fresh air. I can smell the formalin everywhere I go and I just hope to the high heavens that she can’t smell it off me. The smell of formalin is revoltingly sweet and sour at the same time. The smell of the cadaver, overpowering enough, also contains with it a certain stench of death that doesn’t go away. Maybe it is the formalin itself, or maybe it is just a figment of my own vivid imagination, but I hope that she can’t smell it.
She and I walk into a cool dusk. A refreshingly cool breeze flows, rustling the leaves on the trees. We sit on a bench and I ask her what she is doing here. “I am going to teach”, she replied,” I will teach the 1st Year students of the MD program”. My imagination does a stupid somersault and there is a juvenile thrill somewhere in my spine. I struggle for a second to bring my attention back to where I physically am. I dream of hazy afternoons and in my mind there is a wild thrill knowing that I could just see her everyday. I feel its juvenile awkwardness now that I sit confessing my shame to a screen. There is something so juvenile in falling for so many women that I feel like rebuking myself. There is something undeniably so adolescent in having crushes on women. I have only a contemptuous disgust for such things. These are not feelings that I respect, this is not a life I respect in any way, this constant wandering around with women on my mind, as if I have nothing more important.
As we sat in the silence, I wished that I could overcome my soft-kneed fascination for Helena, but I wished to revel in it. I wished to revel in the possibility that there was something here, some form of innuendo that could make my sordidly boring life as a foreigner more palatable. It is a distraction I wish I had, something to measure time with.
We went out for a cup of coffee later. She returned to her laboratory to continue her work, and I climbed up the steps to the Anatomy Hall, silently putting on my lab coat and my gloves and a mask. I feel a despondency that ate away at my sense of inner peace as i stood over a cadaver, cutting away at the sub-cutaneous tissue, hoping that those eyes that had seen me for over a quarter of an hour, would return to see the turmoil in my mind, the tempestuous sea of emotion that I felt as I tried to make up my mind about the women in my life.