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Doctor Dreams This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

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     It is my sixth hour on the job. I am in mywork clothes: a white shirt and smock. Both are splattered with red.Bent over, I am focused on the task at hand. A light illuminates theflawless, frighteningly sharp edge of the knife in my hand. It is poisedbetween my steady, practiced fingers, and I pierce the skin just so....

Of course, it is only a fantasy that I am in the operatingroom. In my imagination, I see my reflection with goggles, a mask, andscrub clothes. Around me are attentive nurses, beeping machines, andsterile blue trays displaying gleaming instruments. The task before meis to save my patient, a body splattered in iodine, a surface to cut,but for me, a human life.

I am a world-renowned surgeon, Dr.Elizabeth Meaney. I am sure you have heard of me.

My real job isas a waitress at a beach club restaurant. My smock is not splatteredwith blood, but ketchup. Days as a waitress are filled with morningrounds to see which bottles need filling, and the tedious task ofladling the condiment into them. There is, indeed, a knife in my hand,but it’s a kitchen knife, and the skin I’m piercing is thatof a lemon.

Still, this job requires precision: if anycustomer’s cola contains a lemon that is too slender, or too fullof seeds, there will be complaints. Most members of the beach club havebelonged for at least 30 years, and, being both privileged and elderly,they do not adjust well to change.

My job is monotonous andborderline unimportant. Each morning, swaddled in a sweatshirt andsquinting into the churning Long Island Sound, I place salt, pepper,sugar and ketchup on each table and wipe down the chairs. After thenoon-to-one rush, with my apron double-knotted around my waist and myhair pulled back from my sweaty face, I remove the same salt, pepper,sugar and ketchup from the tables and wipe down these same chairs. Ihave been doing this for three years.

But, the better I get as awaitress, the more I learn a fact that will be critical to me as adoctor: to care for people as individuals.

At first glance, therestaurant is full of complainers: retirees in surprisingly short tennisskirts carping about the lack of fat-free salad dressings; unrulychildren spilling endless cups of apple juice; middle-aged folk who seemto have nothing to do but analyze the unsatisfactory carbonation of thesoda. However, when you look closer, you’ll see some of myfavorite “patients.” I have learned to listen and remembertheir individual needs. There’s Mrs. K’s daughter; I alwaysdouble-check that she doesn’t have a pickle on her plate since shehates them. I promise a woman who jokes about being overweight that ourfrozen yogurt is fat-free. I inquire about the book that a solitaryolder woman is reading, hoping she is not lonely. One member comes inevery weekend to order an “ice cream soda with cola and vanillafrozen yogurt, with both a straw and a spoon.” When I bring it, hesays, “Nobody takes care of me like you,Elizabeth.”

I hope that when I am a doctor, I will formequally lasting bonds with my patients. I’m sure an emergency roomis only as overwhelming as the pavilion restaurant is at 12:30, withimpatient parents and screaming children and broken chairs and peoplecalling my name. Because, no matter where I work, no matter how tired Iam or how long my shift has been, the sweetest sound to me is the cry,“Elizabeth, we need you!”

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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