Everyday Majesty

July 22, 2011 § 3 Comments

I ducked out of the office early yesterday, having finished my quota of data analysis for the day early and feeling the onset of a migraine, and took the 3 pm shuttle home. Of course, by the time I arrived home, I had been rocked in and out of sleep by the rickety inter-hospital shuttle, and my migraine dissipated. So instead of going back to ensconce myself in my cave of a room, I chose a little table by the side of TMEC, our med ed building, and resumed working on a piece of fiction on my laptop.

Every single time that I took a break and looked up to people-watch, I saw lab coats, and talk of publishing woes and resistant cell cultures, and harried students flitting between god-knows-where, and then I would look back down at my laptop and intermittently build paragraphs between reading poems about birdwatching and listening to the soundtrack of Wake Up Sid.

This place hasn’t been easy to reach. It hasn’t always been comfortable to remove myself from the race to Cell, Nature and Science, that consumes many of my classmates, and take pride and comfort in my own, rather unobtrusive passions. To put faith in my writing as a masterful instrument worth nurturing, to find that room with wide windows and streaming sunlight and sweet warmth worth inhabiting. That takes a kind of confidence that even established writers fight to retain.

I wrote for over two hours, and was thinking that I would go until 6:30, then break for dinner, when it happened. There was a whistling, and my skirt rose up, and as I straightened it out, the table umbrella sucked a large breath and began to spin. I stared, slackjawed, as it then began to rise, an inch at a time, but with the gravity and surety of Atlantis or something, and soon simply lifted clean off the table and into the air. I was sitting at the one table that hadn’t been securely fastened to its umbrella.

It rose for about thirty feet, and then majestically, and just as slowly, spun back to the ground. Everyone on the pavement and everyone on the quad was frozen, mesmerized. Even the reticent TMEC security guard came out, eyes bulging. And just like that, it fell to the ground, and there were cheers and gasps and concern, and time resumed, and I finally found my legs and stood up, and paced haphazardly around the table.

Would you like to know what I had just been reading?

it was a dream

in which my greater self
rose up before me
accusing me of my life
with her extra finger
whirling in a gyre of rage
at what my days had come to.
i pleaded with her, could i do,
oh what could i have done?
and she twisted her wild hair
and sparked her wild eyes
and screamed as long as
i could hear her.
This. This. This.

– Lucille Clifton


No to Howard Roark

July 20, 2011 § 2 Comments

Yesterday, I ran into a bit of hospital promotion that left me amused, but also confused. This anecdote is set against the backdrop of the release of the US News & World Report Hospital Rankings, which has joyously ranked MGH at #2 of the honor roll hospitals and Brigham at #8 (two Partners hospitals in the top 10! new record! two top 10 hospitals in the same city! oh my! and so on), and Children’s Hospital of Boston at #1 for peditaric centers, which naturally paved the way for this kind of subtlety:


I’m a health management intern at MGH this summer, and so I take the Brigham-MGH shuttle to and from work every day. It’s about a half hour commute, and I spend it reading the House of God, which has been doing a great job of keeping it real. Which brings us to yesterday.

I came home from MGH, and cut through the Brigham as I always do, to exit through its back door and on to the HMS quad. It was then that I noticed that written on a large plasma screen was BRIGHAM IS A GOOD CITIZEN IN THE COMMUNITY.

At first I thought, Peter Bent Brigham? Like from the 1800s? Random. Then I grew sensible, and a bit conflicted.

Linguistics friends, does this sentence work? Can a hospital be a good citizen? I’m doubtful. Yet the reverse is true at times. I could say my mom is a pillar of strength, even though she’s not really supporting our roof (actually she might not object to that either…), or that she’s a foundation of support (but that’s stretching it, yeah?). But could I call my mother a good edifice in the community, or a famous tertiary care hospital serving millions? Not unless I was Vladimir Nabokov and being generally ridiculous, but brilliant. But even then.

I want to have a word with Brigham’s PR guy and question the merit of that bit of promotion. And yet I kind of prefer Brigham’s quiet restating of its mission over Children’s’ flashiness, just next door.

Ah! I just realized that my anthropomorphism of these hospitals lends credence to their PR campaign and undermines my whole argument. Dammit.

On origins #2

July 8, 2011 § 3 Comments

During the Friday Jazz Night at the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, my friends and I happened upon the glass-blown chandelier room of the Dale Chihuly exhibit. These were magnificent pieces, all glass and light and scale, and reminded me a bit of Thomas Wilfred’s lumia compositions that the Tree of Life’s Terence Malick employed to mysterious effect at the beginning of the film. (ok I think that was enough name-dropping for the day)

Chandelier Installation, Chihuly

When I went closer to examine the underside of one of the chandeliers and tried to think about whether I would want that hanging in my own house, I realized that it reflected perfectly off of the black marble tablet stone underneath it, and suddenly another layer of complexity revealed itself. The set up reminded me of the Swayamvara scene in the Mahabharat, where Arjuna wins the hand of Draupadi through a feat of physics. He, in competition with countless other suitors, must shoot the eye of a fish that is tethered to a revolving pole by looking only at its reflection in a pool on the ground. He succeeds, of course, and gets to take the princess home. Where he must then share her in a polyamorous marriage with his four other brothers, but that’s a story for a different day.

There probably is no further point to this vignette than that I love it when things remind me of India, and of folklore, and the complexity and layers and nostalgia and the feeling of home. And also that I wish people still held Swayamvaras. (They sound pretty hot).

On a mildly related note, to celebrate the end of an era, my friend J, who is admittedly very Caucasian but who has been, to her credit, determinedly working on her summer tan, and I will be attending the Harry Potter premiere this week dressed as the Patil twins. I just can’t wait.

Magic and Medicine

July 1, 2011 § 1 Comment

My friend C and I made a pact this summer that we would be each other’s dates for Harry Potter 7.2, and later this year, the last Twilight installment. (If this revelation is a deal-breaker, and you cannot continue reading, I completely understand). As I am a medical student by day after all, I want to take this opportunity to make an exploration of medicine as presented in these universes.

Imagine a world where instead of DayQuil, you took PepperUp potion, and treated your acne with Bubotuber pus, not Proactiv. Imagine that the rite of passage of childhood wasn’t chicken pox, but dragon pox, which is infinitely worse and sometimes fatal. Where your kid brother could substitute Skele-Gro for the growth hormones he had to take when he stopped lengthening at the age of ten, but without all the side effects of the dizziness and diarrhea. How crazy would it be to round the wards and treat patients for Spattergroit instead of measles, or alternatively, Vanishing Sickness (which is contagious and takes Personal Protective Equipment to a whole new level of importance)? Okay it’s been decided. I will have my Principal Clinical Experience during third year at the St. Mungo’s Hospital for Magical Maladies and Injuries. Sorry, Brigham.

But then again, perhaps that universe isn’t that different, really. Chocolate for fainting spells? Calming droughts for bouts of anxiety? I mean, I take that already. It’s called lemon tea.  And yes, while I don’t live in fear that a werewolf bite will give me a life of lycanthropy, the bite of a rabid dog can give me rabies, and the sight of a rattlesnake, a heart attack.

Perhaps this is all wishful thinking (no duh). And besides, medicine in the real world is pretty darn exciting too and there’s no time like the present and no place like Boston to remind me of that time and again. I’m content.

A note about Twilight: a friend once suggested that the undead Cullens have Porphyria Cutanea Tarda. After all, they seem to have issues with heme, and Edward does blister in the sunlight… But what kind of ordinary human girl can smell blood? Bella has got to have pellagra. Or Asperger’s.

Alright, back to work.

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