Friday, June 05, 2009

Who Ya Gonna Call?---Part Two

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Spirit move me, every time I'm near you, whirling like a cyclone in my mind. Sweet Melissa, angel of my lifetime, answer to all answers I can find...

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("Could It Be Magic?", Barry Manilow)

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Oh very young, what will you leave us this time? You're only dancing on this earth for a short while. And though your dreams may toss and turn you now, they will vanish away like your daddy's best jeans...

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("Oh Very Young", Cat Stevens)

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There never was such a stressful, difficult, tortuous year for me as that second year of nursing school at Shadyside Hospital.

The nuns were merciless slave drivers, piling on the work--- both in the classroom and with our work with patients in the hospital--- until many of us routinely got less than 3 hours of sleep per night. We attended classes all morning, worked on the hospital patient wards all afternoon, and we studied all night.

And my constant war with the nuns battled onwards. My irreverent, sarcastic attempts at wringing wry humor out of every situation proved to be a continuing provocation for the wrath of the humorless nuns---and always resulted in them piling even more extra work punishments onto my already exhaustive schedule, including writing assignments, verbal presentations--- and sometimes just the sheer verbal abuse of me, as only sadistic stern Catholic nuns can do.

But I was determined not to let them "break" me--- which my fellow students believed was proof that I had a death wish, as no matter how many unpleasant consequences my behavior drew, I continued to delight in thinking up new and different ways to irritate the hell out of the Sisters.

"Young Bo," a nun would say after I pulled some typically stupid, yet harmless prank. "Your incessant playing of the fool's jester is the devil's playground. Perhaps you have too much time on your hands---and so you can put it to good use by writing me a 500-word essay on the ten most important Saints of the Catholic Church."

And I'd write the assignment--- but then I'd stubbornly insert some irreverent phrase or idea into the task, to the additional displeasure of the nuns.

I once drew a double-punishment for asking the question: "Joan of Arc -- Tomboy or cross-dresser?" in an essay on the influence of the Catholic Church in the Dark Ages.

Occasionally I'd get tired of the punishments and try to behave myself for awhile---but it was difficult. Oft times it seemed that I was my own worst enemy---as the nuns seemed to have an endless arsenal of tactics designed to root out and shred every last ounce of joy, humor, or laughter from my psyche.

I simply never could get into the "humble, respectful" tone that the nuns demanded from us pitiful students.

Once on a Biology test I couldn't remember the entire answer to the main question, "What are the Stages of Mitosis?"

I panicked, racking my fatigued brain for the information, because I just flat out couldn't remember all the stages. I knew what happened first---and then I thought the process ended up with two sets of chromosomes---but for the life of me I couldn't remember what happened in the dadgum middle.

So I began writing the answer, describing the "prophase", the "prometaphase", and the "metaphase".....

... and then I left a blank line...

... and then I described the "telophase".

Finally, on the blank line in the middle, I added what I thought was a clever note: "Sister Kathleen, please have mercy on me. I can't remember that one little piece, the middle phase. But at least I know that it's where all the chromosomes split in half and then there's two sets, right? Hopefully I will get four fifths of the possible points for this five-part question?"

When I received back the graded exam paper, Sister Kathleen had written: "If you cannot answer the question in full, then it is a ZERO PERCENTAGE for the question's possible points. Perhaps if you stopped going to Joe's Bar and applied yourself more to your Biology studies, you would know the ENTIRE process of mitosis."

How the hell did she know about Joe's Bar?

It seemed the nuns knew everything--- even the fact that me and my delinquent cronies would sneak out of the dorm at the end of clinicals each day--- and then slip down the block to a seedy corner bar where we'd drink wine, eat boiled eggs with Tabasco sauce, stick quarters in the juke box, play pool with the guys from the auto-body repair shop across the street--- and I would perform my best nun-impressions to the hilarity of the bar's patrons. I could do a spot-on perfect imitation of Sister Bertrice giving a lecture on how to urinary-catheterize a male, an impression which never failed to bring the house down.

I'd demonstrate with a big banana, imitating Sister Bertrice's tinny nasal voice explaining how to "expose an uncircumcised member", and then I'd pretend the male became "excited" by the process--- and then I'd have Sister Bertrice get nervous and start flubbing her lines, saying things like: "Oh Good Heavens, what's happening? I think he's aroused! Oh dear, I'm all aflutter---but I shan't allow myself any impure thoughts! I must pray to Saint Peter for pure thoughts.... er...no, perhaps not to St. Peter in this case.... er...I mean.... go DOWN evil penis, go DOWN!"

(By this time my buddies would be falling onto the floor laughing themselves silly, nearly peeing their pants at the thought of the virginal Sister Bertrice praying to "St. Peter" for strength against impure thoughts about a male's anatomy.....)

Whenever I was in a difficult spot I couldn't resist trying to devise a way to fool the nuns, even though they were usually un-foolable. Once on an Anatomy test I couldn't remember the name of a particular part of the sternum, the "manubrium". Losing the point for this question would cost me my desired grade of 100%, and so I sat tensely in my chair, wondering feverishly what in the hell I could do.

I knew the name of this particular bone started with an "ma".... and I vaguely remembered that the word ended with an "m"...

And then I had a BRILLIANT idea! Ahah!

My logic was that I would simply write the word with the proper beginning letters---but then write the rest of the word in a squiggly flourish, ending the squiggles with a recognizable letter "m"--- causing the word to appear to be written correctly, yet in "sloppy" handwriting, in the vain hopes that the Anatomy instructor, Sister Kathleen, would be fooled into believing that I had written the correct word, albeit in a messy fashion!

Sister Kathleen was no fan of mine. I had once sneaked into her office and hidden a whoopee cushion under the seat pad of her office chair. Although none of us were there to witness the noisy result of her plopping her plump self onto her seat pad-cum-whoopee cushion, she did emerge from her office afterward in a particularly bad humor, so angry, in fact, that she had neglected to clean the white powder from her lips--- the residue of her daily habit of eating an entire bag of powdered-sugar donuts....

Where was I?

Oh yeah, I couldn't remember the word "manubrium" on the Anatomy test and tried to fool Sister Kathleen. Okay, so I wrote "man...squiggle squiggle...m" and handed in my exam paper, happy in the belief that I had secured my 100%.

But when I received that paper back, it was marked "98%. Less one point for incorrect answer. Less an additional point for poor handwriting."

So much for my 100%...

There were many agonizing nights where I lay in my bed crying my eyes out, praying to the Good Lord for relief from the torture of this horrid school. "Lord," I'd pray. "It's me, Bo. And I'm absolutely miserable with these damn nuns! They're worse than prison wardens! Now listen, Lord, you know I'm no quitter--- so I'm not going to leave this wretched place voluntarily. But.... um... could you perhaps arrange it so that they throw me out?"

And I meant it.

And on some nights my nightly prayers were interrupted by the sound of chairs scraping on the ceiling above my head. And, as always, I wondered why the acoustics were such that I would hear the girl in the dorm room below me as if she were above me--- since I knew it was impossible for anybody to be in the chemistry lab above me at night. And I would always feel annoyed that the girl below me felt it necessary to noisily drag her chair back and forth across her room so late at night....

I never gave it a second thought....

One morning I was so exhausted from studying all night long that I woke up still slumped over my desk. My buddy, Marla, banged on my door as she passed my room on her way to the staircase that led to the fifth floor classroom. "Get your ass in gear, Bo!"

I was so tired that I hurriedly pulled on my jeans and made a mad dash up the stairs to the classroom, worried that I would be late---completely forgetting to change out of my pajama shirt. And so that day I had to suffer the shame of sitting in class all day while sporting wrinkled jeans paired with a tattered Miami Vice "I Love Don Johnson" pajama shirt.

Some of us students needed extra cash. And I especially needed it to pay the monthly payment for my prized, cherry red 1982 Chevy Camaro. And so, like some other students, I signed up to work in the babysitting service the nursing school ran for the benefit of the hospital's medical staff. It was a good way to make quick cash for a student who didn't mind spending her precious little free time minding rich doctors' children. There was plenty of work to go around since most students were from local families and preferred to go home each weekend instead of staying at the depressing nursing dorm.

I was among the handful of unfortunate students who had to spend all my weekends and holidays at the dorm, having no home to go to. My parents, as US diplomats, were always overseas in various foreign countries. My buddy Marla also spent her weekends at the dorm since her father, a dashing pilot for Hawaiian Airlines, was never home--- and their home in Hawaii was too far to go to on weekends anyway.

So we "dorm orphans" babysat for doctors' children on the weekends. And this was not always a very fun experience because the particular doctors' children we babysat tended to be somewhat spoiled and demanding. Neither Marla nor myself had ever had much experience with young children. In fact, I've always been somewhat inept and confused around little kids.

But I needed the money.

My very first assignment for the babysitting service was to sit with the frighteningly precocious 6-year old son of one of the hospital's big cheese cardiologists. The Housemother looked at me somewhat ruefully as she handed me the assignment sheet, which should have clued me in that she considered me a lamb being led to the slaughter.

But I figured what the hell? How bad could an evening of babysitting be? It was only one kid---easy enough, right? Give the little fellow a snack, plop him in front of the TV for awhile, give him a quick bath--- and then boot his happy little butt off to bed for the rest of the evening, whereupon I could then get in some badly needed study time.

Everything went fine until the stupid kid said he didn't want to watch TV.

I was shocked. What did he mean, he didn't want to watch TV? Was he an alien from outer space? Was he mentally ill? What American kid doesn't like to watch TV? Now what was I going to do with him for a couple of hours? Because it was too early to put him to bed. So I asked if he wanted to play a game---he certainly had a zillion of them stacked on the shelves in his room.

I plucked a game box off the shelf. "This looks like a good one," I remarked, dangling the box in front of him. "It's the Let's Go Fishin' game."

"Okay," he replied stoically, his unsmiling face betraying the fact that he wasn't exactly waxing enthusiastic. But I figured I would win him over with my charm and wit...

So I set the stupid game up.

The game consisted of a colorful round platform that, when switched on, played music as a bunch of plastic fishies bobbed their heads up and down while opening and closing their mouths. You were supposed to try and "catch" the fishies, when their mouths were open, by using little plastic fishing poles equipped with magnets on the ends.

I handed the kid a fishing pole, took a fishing pole for myself, and then switched the game on. Circus music played while the dumb little fishies began bobbing up and down, opening and closing their mouths, tempting us to "catch" them.

But the stupid kid didn't even TRY to catch a damn fishie, and just sat there scowling, his fishing pole hanging motionless over the game.

But I wasn't going to let this little butt-head spoil my fishing, by golly, and in a few moments I caught myself a fishie.

"Look!" I squealed happily, dangling a lime green fishie under the idgity kid's nose. "I caught one! Heh! The fishies must be hungry tonight!"

And then.... the kid threw his fishing pole onto the floor and gazed at me with utter disgust.

And this confused me so much that I went silent--- and simply sat there, staring at him with my mouth open like an idiot, my fishing pole still clutched in my fist, the fishie dangling haplessly in the air over the game.

"What's wrong?" I asked. God, this weird kid was really starting to get on my nerves...

"Are you stupid?" he asked with disdain. "The fish are not "hungry"--- they are NOT ALIVE. It is only a make-believe GAME!"

So it was going to be like this, eh?

"Whatever," I replied belligerently, tossing my own fishing pole down and picking myself up off the floor. "It's bath time for you, kiddo. And don't worry---I know that your stupid rubber-duckie isn't alive, either."

A week later I was fortunate enough to get a regular Saturday night gig babysitting a perfectly delightful little 4-year old girl--- a sweet little moppet who DID believe that plastic fishies were alive--- and so I didn't have to see that unpleasant 6-year old anymore.

Which was good because I definitely needed the cash, as I was falling miserably behind on my Camaro payments.

Sometimes on the weekends those of us who had remained at the dorms would gather in the common room and watch TV together, silly comedies like "Friends", "Pee Wee's Playhouse", and "The Simpsons". We'd cook ourselves snacks of Top Ramen noodles and do each other's nails or hair. These few snatched hours of camaderie were a welcome respite from the perpetual doom-and-gloom atmosphere created by the nuns.

One day, while hanging out with Marla and some others in the common room, I heard something which caused my ears to perk up. It was something which one of the youngest students, a bright young 18 year-old named Cindy, was saying.

"Pammie says she heard the ghost last night," Cindy said while making herself a sandwich out of Wonder Bread and big slabs of Velveeta Cheese.

"Did you know that Velveeta has about a zillion calories?" Marla remarked.

"Ghost? What ghost?" I asked.

"You know, THE ghost," Cindy replied, sighing heavily as if I were a total nincompoop. "Oh yeah, Bo, you weren't on this floor last year---you were on the third floor. So maybe you don't know about it. But there's a ghost on the fifth floor."

"A ghost on the fifth floor?" I replied. "Are you nuts, Cindy? Who told you that? There's no such thing as ghosts!"

I still didn't get it.....

"Tell her, Marla," Cindy said, her mouth full of Velveeta Cheese sandwich.

"It's true," Marla stated as I turned my attention to her, my brows knitting together seriously as I pondered the fact that both my friends actually believed there was a ghost on the fifth floor of the nursing school.

I was stunned. Marla actually believed there was a ghost? I trusted Marla above any of the other students---she was my best friend, and she was extremely level-headed--- not prone to flights of ridiculous fancy. And so I was very interested in something she appeared to totally believe in.

And so Marla told me the story, and here it is:

Apparently, for many generations in the nursing school (ever since the horse-and-buggy days, like the picture of the Shadyside Hospital orderly and nursing students below) there had been hair-raising stories of ghostly occurrences happening up on the fifth floor of the nursing school building---and these occurrences were reportedly heard by the occupants of the fourth floor below or else witnessed by various school instructors, who had offices up on the fifth floor.

"Sometimes people hear furniture moving on the fifth floor at night," Marla said calmly. "The noises seem to come from the classroom.... or else the chem lab."

Now the hair on the back of my neck was beginning to rise.....

"But of course there's nobody up there moving furniture at night," she continued. "Because that floor and the stairwell leading to it are both locked after 5 pm. And yet people are constantly hearing stuff happening up there at night."

"What do you mean 'furniture moving'" I asked, hoping my face did not betray the anxiety I was beginning to feel--- because I was definitely having some new and frightening thoughts about the origin of those noises that I, myself, had heard at night, coming from over my head, coming from the fifth floor....

Marla continued. "People who have lived in dorm rooms under the classroom say they've heard desks or chairs moving up there. And up in the chem lab, too. And some of the teachers have reported strange things happening up there, too --- like when they unlock their offices in the morning and find that their desk chair has been moved across the room--- or else the sink faucet has been turned on, and is running water, even though the teacher is positive that she'd left the faucet turned off."

"And you believe this crap?" I asked sarcastically.

"Hey, I'm just telling you what people have been saying for at least 50 years," Marla replied. "If you don't believe it, just ask the school's Psychologist Nun. Because there's been some students who were so frightened by this stuff that they've actually gone crazy and left the school. Remember last year when Jenny and Linda left?"

"Oh hell, Marla," I replied, snorting with disgust. "People leave the school all the time. It's because they can't hack this frigging program. Don't you remember when Sister Kathleen told us that only 40% of the class will actually finish the two years and graduate?"

"That wasn't the case with Jenny and Linda," she persisted.

And come to think of it, I did vaguely remember something about two girls leaving the school under the cloud of the term "psychological discharge".

Marla continued. "Each of them left because they were so spooked about the noises coming from the fifth floor. Both of their rooms were under the classroom, and Jenny thought the noises was the janitor doing maintenance stuff at night.... that is, until she complained about the noises to him and he told her that it wasn't him at, that it's the ghost! She totally flipped out and her mother had to take her to a psychiatrist. And her best friend, Linda, left two weeks later because she kept hearing the noises and now knew that it was the ghost and not the janitor."

"Good grief, what a couple of 'fraidy-cats!" I laughed, trying to look nonchalant. "Some people are so 'suggestible'. Frankly, I think those two girls went nerts because these damn nuns drove them crazy. There's no such thing as ghosts."

But... the noises over my room didn't stop. At least once or twice a month I would clearly hear the sound of chairs scraping above me--- in the chem lab--- about 11:30 pm every night.....when nobody was supposed to be up there.

There's no such thing as ghosts....

But I had other things to worry about than ghostly furniture moving. I was so behind in my Camaro payments that I feared the bank would repossess it. So I had hidden the car a few blocks away from the hospital where nobody would find it. And sure enough, the day came when a Repo Man did appear at the Housemother's desk---and he chose a most unfortunate day to arrive. I was dressing for a special event when the Housemother called me on the dorm inter-com. She wanted to notify me that a RUDE MAN was asking for me down at her desk...

It was the day I was supposed to accept the coveted McClintock Scholarship for Academic Achievement.

I'd worked my ass off to get that scholarship---I badly wanted that achievement listed on my school transcript. And it was the tradition that whoever won the McClintock Scholarship attend an elegant tea party to be honored, while meeting--- and thanking--- the two rich old ladies who were the benefactors of the scholarship.

The nuns had sternly instructed me that I was to wear a pretty dress for this event--- and I was to wear it over "proper" underwear, meaning a lace "slip" (which, according to the nuns, was necessary to prevent the public from seeing the "outline of a lady's legs" through the dress fabric). And I had been threatened with sure death if I embarassed the nuns by committing any behavioral infraction such as not exhibiting anything but the most graceful of behavior, cussing, spilling tea, or engaging in some other oafish act which might offend the two philanthropists. Mother Superior had drilled it into my wooden head...

"I happen to know that, being the offspring of two US Diplomats, your parents raised you with the ability to display superior social abilities in Diplomatic protocol--- you were schooled in the most proper of manners and courtesies. You have even attended functions where you met Heads of State and the upper echelon of the Diplomatic Corps--- it is one of the reasons we allowed you entrance into our nursing school! And yet you continue to take a bawdy, stupidly sophmoric DELIGHT in acting the clown! But I warn you, Bo--- you MUST NOT FAIL US at the Scholarship Reception Tea! You must do your DUTY and uphold the proper, honorable, ladylike tradition of Shadyside Nursing Students by showing yourself to be a proper recipent of the McClintock Scholarship!"

My Diplomatic parents. Honor. Duty. Protocol. Good Manners...

Words which had haunted me all of my life...

The underwear thing bugged me. I have always hated wearing dresses---and I hate wearing under-slips even more. In fact, I was once heartily bawled out by a rude nun named Sister Generalda, as someone had witnessed me, in the Surgery changing-room, wearing "Underalls" pantyhose under my OR scrubs. Sister Generalda actually accused me of "going without panties".

"Look, Sister Generalda," I told her. "Haven't you seen the TV commercials? 'Underalls' are special pantyhose with built-in underwear. Thus, I most certainly was NOT going 'without panties'."

"Yes, you did!" she screeched. "For SHAME, not wearing panties! Haven't we told you girls that public nudity is a sin?"

"Public nudity?" I replied stupidly, seriously wondering about Sister Generalda's sanity. "For God's sakes, Sister Generalda, I was wrapped up like a burrito in there. On top of the Underalls I was wearing scrubs --- which were covered up by a thick OR surgical gown! And just who in the hell is the perverted stool pidgeon who's been spying on me in the Surgery changing-room?"

Not wanting to discuss it any further, she pronounced my punishment. "You'll do an oral presentation for the Freshman Class on Proper Feminine Hygiene," Sister Generalda stated as I signed heavily and rolled my eyes. "And in the future, you must wear regular panties under those so-called 'Underalls'."

Where was I?

Oh yeah, I had gotten an urgent call from the Housemother while I was dressing for the tea party at which I was supposed to receive the McClintock Scholarship...

"He's a very RUDE man," the Housemother was saying unhappily over the inter-com. I was trying to hold the intercom to my ear while simultaneously struggling to pull on a slip. "And he says he wants to know something about your Camaro! Get down here immediately!"

OH--LORD--HAVE--MERCY....my worst fears had come true--- it was the Repo Man!!

But, never one to faint in the face of adversity, I steeled myself for the confrontation. I looked at my watch---it was getting dangerously close to the time I was supposed to go to the Banquet Hall for the tea party---and so I rushed to the elevator so I could descend to the Housemother's desk and get the whole unpleasant scene over with...

Sure enough, there he was, a big imposing-looking Repo Man. And as soon as he saw me he began ranting and raving about me being late with my monthly payments yet again. And then he demanded to know where the car was. But I tartly informed him that I had "no idea" where my Camaro was--- because there was no way in hell that I was going to let him take away my beloved Camaro.

Unfortunately for me, in my nervous haste I didn't realize that when I had rushed down the elevator to the Housemother's desk, I had not yet finished dressing---nay, in fact I had emerged from the elevator decked out in all the glory of a flimsy white lace slip (borrowed from Marla), nylon stockings, a pair of white high-heels, and a lovely gold Crucifix necklace---but I'd forgotten to put my dress on....

The slip had pretty little pink rosettes sewn along its bodice---and since it was a rather old slip, one of the rosettes had come a-loose from its stitches and was hanging by a thread over my right boob. It danced a haphazard jiggle over my bustline as I stood there quarrelling with the Repo Man....

And as the Repo Man launched into a tyrade, I proceeded to match his every threat with a returning verbal salvo liberally laced with cuss words--- and both of our voices got progressively louder and louder--- as I continued to lie through my teeth by telling him that I'd "loaned the car to a friend" and had no idea where it was. In fact, I mused, I had no earthly idea when "this friend" would even return the car...

"I want that CAR!" the Repo Man yelled, his voice shaking with anger as he involuntarily stared at the rosette dandling about on my boob--- all while the stricken Housemother stood there gasping in shock, aghast at the fact that I was talking to a MAN while half undressed---but the poor thing wasn't able to get a statement out and just stood there, redfaced, with her mouth popping open and shut---kind of like those stupid little fishies in the Let's Go Fishin' game....

"If you think you can get away with hiding that Camaro on me, you're jolly well mistaken!" the Repo-Man hollered while shaking a finger in my face.

"Look, bucko," I argued, shoving his offensive finger out of my face. "I've got two babysitting gigs lined up for this weekend--- and after that I can make you a $150 payment."

"NOT GOOD ENOUGH!" he squawked. "I don't want a partial payment! I want the total due--$500--- or else I'm taking the car."

"Go to hell!" I retorted, as the Housemother struggled to speak. "You don't even know where the damn car is! And dammit, I don't have $500!"

I finally noticed the hapless Housemother's beet-red face and fish-gulping expression. And right about then she finally caught a breath good enough to make a statement....

"HOLY MOTHER MARY IN GOD'S HEAVEN, Bo, but you are NEARLY NAKED!" she screamed. "Get back upstairs and put some clothes on! What if....oh God forbid....what if Mother Superior saw you?"

But it was too late.

Because Mother Superior had already seen and heard everything.

All of us stopped hollering at once as we realized the horrible truth.... that Mother Superior had quietly rounded the corner and had already seen and heard most of the wild scene at the Housemother's desk, her voluminous black nun robes fluttering around her as she came to a stop---her face ashen as she silently beheld the hysterical Housemother, the rude Repo-Man, and my half-dressed idgity self....

I thought of how my parents would absolutely KILL me for getting thrown out of Shadyside....

I thought of how all my hard work would go down the drain if I did not graduate from Shadyside....

I thought of how, kicked out of school or not, I'd NEVER tell that damn Repo Man where my Camaro was....

I thought of the possibility that the Lord was actually in the process of answering my stupid prayer about how I "wouldn't quit but was hoping to get thrown out of school"--- but then I instantly thought that surely the good ole Lord hadn't actually BELIEVED me when I had prayed that silly prayer?

I thought of how I wished I hadn't eaten the Turkey Tetrazzini entree in the hospital's cafeteria that afternoon because it was so terribly fattening and Marla's slip was definitely a little too tight on me.....

Mother Superior's calm voice interrupted my erratic thoughts.

"Calm down, Housemother," she said to the hysterical Housemother.

Then she turned to me.

"Bo-He-Mi-An," she stated simply, pronouncing every syllable of my first and last names. "Go upstairs and put on your dress. And then go to the tea, which is just now starting in the Banquet Hall. And God help you if I hear even ONE negative report regarding your behavior there."

And I fled.

I put my dress on and went to the tea. I thanked the rich old ladies who awarded me the McClintock Scholarship. I even did my elegant mother proud by exhibiting only the most daintiest of tea-party manners while drinking tea and nibbling on pastries. I did not spill anything, not even when spooning sugar into my teacup. I didn't cuss once and I sat primly in my dress, even remembering not to cross my legs.

(The nuns forbad us to cross our legs as it is a body position which necessitates the "opening" of one's legs, an act which could be construed as "sexual", something the nuns were forever warning us could be a pathway to hell and damnation....)

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I found out later that Mother Superior had paid the $500 to the Repo Man.

The way I found out was when the Housemother phoned me on the inter-com again---this time to notify me that I'd been assigned, until further notice, to work off the $500 as a nurse assistant on one of the hospital's cardiac wards. I would work there every evening after my classes and clinicals until 9:30 pm.

And so each night after a long day of classes, clinicals, and then working on the cardiac unit, I would arrive back in my dorm room, exhausted and barely able to study--- but study I did, until the wee hours of each night, until I was so tired I couldn't see straight. And then I'd fall into bed, limp with exhaustion.

But I wasn't the only student who was near physical or emotional collapse.

Marla had been experiencing "anxiety attacks" whereby she would burst into tears for no reason at all. One time it was while shaving her legs in the dorm's bathroom, and I found her there, on the floor, weeping hysterically and babbling some nonsense about how "the hair just keeps growing and growing!"

Another poor soul was young Cindy.... and what happened to her was horrifying.

Cindy, who suffered from chronic poor self-esteem, had foolishly gone out with one of the hospital's older, married, maintenance men--- a man who was held in distaste by most nursing students due to his habit of leering at us in a most vulgar, suggestive manner--- and, unbelievably, Cindy had allowed the guy to seduce her.

And then.... it happened. Cindy found out she was pregnant.

The night Cindy found out she was pregnant, Marla and I had told her to sleep on it for that night--- in order to give us time to think of a solution. Neither of us had any idea of what to do, and we'd each gone to bed in despair, knowing that Cindy was most likely going to have to leave the nursing school--- which would certainly kill her, as graduation from Shadyside had always been the utmost desire of her poor little heart.

That night I fell into bed too weary to change out of my clothes and put on my Miami Vice "I Love Don Johnson" pajamas. As I closed my eyes tightly in an effort to blot out my worries while trying to fall asleep, I once again heard chairs scraping the floor on the ceiling above me....

There's no such things as ghosts, I told myself....

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4 comments:

Donna in Ely said...

You are such a wonderful writer!! I was right there with you and the repo man. Thank you so much for this fun read. I sure wish I could make it so real to the reader like you do.

Denise said...

You really need to write a book. Your stories are so interesting and funny!

Knitman said...

Oh Bo, I understand the nuns completely I was hated by them too. Joni Mitchell sings about them having stones hidden behind the rosaries. Too true. I'll never forget their cruelty and un Christlike attitudes. A report has been published about the dire abuse by the sister and brothers of the dear RC Church in Ireland. Could have told them that!

Macy from Buffalo, NY said...

Oh Bo, I wish I had had your cojones when I was enslaved by RC school. Instead I over-developed my psychologically f***ed-up need for approval. You are a *fantastic* writer, that's for sure! Between you and Colin. my computer screen is at serious risk for spatters! Thanks for sharing!