Code Blues(4)

By: Melissa Yi

I tilted the schedule so Alex could see it.

"Sucks," he breathed, and tilted his schedule toward me: palliative care. I didn't even know that was part of our residency program. I rolled my eyes at him.

Alex scrawled on his envelope, "Want to go out tonight?"

I scrawled back, "Yes." And for the rest of orientation, my Spidey-sense was tingling.

Chapter 2

Alex laced his fingers together on the white linen tablecloth. "So what did you think of the clinic?"

"Honestly?" I sipped some jasmine tea out of a blue and white china cup. "It was scary."

Alex laughed. He'd taken me out for sushi, which I'd only had once before, in Toronto, for a friend's birthday. All I remembered was eating a piece covered in orange sacs of oil called roe eggs. It was disgusting. The meal had also cost me $40, and two hours later, I was so hungry that I ate a bowl of Bran Flakes. I wasn't eager to repeat the experience, but Alex had insisted, "I didn't like sushi either, until I came here. Come on. It's baptism by raw fish."

I had to admit that the ambiance was great. Elegant ebony furniture, white floral linen napkins that matched the tablecloth, and tinkling music in the background. We didn't sit on tatami mats, though. That was Alex's one concession to my bourgeois upbringing.

The tea was fragrant, but had a subtle flavor. I set the cup back on the table. "You know, I didn't bother to tour St. Joseph's at the interview. So I'd never seen the clinic before."

Alex raised his eyes. "You didn't like the duct tape holding down the carpet? Or the examining rooms with no running water?"

I shuddered. "I've heard of 'shabby chic,' but that was just shabby." The upstairs rooms were much more run-down than the conference room had been. "And that nurse who made us stab ourselves—"

He laughed. The nurse had insisted that in order to check diabetics' blood sugar, we should practice on ourselves. I had to jab my left pinky with a needle and drip the blood on a paper strip. My finger still ached. Plus Tucker had taken the opportunity to point out that my post-cookie reading of 7.5 was higher than his own 4.9. "I guess you're sweeter," he'd said. Yuck.

Alex tapped the tablecloth just next to my hand. "Dr. Kurt is awesome, though. You'll love him. Everybody does."

I hoped Dr. Kurt was awesome enough not to mind me interrupting his speech. I squirmed.

Alex didn't seem to notice. "The whole thing with the pager? It's true. You can call him anytime. I think he clips it to his bedpost. Seriously."

I found it a bit weird, but Dr. Radshaw had certainly seemed delighted to answer his page during Bob Clarkson's speech.

A slender, Japanese woman appeared at our elbows and laid an enormous china platter in front of us. My eyes widened at the neat bundles of rice topped with shrimp, fish, caviar, and other items I couldn't identify. Alex had ordered octopus, eel, and all sorts of goodies. "Bon appétit," the server murmured and withdrew silently.

Alex laughed at my expression. "Are you not in Kansas anymore?"

I looked across the table at him. His bangs were long, and he tossed his head, flipping them out of his eyes. I was on a date with a guy who intrigued me, for the first time in two years, and it felt damned good. I grinned back at him. "Yeah, but now I don't miss Kansas as much." I picked up my wooden chopsticks, which did not come in a paper wrapper and have to be snapped apart. "Do you miss Kitchener at all?"

He frowned. "What about it?" He looked away, focusing on the boisterous birthday crowd in the corner.

I tried to ignore the foot-in-mouth feeling. He was the one who'd mentioned his roots. "I don't know. Your family? Oktoberfest?" I paused, trying to dredge up more memories of the area. "The Mennonites?"

His fingers tightened on his chopsticks before he carefully laid them back on the tablecloth. His eyes didn't quite meet mine. "Have you been talking to people?"

I shook my head. I'd hardly had a chance. After orientation, I'd zipped to my new apartment, moved in a few boxes—the rest were coming via the Zippy Moving Company—showered, and slipped into a strappy silver top and a black miniskirt. My hair was barely dry before Alex had buzzed my apartment. "What's wrong?"

He picked up his chopsticks and arranged a smile on his face. "Nothing. Do you want wasabi or pickled ginger?"

"Uh—" I was still five steps back.

"I find that people are either into one or the other, not both. What's it gonna be?" He gestured at the triangular green mound in the centre of the dish. "I bet wasabi. Because you're a very hot chick." He waggled his eyebrows with the last three words.