We then meet those same secondary school students, but in a different capacity: as first-year medical students. The sun is high, it is a sweltering summer and we have taken refuge under a sprawling array of sunshades, where long benches lie empty, waiting for those same first-year students.
They come in herds, if not packs, to pick up a lunch prepared for them at a stand set up for their benefit. You can tell from the dark circles under their eyes that they have had a wild night.
We marvel at them. Some are characteristically immature, their awkward upper bodies stuffed into slim grey hoodies and still nimble as a cat, the way eighteen-year-olds are. Others have returned from summerland tanned, with short skirts and crop tops and bags and bucket hats in Bottega green or cobalt blue. Still others are brats in faded shirts and pants they are nearly tripping over.
All of them are loud. They proudly tell each other about last night’s revelries; I will spare you the details.
Group after group, they fill the benches. They crowd us out and turn their backs to us, often revealing playful graphic prints. Our eyes are filled with wonder and envy for these brash souls, who manifest their youthful energy naturally and adamantly.
We look at each other dejectedly. Our squinting eyes are just as dull as our skin, tanned under the fluorescent lights of the various care facilities where we spent our summers. Jittery, we crave coffee from the hospital vending machine. Some of us think longingly of the cool hospital air conditioning. One person drools onto the wood, asleep,
So I just look down at the rocky ground. In one of the first lectures of my first year, we were shown a graph with years of medical experience on the x-axis. I no longer remember what was projected on the y-axis. Was it ‘trust in healthcare’? ‘Ambition’? Something like that. A thick arrow pointed pontifically downwards.
I remember that I dismissed it, beaming with energy. But I never forgot. Now that I find myself here, contemplating, deep in the shadow of my former self, the image involuntarily looms.
A swishing ponytail hits my face. Otherwise unnoticed and without apology. We decided it was time we left.