Here is another article that I began writing but abandoned at its midpoint. The problem with publishing this article is that it involves a third party, who may never read Glamour magazine, or even if he did, might not recognize himself in the article, as crucial elements have been changed. But on the off chance that he did, it could be a rather awkward situation for me.
How did I end up here? I’m not exactly sure. But working in a pig barn was definitely not what I had envisioned for myself when I entered, or graduated from, nursing school. But yet, there I was, washing clothes in the laundry facility at Prairie Swine Center. The laundry was in a big heap on the floor, manure clearly visible on several of the items. Flies swarmed the pile, and I swatted at them as I grabbed the laundry with my gloved hands. No way was I touching it with my bare hands. It wasn’t glamorous work, not in the least. You had to shower in and shower out, using harsh soap and Pert Plus. The towels, though laundered, had a lingering coppery scent of what I assumed was pig blood. I tried not to put the towel too close to my face when I came through the shower, just blotting dry my cheeks and chin. Seventeen visits to the barn were what were required of me. But seventeen visits could seem like a lot…
Back in my office the memory of the barn clung to me as stubbornly as the smell. Even out of the barn for hours, I could still sometimes catch a whiff of it in my hair. And when you washed it again later, it came back full force somehow, the water acting as some kind of a catalyst for the odor to release itself. But that being as it may, I had survived the first week of the barn and now I had two weeks of work in the office before I had to go back. My job was as a research nurse. It consisted of an odd mix of jobs, only some of which seemed nursing related. I spent one day making an insulated box to ship mouthwash specimens to the States in. An odd job for a nurse perhaps, but I now know how to make a cheap cooler. Although, in reality, I suppose one could acquire one at Canadian Tire for less that in cost to make it. But still…
On my agenda for today was allergy testing, something which I enjoyed to some extent because at least it resembled nursing ( I got to use alcohol swabs and everything), but I simultaneously loathed it because it was dreadfully repetitive.
Have you ever had an allergy test before? No, well what it is is tiny drops of allergens that I’ll place on your arm. Once they’re on I draw a grid with a (washable) marker and then gently pick at the skin so that a small amount of the allergen will go under the skin. This procedure is not painful and feels more like light scratching than anything.
That same spiel, all day, every day. I honestly felt like making a recording and just hitting play and then leaving the room. It seemed that many of the students were ill inclined to listening anyways. Mostly of all of them were punk ass kids with the ipods turned up so loud that I was effectively tuned out. Some of them were respectful enough to turn them off. Some of them weren’t. I had never, at 28, really felt old before, but I realized just how far removed I was from this population now. In one way it seemed like yesterday that I was one of them, balancing precariously a huge coarse load and a skinny wallet. But at the same time, their clothing looked totally foreign to me. And they all looked so young.
That’s why I was surprised when he walked into my office. I didn’t know his exact age right off the bat, but I could tell in an instant that he was older. Perhaps not as old as my (gasp) 28 years but perhaps close to it. And so from the very get go I felt this sense of relief when I met him, this sense of familiarity.
We chatted throughout the allergy test, the usual stuff but it seemed easier delivering the spiel to him. At least it was clear that he was listening. I asked him what he was taking in school. Civil engineering was his reply. Whatever that is. But it sounded impressive so I nodded as though I were the leading expert in it.
“Sounds interesting,” I said. It didn’t sound interesting in the least, but it did sound difficult. Evidently, he was as smart as he was good looking and engaging.
“Definitely. But it’s a bit of an adjustment being back in school. Especially now that my wife has decided to go back as well.”
I did a quick double take and there it was, right where it was supposed to be: a platinum band on his left hand. How had I missed that? For a moment I felt this sense of deflation. But then I reminded myself: I’m married, too. So we were both married. Which is great, of course. Marriage is bliss.
My first day back in the barn and I came home to pork chops. Ruefully, I stabbed at the meat. My husband regarded me with a perplexed look.
“What?” he asked.
“Nothing,” I replied, pushing the food around my plate. It wasn’t that I was ethically opposed to the slaughter of animals. It was just that the pigs were so damn smelly. A true city girl, pork had always presented itself to me in neat packages. The realization that pigs were dirty, smelly, defecating and urinating animals was a harsh one for me.
Even more hash was the reality that my husband, after five years of marriage actually believed me when I said ‘nothing’. He nodded and continued to shovel food in his mouth, undaunted. After a brief attempt at eating I did the dishes and cleaned the kitchen while my husband was sprawled out in front of the TV, either oblivious to my toiling in the kitchen or aware but not motivated to help. Probably the latter, I thought, vigorously scrubbing burned pork chops off of a frying pan. My thoughts turned to Matt, the civil engineer. He was probably somewhere right now, helping his wife with the dishes, playfully tossing bubbles at her. Laughing in the fading sunlight. All right, maybe not the last part. There was something about him… the dimple in his chin, the flecks of green in his eyes, the easy conversation that flowed like booze at a frat party. Whatever it was, I had to get it out of my head. I was married. We were married. And even if not…
Oh, it was futile to think about what might be. I stopped myself and went to watch TV with my husband, the person who I had chosen to spend my life with, despite the fact that he was watching a poker tournament, of which I couldn’t have been less interested in.
When I saw his name on my day sheet the next day, I can’t say that a part of me wasn’t excited. Well, perhaps more than a part. He was coming in again for a second interview. Some of the subjects were selected for further investigation, and he happened to be in that pool, due to random chance.
Or fate. Depending on how you want to look at it.
Just be professional, I reminded myself when he came for his interview.
“So I just need to ask you some questions about your health,” I began.
“All right. As long as they’re not the same questions they ask when I give blood. As far as I’m concerned, whether or not I sleep with men for money or drugs is nobody’s business but my own,” he says with a laugh.
So much for professional, I thought, as I had sudden vision of him in a compromising position.
I find myself laughing along with him. “Don’t worry. These questions are pretty standard.” And boring, I add to myself.
We get going with the questions. It comes up that he’s finishing his PhD.
“Wow, that’s pretty impressive,” I comment.
“Well, look at you, Miss Researcher, with her own office on campus” he says, perusing my office with a look of awe.
“It’s actually a shared space, such as it is” I demur, looking around at the packed office. It was stuffed to the gills with old boxes and antiquated equipment.
“Still, it’s pretty impressive,” he says.
“Well, you know…” I begin, clearing my throat. “It’s a living.”
We get back to the questionnaire, but chat in between questions as if we had known each other in a previous life or something. Not that I actually believe in that. It wouldn’t be a fitting thing for a researcher, a woman of science, to believe in. Not at all.
After an hour our allotted interview time is over. We’ve only completed half of it.
“It was really nice talking to you,” he says as he’s leaving. There’s something in his eyes and his voice, something that suggests this is more than just a formality. Or maybe I just want there to be something there. Maybe it is just a formality.