Juniper - Chapter One

It was sweaty, blistering heat. The kind of heat that makes you attach a water bottle to your hip and ditch a heavy purse for a phone wallet. I took a swig out of the large mug, granting the cold liquid access to the aching dryness in my throat. Midwest heat, particularly in the state of Illinois where I was attending college, felt like being in a steam room on the highest temperature the dial could turn. Ain't it funny how time seems to tick faster when you’ve got somewhere to be?

I sped my small frame through thick, heavy air and sighed thankfully when I passed a tall building and was momentarily relieved from the sun’s beams of light. I was almost there. Albeit, I was late, but I considered that a major upgrade from not showing up, which I may have done twice already in a few courses. I recall the first day I began having trust issues with inanimate objects.

It was morning, I was barely a year into the University of Chicago’s medical program when the alarm clock sitting on my dresser forgot to do its job of jolting me awake in the wee hour of morning. I overslept in that bed, hours later, until around noon, when I realized with a racing heart that I’d missed my midterm review. Not the actual midterm, but it was close enough of a disaster to form newfound realization that failure could come from a multitude of places. Wash your clothes, study and go to class, work twenty hours a week, sleep eight hours a night, and you need to have a social life. I could hear the high-pitched shrieking of my counselor's excuse for a voice in my head, as she discussed life at U of Chicago and the "vitality of being aware and creating balance in your life". Oh, give me a break Ms. Debbie. You have four snakes, three turtles and can’t seem to grasp that plaid doesn’t go with polyester stripes. Yet, you've really got balls to preach to college students about balance? She did her job; it’s not like I can hate her for doing that. The idea of spending every waking moment being stressed was a version of hell I wanted no part in. I’d need to meditate soon before I began blaming the world for my issues. I wanted to say screw this class but if I did everything I felt, my life would be drastically different. Stick to the program, my head buzzed. Class, grocery shopping and then I could shut myself in for the night. Sounded too good to be true and I loved it.

The doors opened creakily, allowing two sets of eyes from each lab table to turn my way. Forty tables and eighty judgmental glares filled the expansive, chilly room whilst formula posters with lackluster fonts and years of wear screamed from sterile walls. I cursed internally. I knew I shouldn’t have pushed the handicap button. The curiosity in their gaze was fatal to my senses. I was trapped like a deer in headlights by the amount of emotion I felt from every student’s aura. Please don’t say anything, I begged to myself, hoping Professor Kawoski could hear my pleas. 

Not that it even mattered, I could tell from the gleam in his eyes he was going to make an example out of me. Bastard.

“Naomi, glad you could join us,” he sneered loudly, “Take a seat.” His pale, needle like fingers pointed to a desk, two tables across from the smart board. 

They were empty for a reason. What fool in his or her right mind would subject themselves to being so close to a distasteful soul?

I pursed my lips tightly and made my way to the front of the room. 

“Excuse me, sorry,” I muttered apologetically to all the book bags I was crunching on my descent to the black desk.

Pity, shame and second-hand embarrassment greeted my back side. 

Thud. That was the sound of my book bag hitting the floor. 

Dammit Kawoski, start talking. I needed a notebook, goggles, writing utensils and the air was as quiet as a mouse.

Clang. My pencil and pen hit the table noticeably under my clumsy hands, I winced. I gave a look to three people across from me, mouthing the word “sorry.”

“If you will all notice, the formulas in front of you hold elements that will react dangerously with one another if used incorrectly,” He commenced, “Your job is to discern which molecules form together to create solutions not cataclysms…. Begin.”

Math oriented folks enjoy solving complex equations, writers like painting pictures with their words, athletes love to practice and preform but me? Well, I wanted to invent lifesaving medicine using the ingredients nature has provided for us. And I was excellent at it. 

I heard the groans and whispers before I saw the looks of unhappiness from every student. It made me want to chuckle. I got to work with a smug grin.