Tuesday, January 24, 2012

He is May, I am December

He is May. I am December. I’m 12 years older than him, I thought. How can there be any future for us?

I just came back to the ED after two years away as the head nurse in an in-patient floor in the same hospital. Then a leadership change in the ED had me coming back as a head nurse in the ED where I started 15 years earlier. I also thought it would be great to be surrounded by old friends as I healed from the shock of my husband’s death from a vehicular accident a year ago. I was forty-years old with a nine year old son.

On my first week back, I felt someone staring at me. As soon as I turned away from a conversation with another nurse, I looked up and caught him looking at me from across the crowded room.

He was tall and handsome, his fair skin a stark contrast against his dark hair and dark long-lashed eyes. He was somebody I would have been attracted to had I been much younger. A stethoscope that hung on his neck and his blue scrubs clued me in that he was one of our ED residents. He must have started his residency in our ED just as I left the unit for the in-patient floor.

The normal sounds of an emergency room were just background noise to the sudden rush of blood to my ears. Boom. Instant connection. It was not just an innocent fleeting look, but something magical, a bit electrical, and kind of heart-fluttering awareness. At my age, it felt ridiculous to feel like a hormonal teenager. Yeah, a 16 year old trapped in a 40 year-old body.

A wail of siren broke through the connection. My triage nurse announced, “Jade, we have an EMS notification of a stab wound to the chest. That must be them just pulling up.”

I ran to the Trauma Room and almost collided with the mystery man. The attending physician, George, did a quick introduction as we all rushed to the trauma room. I knew George when he was just a resident, so we were quite comfortable with each other.

Max was a medical resident on his third year of emergency medicine residency. So, this was the man that the young nurses were talking about in the lounge. He could be the pin-up boy of the nurses’ lounge. In the clinical setting, he proved to be also smart, confident, and decisive.

The next thirty minutes passed in a blur as the patient claimed our attention. The patient was quickly intubated, then received a chest tube before he was whisked by the trauma surgeons to the OR. The trauma nurse ran after the surgeons with the chart while the other nurse went to assist with another patient in the CT Scan.

Then we were alone in the room. Max lingered behind as I tried to straighten up the room. He thanked me for helping him with the chest tube. I nodded and acted nonchalant, acted as if I did not feel like a quivering jello inside. I cursed myself for my irrational thoughts. Snap out of it; quit acting like a love-sick teen.

My feelings even got stronger as the days passed. I sensed him observing me as I went about my duties. I acted like I did not notice. It was a losing battle, because I felt strangely disappointed when I didn’t see him around.

After my husband died, there were several men who pursued me, but no one haunted my every waking moment. My former husband did not turn out to be the shining knight in armor that I had thought him to be, but I was devastated when he died unexpectedly. And so, I had steeled my heart, and vowed never to love again.

But it was difficult to ignore this new man who seemed to be just what I needed in my life. Just thinking of him made me smile. He seemed to charm everyone with his presence.

Max always had an excuse to talk to me, whether in meetings or just to discuss a case. I was the utmost professional, cool and detached. I kept my distance. I helped out at the bedside during crisis situations, but I ran out as soon as the patient was stabilized; escaping to my head nurse duties, escaping from his smoldering presence.

I was afraid to give him any encouragement, but like a fish hungry for water, I cherished those moments when the crowds vanished around us and there was just the two of us looking at each other. The chemistry was undeniable. No words were necessary.

My emotions blindsided me; the unexpected feelings both exhilarated and frightened me. Been there, done that. Feelings long forgotten came rushing in. I must be in love, the realization confused me. Why now?

I knew he liked me, my friend George had spilled that one day. But I did not want to give Max a chance to say anything.

It finally happened one day. He cornered me in my office and told me that he loved me. I was overjoyed, and yet at the same time, I was devastated that it wasn’t meant to be. Our attraction was just an aberrancy. Even here in America, here in my ER, it would be a scandal like no other. We would have been the talk of the town.

In a society of double standards, an older man with a younger woman is more easily accepted. Machismo still lives. An older woman with a younger man is looked on as a "cougar".

Max had a whole future ahead of him; a world of adventure as a young doctor, of new accomplishments with his choice of vibrant and eager young women. He should be chasing his own dreams. My world was centered on my demanding work and my nine-year old son.

I told him he would not have liked commitments, and I could not afford to take a chance on a relationship that I felt was doomed from the start. I was too old to be playing around and he was too young to be stuck with an older woman with a growing son. It would not be fair to him.

It was a love without a future. Our future should not, could not include each other.

One day, the clerk paged me to the nursing station. A bouquet of red roses was just delivered for me. Thinking it was from a grateful patient, I was surprised when I read the card. “Love is a gift. Give US a chance…M”.

Two years later…

My one-year old daughter joined in singing “Happy birthday” to me while my eleven year old son was trying to keep her from blowing the candles.

There were forty-two candles on my cake, courtesy of my husband. Such sick humor, my silly Max.

My now-bearded Max held a bouquet of beautiful red roses. Still handsome, still 12 years younger. Still in love with me.

My husband held more faith in our relationship than I did. He broke through my resistance until I could not say "No" any more. Our love was hot and intense, but in its core was a deep, abiding love that will undoubtedly sustain us through. A love to last a lifetime.

"Hey Max, have I told you that you look more and more like Alex O'Loughlin of Hawaii Five-O everyday"? I teased him, just so I can see him blush.

"Okay, Grace Park.", Max countered, referring to the female lead on the tv show.

"Yeah, right, older." I pretended to pout.

"A much prettier Grace Park.". Max bent forward to give me a sweet kiss, much to the delight of my daughter who laughed at anything her parents do. True to form, my adolescent son rolled his eyes, pretending to be embarrassed with our public display of affection.

I am Jade. He's my Max. He is May. I am December. So what!

Note: Just a figment of my very fertile imagination. :)