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Authors: Alli Curran

The Valeditztorian

BOOK: The Valeditztorian
5.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub















Alli Jay Curran














This book is dedicated to my husband.














Copyright © 2013 Alli Jay Curran

All rights reserved.

ISBN: 1490378324

ISBN 13: 9781490378329









Part One






Chapter One


First Impressions


Every job has occupational hazards. When it comes to medicine, I’m a hazard to the occupation, and I haven’t even graduated from medical school yet. Cursed with tremulous hands that I inherited from my maternal grandfather, I’m particularly dangerous around sharp objects. In my anatomy dissection group, my partners were nicknamed “Slick,” “Quick,” and “Sexy.” And me? I got “Oops,” since I always managed to sever whichever nerve, artery, or vein we were trying to isolate in our cadaver’s body. Currently I’m traveling to Brazil to work on a computer project that avoids contact with live humans. Following my trip, I’ll need to decide whether to complete my final year of training. That’s when I’ll be required to perform invasive procedures on real patients. God help them.

As my plane descends from the sky
over Salvador, Bahia, I pray that my body won’t be the next cadaver donated to my medical school. Due to difficulty equalizing, it feels as though someone with very strong hands is trying to squeeze my brain right out through my ears. I wonder whether it’s medically possible for a person’s head to implode during an airplane’s descent. The vise grip on my head would suggest that it’s pretty likely.

“Are you alright?” an attractive
young stewardess asks.

Grimacing through the pain, I reply, “
No…why do you ask?”

“Because several people sitting nearby requested that I check on you
. They said you looked unwell.”

At that very moment, I lean into the aisle an
d throw up all over the poor woman’s shoes.

. I’m so sorry!” I exclaim.


The stewardess is nice enough to hand me a wet washcloth before heading off to change her shoes.

When our plane
lands, I breathe a momentary sigh of relief that I’m back on solid ground, with my brain still safely inside my skull. At baggage claim, I grab my three enormous duffel bags filled with laboratory equipment, plus my suitcase, and drag everything through customs. By the time I’m cleared, my “I Love NY” T-shirt is plastered to my upper body with sweat.

If he were here, Thomas would probably love the wet T-shirt look
. Ah, Thomas. The amazing man who captured my heart, despite the stench of formaldehyde, during anatomy class.

hat do you think we should call him?” Slick asked during our second week of school.

“Not sure,” Quick answered
. “What do you think, Oops?”

With no hesitation whatsoever I blurted out, “Sex

And d
o you suppose the narcissist protested at all when I came up with that one? Not one bit.

, I scold myself for even thinking about Thomas. For the duration of this trip, I’m supposed to be on relationship vacation. No more analyzing our dysfunctional codependency. Ditto on missing him.

So far I’m failing on both counts

Though I’ve been in this country less than one hour,
I’m already pining away for him. Well, not him, exactly. Thomas is an emotionally challenging, unpredictable alcoholic. Even I can’t tolerate his company for more than a few hours straight—at least not while he’s conscious. One might wonder why I’ve remained his girlfriend for the last three years. I often do.

This may sound shallow, and I’m certainly simplifying our relationship, but the truth is it all boils down to his anatomy
. To elaborate, I’m not a teenager anymore, and over the last 10 years I’ve slept with all kinds of men—short, tall, fat, thin, and every body habitus in between. From experience I’ve learned that like a pair of jeans, some men fit my body better than others. When it comes to the principal organ—and I’m not referring to church organs here—multiple variables, including size, shape, girth, curvature, thrust trajectory, and even texture play important roles in the compatibility algorithm. Having discussed this issue at length with a number of female friends, I’ve concluded that every woman must have a range of good and bad fits, depending upon her own unique anatomy and that of her partner(s). For better or worse, Thomas is the absolute perfect fit for me. Intercourse with this man invariably leads to tears of joy, lifting my body to a higher plain of existence, on the order of a spiritual experience. Believe me, I’ve tried to sing Shalom Aleichem with my whole heart, but nothing brings me closer to God than sex with Thomas.

On the downside,
right after Thomas transports my body up to heaven, he drags my soul straight back down to hell (which is saying something, since hell doesn’t even exist in Judaism, at least not according to my mother).

The last time we slept together
, for instance, I encouraged Thomas to discuss his feelings. Overly confident, in a state post-coital bliss, I dangled my heart precariously on my sleeve—just far enough away for him to stomp all over it.

“Thomas,” I said, “that was amazing
. How was it for you?”

“It was like pizza.”

“Pizza? What do you mean?”

“It was like a good slice of pizza
. I’ll probably keep coming back to the same pizza place for more.”

“So if you had to choose between pizza, and sex with me, which would it be?
” I asked.

“Depends how good the pizza is.”


Just two nights ago
, Thomas failed to show up for what would’ve been a very hot date preceding my departure. Who knows? Maybe he went out for Italian food instead. For Thomas, acts of emotionally neglectful, frustrating behavior like this are all too common. The rational part of my mind knows that I ought to leave him, but like a powerful magnet, his marvelous member keeps drawing me back whenever I attempt to extricate myself from our relationship. The situation, which is slowly driving me crazy, is one of the reasons I’ve come to Brazil. I’m hoping that putting a distance of nearly 4500 miles between us will help me permanently break away from him.

Tasting salt on my lips after slogging through customs, I try to b
anish all thoughts of Thomas and head to the nearest ladies’ room. Viewing my reflection in the bathroom mirror, I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. With my hair sticking out at odd angles all around my face, my appearance is worse than dreadful. Nonetheless, I do my best to repair the damage incurred from two days of continuous traveling. A spritz of icy water awakens my red-rimmed eyes, and nerdy glasses are traded for a pair of disposable contacts. When I try to insert the contacts, my hands are so jittery that I lose one down the drain and require several attempts to correctly position its replacement. Pulling my lackluster hair up into a tight, bun-shaped ponytail, I suddenly resemble a teenaged ballerina (it’s not my favorite look, but my styling options are limited). Traveling sweatpants are exchanged for rumpled, though fresh-smelling, jean shorts with a frayed hem that has crept ever higher up my thighs over time. Glancing down at my legs, I realize that I forgot to shave before my departure. Rifling through my backpack, I’m unable to find my one package of razors, which is probably still sitting on my bathroom counter back home. Oh well. My less than clean-shaven legs will just have to wait. This is probably a good thing, since I never fail to draw blood with a blade in my hands.

When I check
my watch, it’s almost time to meet my new boss, Luciano. Other than his name, and the fact that Luciano runs the Brazilian counterpart of our infectious disease laboratory in Manhattan, I know nothing about this man.

Like the White Rabbit in
Alice in Wonderland
, I hurry out of the bathroom, doing my best New York City power walk toward the airport lobby. Five minutes later, about 10 feet from my destination, I reach into my backpack and discover that I’ve left my most significant possessions—my passport, credit card, driver’s license and roughly $1000.00 in cash—inside a manila envelope in the bathroom sink. Sensing imminent doom, I grimace and sprint back to the ladies’ room, praying that the envelope remains where I left it.

Naturally it’s gone, and a full-blown panic attack ensues
. Suddenly my heart is beating its way out my chest, and I’m gasping for air, suffocating under an imaginary pillow case. Losing feeling in my fingertips, I slump down onto the cold bathroom floor, leaning my head against the white wall tiles for support. Hopefully, I won’t throw up again. Struggling to clear my foggy brain, I wonder whether there’s an American embassy nearby where I can get a new passport. Despite my problems back home, staying in Brazil permanently isn’t a viable option, right? I try to remember my psychiatry professor’s advice for dealing with panic attacks. What was it that Dr. DeLuna had said?

Maybe it was, “Take slow, d
eep breaths…in through the nose and out through the mouth.”

Or perhaps he s
aid, “Go to your happy place.”

out warning a six-foot-four, naked image of Thomas, fully erect in all his glory, appears before me.

“You weren’t
invited!” I shout at the vision. “So get the hell out of my head!”

The enticing hallucination disappears
. After concentrating on steadying my breathing for an unknown number of minutes, my pulse rate settles, and eventually I’m able to pull myself off the ground. When I wobble out of the bathroom, looking for anyone who can help me, I notice a woman pushing a janitor’s cart down the hallway.

“Por favor, pare!” I shout.

In my current emotional state, the dark-eyed young woman seems remarkably calm. With a friendly smile she asks something rapidly in Portuguese, which I completely miss, despite having just taken three months of Portuguese classes in New York. Speaking this language in the wild, particularly under stress, is clearly going to be a disaster.

Instead of attempting
to explain my predicament in Portuguese, I opt for a language she’s much more likely to understand: body language. Hopping up and down, gesticulating vigorously at the bathroom and myself, I try to convey the essentials of my plight. Miraculously, the woman nods and smiles. Reaching inside a drawer, she pulls out not only my envelope, but also my glasses, which I’ve similarly failed to return to my backpack. I didn’t even realize I’d lost them. Whoever this woman is, I love her, and I have to restrain myself from spontaneously leaping forward to hug her.

“Obrigada!” I shout, and a wonderful feeling of relief courses through my veins, reviving my numb fingertips

Peeking inside
the envelope, I find that everything, including the cash, remains in its proper place. Thank goodness. Glancing at my watch again, I realize that I’m already eight minutes late for my rendezvous with Luciano. Then I take off toward the lobby at top speed.

That’s me,
Emma Silberlight, the “valeditztorian.” Though great with books and computers, I’m a complete mess in the real world. Sometimes my mistakes are relatively minor, like the time I accidentally broke my high school gym teacher’s nose with a hockey puck, due to my utter lack of coordination. I warned the woman to stand back—way back—when it was my turn to shoot cross-court for a goal, but she wouldn’t take me seriously. Like a bad dream, the puck flew from the end of my stick directly into Ms. Piscitelli’s nose, landing with a terrible crunch that knocked her backward onto the floor. Several days later, she needed surgery to reconstruct her nose.

On other occasions I’ve gotten myself into more significant trouble
. Just ask my mother, Cecile Silberlight. Before I even finished my senior year of high school, Cecile passed me off to Aunt Pam, her sister living one state over. While we occasionally speak on the phone, my mother and I haven’t physically seen one another in years. Though it’s unlikely that my time in Brazil will bring us any closer together, the idea of continuing our separation doesn’t bother me at all.

Now rounding the final corner into the lobby
, I crash into a tall, skinny, not quite-Caucasian man, who nearly loses his balance on impact.

“Whoa, baby,” he says
in English, with only a minimal Portuguese accent.

as he catches me, I wonder why this man is speaking to me in English. Then I realize two things. One, he probably noticed the English words on my T-shirt; and two, based on my skin color alone, I am obviously a foreigner, since I am the whitest person in the airport lobby, by far. Of the 50 or so individuals milling around, everyone is either black or a shade of brown. Since I’ve nearly bulldozed this particular man, it stands to reason that he must be my new boss.

Still, I arch my eyebrows and ask, “Luciano?”

He looks about my age, perhaps slightly older.

“That’s me,” he answers, grinning
. “You must be Emma.”

“Nice to meet you,” I say, reaching up to shake his hand.

Luciano laughs and says, “If you work as fast as you run, you might actually finish your project.”

“So long as I do
n’t kill anyone in the process,” I say.

Luciano smiles,
since he probably thinks I’m joking.

As we
organize my luggage, I wonder whether Luciano is going to be repulsed by my stubbly legs. It turns out that I needn’t have worried, since his eyes never make it below my breasts. In fact, on the whole, his eyes never make it above my breasts, either. Apparently the Y chromosome has the same effect on Brazilians as it does on Americans, at least in the setting of a wet T-shirt.

BOOK: The Valeditztorian
5.5Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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