The ghosts of the previous batch lingered in the room. There were stains on the carpet, forgotten seat cushions and chairs with broken desks. It was pretty much how we left Dean Basa too. Seeing as how we were only seventy five in the class, there were also a lot of empty chairs. This should not have bothered me but I wasn’t used to seeing The Empty Chairs. We don’t talk about it anymore—there’s a certain sadness that only helplessness in a certain situation can bring. It was exactly like that. “I will miss you’s” seemed like a hapless form of goodbye. So we stayed silent and gave one another little smiles as we picked our permanent sitting places. We tried to be mature about it and just move on.
There was also this smell in the room—it could be the smoky scent that precedes a lightning storm or it can also just be the dirty carpet. Something was brewing in our midst as we sat there with expressions that ranged from blank to pretentious brave faces, waiting for the first few raindrops to fall. Maybe the strong winds will knock us down, maybe not. The thunder we had been hearing all the way from Dean Basa for what seems like years ago, sounded even more ominous as lecturer after lecturer tabulated grade percentages and class requirements. When the upperclassmen oriented us on what to expect for the whole year, all I could hear was a short introduction for the endless list of subjects and the word “difficult” after each one. Our laughter was hysterical. Our google drive was an explosion of transes made by overworked trans teams. Half the time, I expect our class president who sits in the front row to turn around in the middle of the class and ask, “Guys, kaya ba natin to?”
I’m writing this because I’m absolutely terrified. I am gripped by a fear I cannot even name. Fears have names: Fear of Failure, Fear of Being Alone and Fear of Letting People Down. I don’t know which fear I have. Maybe it’s just one. Maybe it’s all of the above. The clinical subjects have names that are fancy but daunting to even say. A lot of things happened within our class in the past year that the same things that made our relationship strong also made it fragile.
All I know is, whatever fear it was—it disappeared when I met our first patient of the year in Clinical Evaluation. He was a sixty-two year old man who came for a follow-up check-up. He did not have a rare disease. We did not hear any murmurs or adventitious sounds when we auscultated his chest. There was nothing remotely House MD material about the whole thing. It was certainly not something to be talked about. Yet, hours later when I was sitting on my chair in Dean Perez, holding my pink stethoscope and playing with the expensive hand-me-down opthalmoscope, I remembered. I remembered why I packed my bags and left the comfort of my home. I remembered why I buried my head between the pages of Guyton for one year. I remembered why I was not envious of my other college friends who were traveling the country and working for their own keep. The endless list of clinical subjects and unread transes that should make me susceptible to forgetting this reason was balanced by the SGDs and the patient encounters.
Wednesdays replaced my apprehension with a childish emotion—the kind I felt back in grade school on the nights before a big field trip. Sleepless. Restless. Expectant.
Deep down, I wish they also prepared us for this—this emotion right here. This excitement. This sweet mental torture.
We were told many times as first years that we had it easy—that “second year is hell on earth” but I don’t think this is true in all aspects. It’s also difficult to imagine diseases on imaginary patients with the reality of so many readings.
Second year, I can see as early as now, is when the imagination stops. It’s when things get real.