Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Chapter 1- Final Pages
My intuition tells me that Richard would like to become more than just airplane buddies. His eyes secretly study me. I have this shy desire to pull my sweatshirt hood over my head and hide. This is my downfall. I have a one-track mind with a single goal that doesn’t involve boyfriends or complicated relationships. I’m oddly build this way. Why can’t I be a typical, hormonal, twenty-two year old, young
I attentively listen to him as he elaborate on where he’s from and how he became interested in medicine. He supposedly grew up in Manhattan but went to a private boarding school in Essex, England for most of his childhood school years. This explains why he has a hint of Brit when he speaks. The accent is an added bonus to his hotness, especially for me. I love foreign accents. He has two younger siblings who are currently at the same private school in Essex. He loves soccer and was a polo team captain in both high school and college. His father is chief director of cardiovascular surgery at Debakery’s Heart Healing Center and his mother is an OBGYN who volunteers much of her time at a neighborhood free health clinic.
His resume for eligible bachelor is immaculate. And yet, I only have the tiniest inkling of desire for this perfect man. “What is seriously wrong with me?” I question myself with disbelief. As soon as he completes his condensed autobiography, he anxiously waits for me to reciprocate, but all I offer him is, “I’m Lillian M. Ly and I am also a first year medical student.” I see slight disappointment in his seductive blue eyes. “You are here to become a doctor!” I remind myself and turn towards the window. I seal my tired bloodshot eyes and end my brief introduction with Mr. Stevens.
I must have fallen into a deep and desperately needed sleep because the pilot’s final announcement wakes me up. “We will be landing into Henry E. Rholsen Airport in approximately fifteen minutes.” I can’t grasp the realization that I am really here on this island. Saint Croix is one of the U.S. Virgin Islands, whose economy is heavily based on tourism. The island boasts many beautiful resorts with acres of breath-taking beaches and all the amenities of every vacationer’s dreams. Unfortunately, I will not be one of those lucky vacationers soaking up the warm Caribbean sun and enjoying all the fine five-star dining. Instead, I will be studying and laboring many long hours at the local hospitals.
I grab my black SwissGear backpack from the overhead compartment. Richard chivalrously directs me in front of him with his free hand. As we exit the aircraft, he courteously insists that I ride with him to the dormitory.
“I don’t think it’s safe for a pretty young lady to use local bus transportation in uncharted territory. My parents have prearranged for a vehicle to be waiting here for me.”
“Thank you for being unnecessarily considerate when you hardly even know me.” I’m sure I would be fine riding the local bus but why chance it?
“It’s no big deal. We’re both heading to the same place.”
The minute we step outside the confines of the cool aircraft, the heat and humidity unexpectedly assaults our bodies. Sweat droplets slowly form and increase in number as I frustratingly wipe them off with my sleeves. I urgently peel away my sweatshirt, hoping it might decrease my body temperature but it’s pointless. This heat is nothing like I’ve experienced back home. It will take some adjusting to embrace this new tropical climate.
“There he is! I see a man dressed in a dark navy suite with ‘Stevens’ written on a sign.” Richard points out and waves his hand for the man to acknowledge us.
Thank god he spots him quickly. We gladly make our way towards his driver as I continue to dab new perspiration off my forehead. My maroon and white I.U. sweatshirt now serves a different purpose. Richard attentively offers to take my backpack for me but I graciously decline. I’m Miss Independent, not too keen on being catered to.
“Hello Mr. Stevens. Welcome to St. Croix. I’m Benton.” He politely greets Richard and offers him a welcoming handshake.
“Thank you for your promptness, Benton.”
Our larger luggages are taken to another vehicle. The man guides us to a gleaming silver BMW Z5 and bestows Richard a key fob for his new ride.
“Your parents have taken care of everything. All you need to do is enjoy this fabulous car. Feel free to call me for any other needs, Mr. Stevens. I live conveniently close to your school.” He beams us both with a friendly smile.
“Thanks for the offer, Benton. I will keep you in mind.”
The sight of his expensive sports car instantly alters my mood. I blame my mother’s unhappiness on other people’s greed for capital gain. Her father and husband both betrayed her for money. Therefore, excessive wealth has become a sensitive issue for me. I equate abundant fortune with misery.
Richard saunters around to the passenger side to open and close the door for me. The engine purrs up smoothly. We both welcome the refreshing cool air from the car’s vent as it blows life back into our dehydrated bodies. Our seatbelts are buckled and Richard’s deep, sexy, British accented voice activates the GPS with our destination. We’ll be there in about fifty-five minutes according to the navigation calculation.
Richard’s eyes remain cautiously focused on the dangerously winding road. Occasionally, he’d sneak a glance here and there over at me. I pretend not to notice and remain reserved. I am mesmerized by the scenic views of long stretches of aqua blue water and pristine white sandy beaches. I stare out into the distant horizon and see beautiful yachts and even several titanic cruise ships. The land is painted with lush tropical green plants full of vibrant colorful blooms. I welcome the smell of saltiness from the water combined with moist humid air. This kind of luxury is novel and extremely captivating to me. I come from a modest family that has no opportunities for vacations to beautiful paradises like this.
The breathtaking ocean views gradually disappear as we drive deeper into an impoverished and underprivileged part of the town. The lush vegetation land is now replaced with dry desert and cactus plants. I’m speechless. The homes are modest and the people are meekly dressed. I see little children running around in tattered sandals in the streets with filthy animals. They appear content even with so little. People migrate to our car with handmade trinkets and fruits, pleading us to buy from them. It makes me humble and blessed to have what I have after witnessing this. Richard buys a handful of dainty bracelets with pink, polished, lava stones from several of the vendors. He also gives a few small bills to the surrounding children. I had misjudged him altogether. He’s generous and kind-hearted, not typical of his kind. I stow my unbending facade and share a rare vulnerable side of me with him.
“Richard, this is why I want to become a physician. I want to care for sick people who can’t afford medical help. Everyone deserves to be healthy.”
Completely caught off guard from my openness, he turns to face me and intently looks into my eyes. “Those who know much speak little and those who bullshit all the time knows little. It’s my version of an old Chinese Proverbs.” He grins and clasps the newly bought bracelet around my wrist. “A simple bracelet for an intricate lady.” He winks his right eye at me along with that killer smile that exposes his dazzling white teeth. My face is probably a shade shy of being deep crimson. I feel the unnerving tension build around my shoulders and neck from blushing. I bashfully turn away from him to face the window and secretly smile to myself while twirling my new bracelet around my wrist.
Once again, we continue our drive in serene silence passing more beautiful views of the blue ocean water and lush green tropical trees. Richard is preoccupied in his own world while I mindlessly take in my new surroundings. The radio is softly playing in the background while he lightly drums his fingers and bops his head to the rhythm. It’s hardly audible until the song, ‘Don’t Worry, Be Happy,’ captures our attention. We both hum simultaneously.
“Bobby Mcferrin fan are you?” I ask him with a quirky smile.
“Who doesn’t love this mindless song? It makes everyone happy.”
“So true.” I nod my head.
He starts to sing the song’s catchy lyrics in a sexy reggae/British accent. I surprise him by joining in. We laugh and giggle uncontrollably as we insert our own lyrics to the song about medical school. It seems silly and immature but for a brief moment, I permit myself to be carefree and youthful. I’m having a good time and I love it. The remaining trip passes quickly once we’re able to speak openly and the rigid barrier is broken down. And so we begin our new found friendship with a trivial song…
***Pictures are shared from Pinterest***