Despite Andy Callahan’s claim that he had a life outside of work, Jan noticed that his house was a bit of a shrine to the study of anatomy. He had two skeletons—one full sized and the other about three feet tall. He had several bookcases and while not every book was related to anatomy, they were all medical texts, without exception. She bent down to scan the lowered shelves for something related to another interest or hobby, but she saw nothing that wasn’t related to his work.
“You know, your houseguests are going to think you’re a necrophiliac or something,” Jan commented as she fingered a model of the human heart and lungs that was on his dining room table. She couldn’t imagine how he ate with that thing in front of him.
“I try to remove that for company,” Andy said with a grin.
“So I’m not company?” she raised her eyebrows.
“No, you’re just the girl I’m sleeping with,” he said, grabbing her by the waist and bringing her close to him. She squealed for what felt like the first time since she was a little kid as she fell into his lap. He wheeled her into the bedroom, which was thankfully decorated slightly less morbidly.
She was impressed with the ease at which he transferred from his chair into the bed. She supposed he had been doing this for a long time, although she didn’t know how long. They had been sleeping together for almost two weeks now, but there were very few conversations in that time. If they ever talked about anything, they talked about study strategies for the upcoming exams. It seemed like Andy could play the part of either her professor or her lover, but nothing in-between.
After they made love, they lay next to each other in Andy’s bed. She felt his hand reaching for hers under the covers. She loved the roughness of his palm. “I was thinking I could make you dinner tonight,” she offered.
Andy shook his head. “You shouldn’t,” he said. “There’s a quiz tomorrow. I can order in some food and I’ll help you study. You really need to become more familiar with the branches of the facial nerve.”
“Mmm…” Jan said.
“Do you remember the five branches?” he asked her.
She sighed, “Andy, this is really not what I want to think about right now.”
He smiled sheepishly, “Sorry. I just want you to do well. I mean, this is my class. I ought to be able to help you a little bit.”
“Well, you refused to help me,” she pointed out teasingly. “You had your morals and all…”
“I just don’t think you need to go through your life this way,” he said. “You’re an extremely bright girl, Jan. You just need to focus a little bit.”
She hated it when Andy started in on one of his pep talks. Sometimes she worried that if they started talking, they might have absolutely nothing in common. He seemed miles away from her at times.
“You don’t know what it’s like,” she said. “Medical school is very intimidating.”
“I don’t know what it’s like?” he repeated. “You’re talking to a med school dropout, baby.”
She raised her eyebrows at him. Andy seemed like such an academic—she couldn’t imagine him ever wanting to be a physician. “What happened?”
His blue eyes clouded over and she could see he was debating whether or not to tell her the whole story. Finally, he pointed the small scar about three inches above his belly button. “That’s what happened,” he said. “I got shot.”
Jan frowned. “How?”
“It was during my first clerkship of my third year of med school,” he explained. “Emergency Medicine. I went into a room to evaluate some kid who was having chest pain, which turned out to be related to drugs—he was high as a kite. I guess nobody searched him when he came in. About a minute after I walked into the room, he pulled out a gun and before I knew what was happening, he shot me in the gut.”
“Oh my god,” Jan breathed.
“The thing is, I didn’t pass out right away,” Andy went on. “I literally felt my legs give out from under me. I was a medical student and I figured out that he had probably shot me in the spinal cord. And then while I was lying on the floor bleeding, he pointed the gun right at my head.” Andy lowered his eyes. “You know, it seemed like forever that he was pointing that gun at my head, though it was probably no more than five or ten seconds before the security guards came in. I thought he was going to kill me for sure.” He fingered the scar on his abdomen. “And you know, the worst part is… I wanted him to kill me. I wished he’d just shoot me in the head and get it over with. I figured my life was over anyway.”
Once again, he had rendered her speechless. She reached out and touched the scar gently. He placed his hand on top of hers. “Just my luck,” he muttered. “Shot me right through the spine. T8. Two inches to the left and I would have just lost my spleen or something.”
“Does it hurt?” she asked.
He shook his head. “I barely even feel it,” he said. Andy had told her that the sensation was present in his legs, but very patchy and unreliable. He couldn’t tell the difference between the touch of her fingers and a pinprick.
“You didn’t want to finish school?”
“I could have gone back, I guess,” he said. “After I recovered and all. The dean of the medical school told me they’d had students in wheelchairs before. But I couldn’t imagine seeing patients again after what had happened. The thought of it made me sick. Dead people are… safer.”
“I don’t blame you,” she murmured.
“I’d probably be a surgeon now if I never got shot,” he said. “Probably working a hundred hours a week, divorced with some kids I’d never see. I think it was the right choice for me, what I did. I’m happy with what I do. I’m just sorry it had to happen that way, that’s all.”
Hearing Andy tell his story, Jan felt like a spoiled brat. She had never been through any hardships in her life—not really. And when she came across any kind of adversity, she just took the easy way out. She had always thought of herself as a feminist, but she realized now that any real feminist would have been ashamed of her.
Andy turned so that he was facing her and played with a lock of her dark hair, “So why did you go to med school?”
“I don’t even know anymore,” Jan admitted. “I think I thought I had something to prove. But I’m not sure if you can just spend your life proving a point.”
“Be honest,” he said, “do you still hate me for not changing your grade?”
She laughed. “If I said yes, would you change it?”
He looked her straight in the eyes, “Do you really want me to change it?”
Jan bit her lip. She couldn’t lie and say that if he offered to give her an A right now, she’d refuse it. But it was more than about the grade now. She knew that he cared about her and that was part of the reason that he wouldn’t compromise on this. And if he cared about her learning, maybe she should start caring about herself too.
Andy kept a copy of Netter’s Atlas of Anatomy on his bedside table so that he could pull it out whenever he got motivated to start talking anatomy. After a hot, sweaty session of lovemaking, Jan would collapse next to him in his bed, cuddling up against his muscular shoulder. Just as she’d get comfortable and settled in, he’d grab for the copy of Netter’s. It drove her crazy and not in a good way.
“Do you want to go over the lumbosacral plexus?” he asked her. It was the subject of their quiz next week, but it was the last thing from her mind.
“Andy, aren’t you exhausted?” Jan sighed.
“No, I’m fine,” he said with a shrug. “What are you complaining about? Women are supposed to be energized by orgasms.”
Jan didn’t have an answer for that, even though all she wanted to do was sleep on Andy’s chest. He flipped open the anatomy book to the color drawing of the lumbosacral plexus. “I don’t expect you to know the lumbosacral plexus in as much detail as the brachial plexus,” he said.
“Hooray,” she said.
“Jan, this is important stuff,” he insisted. “If you want to be a surgeon, you need to know your anatomy.” He had made that statement so many times in the last few weeks, she could hear it ringing in her ears at night. It was beginning to make her realize that the truth was that she didn’t actually want to be a surgeon.
Jan tickled his chest with her fingers, attempting to distract him. But he was not to be thwarted when it came to studying anatomy. “The lumbosacral plexus is two separate plexuses formed from nerve roots L1 through S5,” he said. “Together, they control all movement and sensation in the legs.”
Jan remembered Andy had told her that his spinal cord injury was at T8, above where the lumbosacral plexus began. As she looked at him, he realized what she was thinking. “Yeah, my lumbosacral plexus doesn’t work anymore,” he admitted. “Among other things.”
She ran her hand down his thigh, to an area where she knew his sensation was patchy at best. “Can you move your legs at all?” she asked.
“Oh, sure,” he said. “Behold…” He gestured down at his toes and after a moment of what appeared to be deep concentration, his left great toe twitched slightly. He grunted with the effort, “And now I’m spent for the day.”
“Can you move your other foot?” she asked.
“Nope, just that one toe,” he said. “When it cooperates, which is about half the time. Not really enough movement to walk, huh?”
Jan wondered what it must be like to not be able to move his legs. To know that he couldn’t stand up or get around without his wheelchair. She couldn’t even imagine it.
Once again, Andy read her mind: “Honestly, I’ve been in the chair so long, I barely even remember what it was like to be able to walk. I was only like 23 then and now I’m 35. At this point, it would feel weird to me if I weren’t in the wheelchair. It’s not a big deal to me anymore.”
Jan didn’t know what she’d do if she were paralyzed from the waist down, but she supposed she’d find a way to deal with it, just like Andy did. He had a pretty good life, although she believed that part of him still wished he had become that high powered surgeon.
“Hey, don’t think you’re getting out of learning about the lumbosacral plexus,” Andy said, shaking his finger at her.
Jan rolled on top of him, pushing the copy of Netter’s Atlas off his chest and onto the floor, despite his cry of protest. She flashed him a mischievous look as she lowered her lips onto his right nipple. His nipples were highly sensitive and she knew exactly how to take advantage of it. Jan had become an expert on figuring out how to please older men, paraplegic or able-bodied. After about thirty seconds, she had him moaning and clutching the sheets.
“Holy crap, Jan,” Andy muttered.
“What were you saying about the lumbosacral plexus?” she teased him.
“Sexy time now,” he said, running his rough hands over the small of her back, “lumbosacral plexus later.”
Jan smiled, “That’s what I thought.”
Ever since he was in high school, Andy couldn’t seem to sleep any later than 6AM. No matter how late he stayed up, no matter how quiet or dark his bedroom was, he was always jolted awake somewhere between 5:30 and 6 in the morning. The result was that he usually went to sleep on the early side. In college, he rarely went to sleep after midnight, another factor that contributed to his friends teasing him that he acted like an old man. Those friends would have never let him hear the end of it these days, as his usual bedtime crept closer to 10PM. The few times Jan had spent the night, he had drifted off the sleep well before she even appeared tired.
“Only my grandparents go to sleep as early as you do,” Jan remarked.
“Hey, there’s nothing wrong with going to bed early,” Andy protested.
Andy tried to make good use of his early morning hours. Back in college, he used to go out for a run in the morning. In med school, he spent the time studying. If he had gone into surgery as planned, he would have had to be in the hospital working by 5AM, but the hours of an anatomy professor were nowhere near as brutal. He now spent the early morning hours brushing up on his anatomy knowledge in the lab. The students seemed to believe he had an encyclopedic knowledge of anatomy and he wanted to live up to his reputation.
The students in his class didn’t know that the anatomy lab had been adjusted to fit his needs as a wheelchair user. The first modification was the widening of the doorway and putting more space between the tables holding the cadavers. A lowered sink had been added, since there was no way Andy was leaving that room without washing his hands.
The most important modification was the lowering of the tables so that Andy could see the dissection from the vantage point of his wheelchair. He figured the students’ 22 year old backs could take a little extra bending so that he could see what was going on. The dissections themselves were variable in comfort for him, depending on what it was. Anything in the skull or extremities was no problem. Anything deep in the body cavity was a little tricky, but he could do it if he had to.
Sometimes in the morning Andy would go around to the various cadavers and clean up some of the dissections. He got a lot of satisfaction out of creating a really nice dissection, even though the students rarely noticed their cadaver had been tampered with. He knew the students found the anatomy lab creepy in the morning, but Andy liked the quiet. He liked working with only the hum of the fan in the background.
Today Andy decided to focus on his “bone box”, which was a box containing about a dozen bones in the body. He reviewed the various sites of origin and insertion of muscles on the bones. It was stuff he needed to know cold, and despite the fact that he had a great memory, it was good to have a chance to review every once in a while.
He was holding a foot-long humerus bone when he heard the sound of the door to the anatomy lab opening. He checked his watch and saw that it was too early for the cleaning staff to be arriving. He was surprised to see one of his students, Cindy Knox, enter the room. Cindy was Jan’s roommate, but he was fairly sure she didn’t know anything about the two of them. Jan didn’t seem to like her all that much, although she seemed like a nice enough girl.
A few days after the first exam, Cindy had come to his office in tears. She told him she was sure she had failed the exam. He didn’t like to give out grades in advance, but he finally took pity on Cindy and told her she had passed. He admitted to her that he had once been a med student himself and he knew how nerve-wracking it could be. He felt sorry for these poor kids.
Cindy seemed as surprised to see him as he was to see her. “Hi, Dr. Callahan,” she murmured.
“Hello, Dr. Knox,” Andy said. He had gotten in the habit of calling all the students “doctor.” His own anatomy professor in med school had done that and it never failed to get him excited about medicine. He knew some of the students found it a little condescending, but he liked that it got them fired up.
Cindy approached him, staring down at the bone box. “What are you doing?” she asked.
Andy dropped the humerus back into the box. “Just reviewing some anatomy,” he explained. “This is the quietest it ever gets in this lab. I have an hour before the janitors arrive.” He smiled. “And what are you doing here at this ungodly hour, young lady? There will be plenty of time for waking up early during your surgery rotation, believe me.”
“Just figured I’d do a little studying,” Cindy said with an innocent shrug.
“Studying, huh?” Andy raised an eyebrow. “You know, if you came here to make out with your lab partner, just give me a five minute head start and I’ll be out of here. Love in the anatomy labs is not something I’d like to see.”
He laughed at the surprise on Cindy’s face. Even if Jan hadn’t told him about Cindy and Jake, he would have guessed. It was so obvious when two people in the class were a couple. He usually knew before anyone else. He could usually tell who was going to hook up before the couple even knew. “What?” Andy asked in an amused voice. “Are you surprised I know about you and Jake? Cindy, do you know how many people are married now who met in my class? Something about this place must be an aphrodisiac. God knows what.” He rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Although I have to say, we’ve never had a proposal in the anatomy lab before. That’s probably a good thing. I don’t want to think about where the guy would hide the ring…”
“Did you have an anatomy romance?” Cindy teased him playfully.
“But of course,” Andy said with a grin. “She was my lab partner too. Really beautiful and smart and way too good for me.”
“Aw, what happened?” Cindy asked.
“Unfortunately, once the smell of formaldehyde wore off, so did the romance,” he said with a shrug. “Wasn’t meant to be, I guess.” That wasn’t exactly the way things had gone down between him and Jessica, his first love during med school. But he wasn’t about to confess to Cindy or anyone else what really happened. It was something he tried not to think about these days.
“Too bad,” Cindy commented. He noticed her eyes flit down to his left hand and he guessed she was looking for a wedding band. He’d always assumed that by the time he was in his mid thirties, he’d be married. If things had gone as planned, he would have married Jessie right after their med school graduation. Now it was beginning to seem like marriage was one of those things that was just going to pass him by. As much as he had grown to like Jan, he couldn’t imagine their relationship going in that direction.
“Anyway, I can take off,” Andy said, abruptly cutting through the tension in the air.
“No, please don’t leave on my account,” Cindy said. “I like having company in here. It’s kind of creepy all alone.”
Andy smiled at her, “Okay, I’ll stay.” He guessed he was the only person who appreciated the peacefulness of a room full of dead bodies.
It was difficult for Jan to keep her relationship with Andy a secret. Considering how competitive her classmates were, it was imperative that none of her colleagues found out about the two of them, but she felt like it was painfully obvious in every interaction between the two of them. Every time he came over to help her during lab, she imagined that everyone could tell that they were sleeping together.
And moreover, it was all she could do to keep from jumping him during lab. He was so knowledgeable and yet so patient with the students. Sometimes she wondered how he could stand teaching the same exact thing year after year. If situations were reversed, Jan thought she’d be tearing her hair out at all the stupid questions. But Andy would just smile patiently and repeat his explanations.
Sometimes Jan wished she had someone she could talk to about Andy. When her parents called to ask how school was going and ask in a hopeful voice if she had met any nice boys, she knew they’d be furious if she told them she was having an affair with her anatomy professor. True, Andy was unmarried at least, and he did seem young, but at 35 years old, he was over 10 years her senior plus he was her teacher. Her mother would never believe that there wasn’t something shady going on—Jan herself barely believed it.
And of course, she couldn’t talk to her roommate Cindy about him. Cindy was head over heels for Jake Masterson. She had officially ended things with her long distance fiancé and now all she could talk about was Jake and how wonderful he was. It made Jan want to barf, especially since she didn’t like Jake very much.
“I don’t know how you could be interested in such an arrogant asshole,” Jan commented to her roommate.
“He’s not arrogant,” Cindy protested. “He’s just… confident.”
“You don’t know him the way I do,” Cindy said. “He’s a really wonderful guy.”
“He’s totally full of himself,” Jan insisted. It was so obvious to her. She didn’t know how Cindy couldn’t see it too. “Just wait till you get on the wards. He’ll drop you for a cute nurse so fast, your head will spin.”
“He would never do that,” Cindy said, her blue eyes wide. “He loves me.”
“Whatever you say, Cindy…”
“Haven’t you ever been in love?” Cindy asked earnestly.
It was the perfect time to confess about Andy, but she couldn’t bring herself to do it. She didn’t think Cindy would rat her out, but she might tell Jake and she couldn’t trust him any farther than she could throw him. Besides, she wasn’t sure that she was really in love with Andy. Yeah, she cared about him a lot and she thought about him all the time. But somehow she had believed that when she was in love, she would know without a doubt. That there would be some sort of sign.
She had to admit that no matter what Andy’s feelings were for her, he cared very passionately about her doing well in his class. She had to admit that his passion for the human body was contagious. Anatomy used to be torture, but Andy had a way of explaining things that made it almost interesting.
When he was teaching her about the eye, he dug out a large plastic model of a human eye. It was about the size of a globe. There were red-painted muscles attaching to the eye, which were controlled by different cranial nerves. “This is the lateral rectus muscle,” Andy said, pointing to one of the muscles on the side of the eye. “It’s the only extraocular muscle that’s controlled by the abducens nerve. And see, when I pull it, the eye looks laterally.”
“Andy, that eye is really creeping me out,” Jan said.
“Really?” he frowned in confusion. “Why?”
And she laughed and kissed him, because he was truly baffled about what was so weird about a giant plastic eyeball. It was adorable.
God, maybe I am falling in love with him.
To be continued...