Emily and the Sense of Shame

Born the product of an adulterous affair, I was schooled in the intricacies of shame from an early age. Most of the judgments were unstated, but even as a kid I felt the weight of the silence and the flicker of distaste I saw on the face of the face of teachers learning I didn't have a father to sign paperwork or the parents of my classmates when they realized my mother was a 'home wrecker." There was an odd sort of freedom to being seen as the symbol of my mother's shame; no amount of bad behavior could shock the system as much as my parentage. I learned to work hard at school and at my music, to earn by my accomplishments the respect that other kids seemed to get just from being born into regular families. And for my sake, I try as hard as I can to avoid the impetuous mistakes my mother rushes into time and again. But each time I slip, I'm surrounded by the shame once again.

Emily sits hunched over on her bed, as Will lays on the bed, starring resolutely at the ceiling. "Are you OK?" he asks. "I'll be fine," she replies. "But, Will, I think…"

"I'm sorry, Emily. That's never happened before. I don't know what…"

She interrupts him: "Put it out of your mind. It doesn't matter. Actually, it stopped us from making a worse mistake."

"This was not a mistake! Obviously tonight didn't work out the way either of us wanted. But Emily, I need you in my life. I don't know why I fought my feelings for you for so long. You make me a better person. Let's start again, slowly this time. Can I take you out for dinner tonight?" As he speaks, he sits up behind her and wraps his arms around her. He nuzzles close to her ear and purrs seductively, "I promise you that the next time we have sex, it will blow your mind."

She shudders slightly as she pulls away. "Will, there won't be a next time. Tonight made it very clear to me that all we are ever going to be is friends."

"That's just the disappointment talking, Emily. If I'd been able to…you know, then you wouldn't be having these doubts. You have to give me another chance."

"I'm sorry, Will. It's not going to happen. You should go. Oh, not again!" Emily rushes to the bathroom. As he hears the retching sound, Will puts his clothes on.

He knocks and uses his most charming tone of voice. "Can't I stay and take care of you? I am a doctor, you know."

"No, I'm fine." Just go! "I'm off tomorrow. Rest is all I need."

Will reluctantly walks towards the door. As he opens it, he sees Tyra there with her purse open, fumbling for her key.

"Oh, hey, perfect timing, Micah. Just looking for my keys." Tyra says, unsteadily. She looks up, sees who it is, and gapes. She blinks at him a few times. "Will? You're an unexpected ending to my walk of shame. What are you doing here?"

Will shakes his head as he lets Tyra in and closes the door behind her. "See you, Tyra."

Late the next morning, Tyra stumbles into the kitchen and practically inhales a cup of coffee. She notices Emily sitting at the table, rubbing her forehead as she scrolls through her phone. "You look even worse than I feel, and that's saying something." Emily groans. Tyra continues: "So, you're with Will now after all? I'm confused. Wasn't it just yesterday that you couldn't stop talking about Micah?"

"No, I'm not with Will," Emily says, checking out her phone as a new text message appears. "That slimy, lying, two-faced, narcissistic jerk!"

Tyra looked confused. "Hmmm. I know I called him Micah, but I could have sworn it was actually Will I passed late last night, still getting dressed as he walked out the door. Was I hallucinating, or is there something I'm missing here?"

"No, you're not crazy. I am. I must be. Sweet, smart, sexy Micah offered me his heart. Will got jealous, and turned on the charm. He said everything I've ever wanted to hear from him and more, and when he showed up at the door I literally jumped on him."

"So, what's the problem? Maybe you should just date Will for a while, get him out of your system."

"Oh, he's out of my system, all right. We had just ripped each other's clothes off and were about to, um." Emily pauses, red-faced. "I can't even talk about it. I'll just say that I threw up and he couldn't stay up."

Tyra really tries to keep a straight face. She attempts to hide her giggles by coughing. "Sounds awkward. But you're still leaving something out."

Emily sighs. "I told him it was a mistake, but he tells me some line about how he has been fighting his feelings all this time, and that he needs me. He has been texting me pretty much non-stop since last night."

Tyra grimaces; she's never really liked Will. "That sounds sweet, I guess."

"No, no, no. He must have gotten really drunk. He sent a bunch of rambling texts telling me that he loves me and sees a future for us. Then he started leaving voice mails, at the same time as all the texts, but he somehow misdialed and thought he was calling Cassandra. All his voice mails to her beg her to take him back and promise her that he really did choose her and will cut me out of his life if that's what she wants him to do. "

"What an ass!" Tyra shouts indignantly. "I never liked him anyway. What are you going to do about Micah, then? You can't tell him any of this!"

Emily sighs and puts her head in her hands again.

Early morning sunshine peeks through the windows as Dr. Gina Bandari strides down the hall. "Welcome back," a brave nurse offers as she passes by, and is rewarded by a slight smirk and a small wave. Her heels tap forcefully into the first patient's room for grand rounds, all the interns and Micah instantly appearing around her. "Dr. Dupre, report please." Tyra somewhat nervously rattles off the patient's vital stats. Emily looks up to see both Micah and Will staring at her. Oh God, what am I going to do? Almost unconsciously, Emily smiles at Micah before looking down at her notes again.

On the way to the next room, Will anxiously whispers, "Didn't you get any of my texts?" Emily's brow furrows as she quietly replies, "Every. Single. One. Lots of voice mails too." Will looks confused and starts to ask her something else. Emily glares at him as she pushes past him to follow Dr. Bandari. She squares her shoulders and tries to focus.

As cases are doled out to interns in pairs, Emily begins to get nervous. I'm usually assigned to one of the first cases. Did I do something wrong? Finally they walk into a room with an empty bed. Micah, Emily, and Will look around, confused, as they realized that they are the only three left. Dr. Bandari turns to Emily: "Dr. Owens, I've been informed that we have a potential candidate for the research project being transported in from Boulder General. You will be paged when she arrives. Obviously, time is of the essence—if surgery is begun more than 5 hours after the incident, the case is ineligible for the study. Do a quick but through workup on her, and report immediately to Dr. Barnes. If she's a viable candidate, we will implant the first V Cuff today and finally begin this phase of the project. Dr. Collins, you are expected in Legal, and will be off the roster until such time as they have cleared you. Dr. Barnes, why don't you fill me in on the last week on the way to my office?" Dr. Bandari sweeps out of the room, with Micah pausing only to send a quick glance back at Emily and Will. Will's jaw clenches and his face becomes mottled. "Will," she says softly, concern obvious in her tone. "Guess I should have expected it," he says as he hurries towards the elevators, not wanting to see the pity in her eyes.

Emily heads to the nurses' station to inquire about the patient from Boulder. The nurses aren't able to give her a name or any information, beyond that the transport left Boulder over an hour ago, so should have already arrived. "You don't happen to have the number for the Surgery Department there, would you?" she asks Nurse Sunny, who immediately pulls a page from behind the desk and hands it to Emily. She reaches the attending physician for the patient without too much trouble, and after a quick explanation, sees medical records for Loretta Cooper spitting out the fax machine. Good thing we still have one of these dinosaurs around, she thinks as she pages through the records, making notes. Her pager beeps, and she runs halfway to the room prepared for Mrs. Cooper when she sees that the room number on the page. That's Joyce's room. I should hurry.