Of course I filled it out.
And yes, we were proud to be Medical Assistants. When I was recruited I was 19, one of the few girls to graduate from high school. Most had children already. Most of the boys who graduated with me were fathers, headed off to the army or navy. There weren’t a lot of ways to move up in the world, so when Sister Sarah knocked on my door and asked my mother if I would be interested in the Rising Angels, she said yes. Of course she said yes. She would be proud to have her daughter wear a white uniform and walk down white hallways.
It was the month of May when things started to change. I woke up to the sound of the bell and a light rain against the window. The dorms where we lived were not white. They were pale blue and green, soft colors that reminded me of a child’s nursery from the magazines. Julia told me they once had bunk beds, but some of the ladies had trouble getting in and out of them. Now there were white army beds along both walls. Julia slept next to me, and sometimes we would talk before we slept, or when we got ready in the morning.
Every morning I pulled the wires from the port in my chest and the heart monitor made a little frantic beep, before realizing I was only getting up and hadn’t died, and going into sleep mode. The ports were an easy way for the hospital to pipe in our daily vitamins. Because most of us had grown up without proper nutrition they tried to make up for it at night. During the orientation, when the port was put in, Doctor Clemens explained that it was a necessity. They had given each Assistant a handful of pills, but it made them sick to their stomachs, so they did this instead. I was fine with it, though it was itchy.
I changed into my uniform and ate breakfast sitting on my bed. We walked in a line to the hospital, which was right next door. The two shared a wall. In the front door we pressed our hands to a scanner that flashed our names. We had our own entrance, just for us, our little white-uniformed parade. I went to check on my first patients, a distant, polite old heiress named Rose, and an army veteran named Stevens
“I feel so much better today.” Mrs. Rose said as I cleaned away her oatmeal. I smiled, but didn’t say anything. It was best not to talk while the doctor was in the room.
“Miss. Take away the other tray. Now, Mr. Stevens, is that arm improving?” Doctor Clemens said. He was a small man whose clothing was made to fit a younger, fitter body. He had small, wet eyes and short, mustard hair. His impatient authority filled the room like a gas.
“You bet doctor!” Mr. Stevens said.
Then something happened that had never happened before. The red alarm light above the bed sprang to brilliant life. A buzzing noise filled the room. The patients looked at me, confused, but I didn’t know what to tell them. There were never any emergencies here. The intercom, usually silent, crackled to life.
“Doctor Clemens, please come to Ms. Marie’s room immediately.”
The doctor pushed his clipboard into my hands and almost ran from the room. It made sense. Ms. Marie had paid for half the hospital, or so the rumors said. She was important, and any emergency involving her would be worth running for, and breaking protocol. I looked at the clipboard in my hands. We weren’t supposed to see the clipboards. We weren’t even supposed to handle them. I knew I should have just put it down or given it to Julia or something, but I was curious. I read some medical textbooks when I was a student, maybe I could make out something from the doctor’s notes. I slipped out of the room and went to the bathroom. It was empty, thank goodness. I ducked in a stall and leafed through the packet, my heart beating in my chest. I could read it! There was the heart rate, blood pressure, blood work.
It was all normal, perfectly normal. I looked at the next sheet. Mrs. Jeffers. All the same. Slightly elevated cholesterol. Slightly. But that was all. A few of them