Trying for Perfect

The day started with me standing in the rain, peering down the road, and cursing the late bus.

I muttered oaths and prayers, and neither helped. The bus lumbered into view about twenty minutes past the appointed time. The driver didn’t even want to stop because the vehicle was already crammed with smelly, dripping humanity. But I hammered on the door, and the woman reluctantly opened up.

“We’re full!” she called.

“I don’t care!” I yelled and forced my way onto the bottom step beside an Asian man hunched miserably into a wet, too-big overcoat.

The driver scowled but shut the door and trundled along. A few more people crammed themselves on until the original no-show bus (virtually empty) zoomed by. I made it to work at the hospital Starbucks, a mere 43 minutes late. Neil, the manager, had reached new levels of irritation. Unlike two of my co-workers, I had at least shown up, so other than some frustrated growls, he said nothing.

I manned my post, smiling at the nurses, techs, patients and visitors who showed up at the counter. This shop always felt a little different than most coffee shops because people weren’t just strolling in for a quick caffeine fix or a long chat with a friend. Some customers gripped their cups as they wrestled with the medical realities for themselves or someone they loved.

Some folks in scrubs were taking a break from healing and maybe saving lives. Sure I romanticized it, but my big ambition is to be a lead ER nurse. I’ve done all the reading and night classes I can, and now I’m living on hope and Ramen while I save enough to enroll in the extremely competitive, advanced programs I want.

My ideal guy is Dr. Tyler Martin. He shoots through once in awhile – scary handsome, but mostly just incredibly nice. He looks a humble barista in the eye like she’s important and interesting. And I hear via the waiting-in-line chatter that he does medical miracle diagnoses on the sufferers that arrive in ER.

The perfect man, in my humble opinion.

The shop was uncharacteristically almost empty when he walked in this morning. Outside the rain continued to bucket down, and the few pedestrians were all hunched and miserable.

That’s when it happened.

A truck skidded on the outside road, leaped over the sidewalk and plowed through the plate glass window. I had just ducked down for another gallon of milk when the glass shards flew everywhere.



A motor still running and the sound of the counter pulverizing before me.

I leapt out of range. Didn’t know I could move so fast.

Dr. Martin knelt on the floor, groping at a long gash in his forearm. Blood spurting everywhere. I stood for a fraction of a second, and then I ripped into the clean cloths stashed under what was left of the counter. I screamed at Neil to call 911, ran to Dr. Martin and used the wad of towels to stop and tie off the bleeding.

He shook his head, staggered to his feet, and immediately began directing me what to do for another customer laid out on the floor. He ran to the truck. Behind me the motor growled once more and died. Vaguely in the background, behind the shouts and cries, I became aware of medical people pouring like ants out of the hospital entrance. Of orders shouted and gurneys appearing. Dr. Martin, gripping my makeshift bandage, coordinated it all.

Redundant now, I sank back into an armchair that was miraculously glass free. Police cars screamed up and I couldn’t deal any more. I was shaking and I wanted to throw up…so I got my coat and purse from the back and walked out.

The bus showed up on time, so I went home and collapsed into bed.

The next morning, the phone rang two hours before my shift was supposed to start. The area manager asked kindly if I was okay…if I needed anything. The bad news was the coffee shop was totaled. The good news…sort of…was they would guarantee me a position at another shop, one even closer to my home, starting next Tuesday. Full salary for the time I should have been working this week.

I stayed in bed and ate a lot of ice cream – Ramen wouldn’t cut it today.

Face it, I was grieving for my job by the hospital and its regular whiff of living my dreams even if it was only on the sidelines. Being incredibly stupid, I flirted with the idea of arriving at emergency with symptoms weird enough to need Dr. Martin to diagnose them.

Except he might manage to identify my illness as unrequited love.

Clearly, I’d reached new levels of pathetic.

By the following Tuesday, I was ready to work again. I arrived half an hour early, made happy noises to the manager, and settled in. This was a much busier shop than the hospital one, perched as it was between a business district and a nice suburb. There was enough to do that I only thought about my old job and Dr. Tyler Martin about fourteen times a day.

And then, three days into the new life, he stood in front of me. Grinning shyly, extending his hand to shake mine. It was warm and strong, of course.

“I’m so sorry,” he said. “I didn’t even know your name. It took me this long to find you – corporate wouldn’t give me any information about you.”

“No…yes…” I stuttered like the idiot I clearly am.

He grinned. “I’m Tyler Martin – the guy you patched up so well last week.”

“Yeah…I remember.” Wipe the idiot look off your face, I ordered myself. Myself ignored me.

“I’d love to take you out for lunch as a thank you,” he offered.

“Cool…great. I mean, I’d love to.”

We set a time and place. The bus wasn’t late and Tyler was already at the restaurant waiting.

The lunch was perfect. The company was better. We sat and talked like we’d known each other for a thousand years. A long walk in the park and a leisurely dinner followed. It seemed the most sensible thing in the world to do a repeat the next day. And the next.

With his letter of recommendation, I’m in the program I dreamed about. And when Tyler’s not working miracles, he makes an incredible tutor. He’s pretty amazing at a few other things too.

We’re planning the wedding for the week after I graduate.



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