By Jack Schidt (pseudo name), MD Candidate
Sleep did not come easy last night. It was fickle. He’d promised not to take it for granted after years of an uneasy and antagonistic affair with the sandman. He was lucky to be sleeping reasonably well of late, as his days were so draining that when he went to bed, exhausted, he would fall asleep quickly. Last night he was not so lucky. Sapped of energy as he was, the minutes dragged into even longer hours. When the daylight shined through the broken shutters, he threw back the covers and descended to the kitchen to brew a strong coffee.
His eyes were particularly bloodshot and the bed was his stylist. “It’s been two months,” he thought. “Two months and no call.” He looked back at the pocked bathroom mirror exploring his gaunt face with paradoxical inquiry, much in the way one explores the still painful cavity of a recently extracted tooth. It showed a thick beard with bristles sticking out in all directions. There were more white hairs than he cared to count, and a couple of uncoordinated copper-red hairs he couldn’t explain.
Picking up the razor, he found himself at the familiar impasse, debating whether to groom or shave it all off and start over. The realization was not immediate, but slow and horrible. He realized that somewhere in the back of his mind, he made a pact not to shave until they called, and that the longer his beard got, the more unlikely such a call would come.
The waiting was getting unbearable. The uncertainty was a million times worse than any rejection. “Why won’t they call?” he said out loud, and felt like the subject of a reality show with an invisible audience saying poor bastard doesn’t have a clue. Shaking the feeling, he frowned and looked back at the razor.
His innate stubbornness, borne of generations of farmers and porters, saw him pick up a comb instead. This beard was the living embodiment of his despair, and yet it felt like an achievement, albeit small and petty in a way. He found himself thinking that if they don’t call, all he’d have left is an increasingly long beard to keep him company. It was already the longest he’s ever been able to grow. It was thick and starting curl, and as he wasn’t going to be boarding any airplanes anytime soon, certainly not if the phone doesn’t ring, he thought he’d keep it.
With little ceremony, he regarded his facial foliage as a triumph, such as it is, and hoped it would give him solace. Then felt his heart sink as he realized he no longer believed the call would come, and that his coffee was getting cold.