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Chapter One

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By Maher Abbas, M.D.

"Doctor Ungaman. I'm answering a page to this number."

He sounded half asleep.

"Sorry to wake you up, Cutter," I softly said over the telephone.

"Mick?"

" It's kind of late. Sorry."

"Go ahead. What's up?"

"Uh."

"Anyone sick?"

"Yes."

"Who?" he asked.

He sounded a bit more alert.

"Well..."

"Did someone die?"

"No. No one died. Sick. Very sick."

"So who's sick?"

"I am."

"What's the matter?"

"I'm confused," I hesitated to reply.

"Are you sick or confused?"

"I think both."

"What's going on, Mick?"

"I don't know. I just don't know anymore."

"Tell me."

"I think that I'm in love."

"With Kari? I thought you've gotten over her."

"I have."

"So you're in love with someone else?"

"Yes."

"Who?"

"The hospital operator..." I stuttered.

"What about her?"

"I think that I'm in love with her."

"Wait a minute. Am I hearing you right or am I dreaming?"

"The hospital operator..." I hesitated to say again.

"Are you serious?" he asked, surprised.

"I don't know."

"Is this some kind of a joke? Listen, Mick. It's two o'clock in the morning. You can bullshit me some other time."

He seemed a bit upset.

"Please, Cutter. Don't hang up. I'm serious."

"You're not bullshitting me?"

"I'm not."

"Hang on for a second. I'm going to the other room."

I waited as he went to the other phone.

"What in the fuck is going on, man?"

"I don't know. But I think that I love the hospital operator."

"How come you haven't told me anything about it before?"

"I wasn't sure."

"For how long has it been going on?"

"I don't know."

"You don't know?"

"I really don't."

"Does she love you?"

"I don't know."

"You don't know?"

"I really don't."

"What in the fuck do you know?"

"I know that I'm going to miss her after I leave. I don't know if I can leave without her."

"Holy shit. Don't tell me that you've gotten her pregnant!"

"No chance of that."

"Why?"

"Because I've never met her."

"What?"

"I've never met her."

"Are you serious?"

"I am."

"Are you bullshitting me or what?"

"I swear to you, Cutter. It's true."

"How can you be in love with someone that you've never met?"

"I don't know."

"I don't know either. Explain it to me."

"Well. We've been talking over the telephone for the last month or so. We've had many late night conversations."

"And you love her because of late night conversations?"

"I love hearing her voice."

"Voices can fool you."

"Maybe. But she has the sweetest and most romantic voice I've ever heard."

"The big fat ladies who sing in the opera have sweet and romantic voices."

"Yes, they do. But I'm sure that she isn't fat."

"How do you know?"

"I just know."

"You've never met her before."

"I know. I can picture her through her voice."

"No, you can't. Remember the documentary we saw once on the 1- 900 number ladies?"

"I do."

"They were the ugliest women I had ever seen. Yet their voices were nice and sexy."

"She isn't a 1-900 number lady. She's the hospital operator."

"The night shift?"

"Yes. The night shift."

"That says it all. Who else other than a BFW would lock herself in a room and answer a telephone all night?"

"BFW?"

"BIG FAT WHALE!"

"Thanks, Cutter."

"She's probably up there eating her doughnuts and drinking her chocolate milk."

"Thanks, Cutter. I thought that you were my friend. Sorry to bother you. Good night."

"Wait. Don't hang up. I'm sorry. I don't mean to hurt your feelings. I care about you, brother. I just don't want you to get hurt again. You're leaving in two days. I don't want you to get disappointed again."

I was quiet. He paused.

"There are a lot of nurses out in California. I'm sure that you'll meet many of them when you get there."

"It's not a matter of meeting other people."

"Don't do something that you might regret later. You're overworked right now. You're sleep deprived. You're horny. We all go through the same feelings as interns. But don't let that push you into fantasy land."

"I'm not fantasizing."

"Come on, Mick. Be reasonable. You've never met the girl. Do you know how old she is?"

"I don't. "

We paused.

"I don't know what else to tell you."

"I'm sorry I called you. I don't know what I was expecting from you."

"Do you really love her?"

"I feel it."

"Hard to believe."

"She's really special. I wish you could listen to all the beautiful things she talks about. For her, love is a sacred thing. She's willing to die for love."

"She told you that?"

"She did. She talks like a poet sometimes. She's so genuine."

"But you've never seen her before? I just can't understand."

"I know."

"Why don't you keep it as a phone romance? You can call her from California. You're safer this way."

"Safer?"

"You won't get disappointed. What if you meet her and she turns out to be ugly and fat? You may hurt her feelings."

"What if she was as beautiful as her words?"

"She could be."

"What if she was a princess hiding up in a tower and waiting for her prince to discover her?"

"Up on top of a hospital?"

"Yes, in a small room on top of a hospital."

"Do you believe in fairy tales?"

"They happen."

"You're crazy, brother. But that's what I love about you. You're a fuckin' crazy romantic."

"Thanks."

"So what are you going to do?"

"I'm going to meet her."

"Are you willing to take the chance?"

"What do I have to lose?"

"Big shit may happen."

"I know. But you know what?"

"What?"

"Sometimes you've got to say, WHAT THE FUCK!"

"Now, you're talking like the boss."

"The boss? I wonder what he would say if I asked him?"

"He probably would say, WHAT THE FUCK!" He laughed.

"YA. WHAT THE FUCK!"

"It will be a good story either way. I'm sure that everyone in operating room seven would want to hear it."

"Believe me, they will."



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Copyright © 1996 Maher Abbas, M.D. All rights reserved