Seeking wasn’t something that she was fond to do, given that she sometimes gave in too much to her laziness and procrastination inside. It wasn’t something that she was proud of, but she was forcing herself to break out the bad habit bit by bit.
She was striding in boredom one day during one of her clinical sessions, since the patients that she searched before didn’t show up. She got up and was about to see how her other classmates were doing, when one of them stopped her.
“At, have you had patient yourself?”
A shook was her response. She can feel this ‘meh’ feeling overpowering her, and it was beginning to show on her face.
Dalila just grinned and continued, “I have an extra patient. You’re up to it?”
Atirah’s eyes immediately lightened up and questioned, “Seriously?”
“I couldn’t thank you enough! Where is she?”
She met an old lady, probably around her late 60’s, her get-up was scruffy, her wrinkled skin tanned, probably due to frequent days out under the sun of Alexandria, her spectacles was so close to being broken into two, she felt a little nudge will have it damaged. She managed to walk fast into the clinic despite her limp.
She immediately took pity in her.
So her first patient, Mama Sayyida, despite the shabby appearance of hers, she was surprisingly jovial and friendly, greeting every one that she bumped into in the clinic. She even remembered some of Atirah’s classmates and had gotten familiar and comfortable with them. Her clinical sessions that she dreaded before, had turned into enjoyable ones.
Often, every morning as she hurried to her class, she will never forget to drop by at any grocery store to buy breakfast for her patient. It had become a norm for her and other students to give their patients breakfast, some sort like a gift to make up for such an early appointments set with them.
Mama Sayyida often received the breakfasts that Atirah bought with sincere responses every time. The sincerity and the gaiety portrayed had never failed to give a positive start to her Thursdays, despite the gruesome procedures of the clinical sessions she had to go through (she was having a hard time liking Prosthodontics, explained her lack of enthusiasm).
Atirah also remembered; it was a week after the death of her beloved grandmother, as she was struggling to hold things up, college had started to go crazy with more quizzes, exams, things to be revised, meetings; her mind was everywhere.
Those tired her out, and she was down with a flu and cough by the end of the week. She practically dragged herself to classes and during her appointment, the exhaustion- both physically and mentally, was apparent to Mama Sayyida.
“Ana ta’banah awi, Mama.” She told when the lovely old lady asked. Mama just smiled and she replied in which translated to;
“It’s okay for you to be tired now, for you will be happy later on.”
For once in the whole week, the advice got her snapped to reality and she learnt to see the silver lining in her grief. Tears sprang into her eyes, and she couldn’t be grateful enough to be sent a wise old lady for her to learn.
Her treatment for Mama Sayyida ended almost after 2 months. It was a shame that she couldn’t have a proper farewell during their last appointment as she was running late after finishing her clinical exam, delivering the denture to Mama, and needing to catch up on next classes. “I couldn’t even teach proper post-operative care,” she thought glumly to herself as she walked up to the lecture hall.
Afterwards, she had never contacted Mama Sayyida. (Atirah was one for having the ability to not keep in touch with people. Another thing that she wasn’t proud of either). After one year of not hearing any news from her patient, she was shocked to see the same figure back in Azarita.
But this time, she was sitting on the pavement, at the corner between Hotel Delta and the bakery.
Always at the same spot.
She had missed Mama Sayyida’s wisdom and gaiety, but she did not know why, for some reasons that she couldn’t explain, she didn’t have the guts to come up to her and acknowledged her.
No, she was far from having wrath or ashamed of whatever Mama Sayyida was doing, it was the total opposite. She was appalled to see someone like her, who should be resting at home, but now she was sitting under the scorching sun, playing with a loyal cat sitting beside her, waiting for anyone passing by her to be kind enough to donate some money.
The regret and sadness grew over her, and she couldn’t find her way out of it to break the new-built ice between them.
Yes, Atirah had a very complicated way of dealing with sadness and grief.
It was that one time, that she plucked some courage to walk in front of Mama (all these while she had been avoiding to take the road there. Not because she didn’t want to see her, but because she wouldn’t want Mama Sayyida to feel hurt for Atirah not acknowledging her. She was just not ready yet)
She made sure that she made an eye contact with Mama Sayyida, and she gave her a sincere smile.
The smile wasn’t replied. Instead, she got a cold gaze.
She could feel her heart broke, and she immediately hurried away.
She felt a pang of hurt inside.
What have you done, Atirah?
5th year dentist
PERUBATAN Cawangan Iskandariah