Monday, September 24, 2012

City of Tomorrow, Part 6

Martha Thomas spent three months as an intern in a law office until she was approached to volunteer at a clinic on the outskirts of town. After college it was a welcome change of pace, a step away from the daily grind that she had welcomed, a natural extension of her studious upbringing. Finally she could enter the sea of humanity. She assumed the opportunity came more because of her looks, however. Dedicated as she was to intellectual pursuits, Martha was used to the world accepting her foremost for her beauty, which had already become something of an albatross. She spent as much time trying to achieve her goals as trying to avoid those who only wanted Martha as a trophy. The clinic was exactly like that for six months. She endured it. It was mostly clerical work, but sometimes Martha could convince herself that she was making a difference in the lives of the patients she saw pouring in on a regular basis. Sometimes it could be overwhelming. She wanted to feel bad about her problems, the lack of respect, being treated like an object, but so many of the people she saw were experiencing real pain, real torment, that they felt in a visceral way every waking moment, and all they wanted was to live without it. She knew there was some revolutionary work being done at the clinic, but she had no part of that. She had a degree that was sitting in a drawer in her apartment, which she very much wanted to use, and the more time she spent at the clinic, the more Martha convinced herself that she could use it there. When the opportunity didn’t come, she started to use her spare time to work on her own ideas. She’d seen enough, knew enough, about the problems the clinic treated. She knew what discharged patients took with them, prescriptions with complicated names but ingredients she could identify. She bit her tongue when all she wanted to do was share her ideas at work, and so she worked it out at home. That didn’t help the time pass at work that much easier, however. If anything, it made it worse. It made it a real grind. Never do something that’s more personally fulfilling outside of work hours. It makes it impossible to care about work. Yet something remarkable happened to Martha. After six months, she was called into the innermost offices of the clinic. It was explained to her that the directors knew what she’d been doing. She thought she’d been careful. She’d never tested on humans, never told anyone. The directors told her not to panic. They explained that the six months had been a test, and she had passed with considerable grace. There was only one way to become a member of the Apex Club, and that was to prove that you were selfless, that you would go out of your way to improve a situation, no matter the personal cost. At first, Martha was angry. All she wanted to do was to curse the directors, walk away from the clinic, and never return. She was asked what she’d do next. Probably apply her research, was Martha’s reply. Let us see it first, they said. What could the harm be? Let us validate it. No hard feelings. She was still upset. She felt humiliated. But she figured they were right. She’d spent six months at least believing the clinic was a legitimate operation. She’d done her research because she believed that. In a week she was informed that the directors were impressed. She’d come up with innovations they’d never considered. She wanted nothing more than to tell them what she thought about that. Something held her back. Something was always holding her back, she realized. She was waiting for something. The Apex Club? She accepted an invitation for a tour, and official introductions. She listened to their goals. She came to embrace their ambitions. Martha wondered what she would have done without patience. After all, it was the future that had always concerned her.

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