The student emerged from sleep to the dull buzzing of the plane and the gold ceiling lights shining meaninglessly. He was anxious.
What… what was it? A dream? Yes, I was dreaming.
He ran after the fleeing story of his sleep, and slowly caught up to it. The dream visions coalesced. He played them out from the start. Anything to live the dream a little longer.
The student took broad, intentional steps. His shoulders stood wide, muscular beneath the white coat. Patients lay in beds spread across the lawn, illuminated by the full bodied sunlight, the trees swaying in wind as they hummed good things to one another about the student. The patients were victims of massive battles and horrendous plagues, seeking sanctuary in the grove. The student knew his patients and knew what the trees hummed of him. He was a doctor of power, experience, and grace, told by his strong able hands, his handsome white beard, the wrinkles of all wisdom and understanding in his forehead.
As he moved from patient to patient, he stood above them in stature but not demeanor. He dealt with them as his equals. The young and short-lived doctors exert power and control over their patients, but they attain nothing.
The student saw the bed from above as he stepped up to the next patient. He had stitched this patient’s heart together after it tore from disease and misery. But the student knew this patient was much more than a pumping heart. He looked into her eyes; she was beautiful. He felt humble to be her savior, and loved her for it. He started to ask her name.
The dream, reaching its destination, promptly vanished.
The sun’s fulfilling glow faded to be replaced by cabin lights and the beautiful woman was abruptly ousted by a scaly old man, sleeping like a corpse on the seat next to the student.
This was not the first time the student had dreamed this dream. He was a boy, lying in a hospital bed, sick and powerless. He looked up at the doctors, who promised the procedure would be simple, with their fearful white coats and alien masks. Simply take the little tumour off the heart and the heart will stop its pointless humming. But just as the procedure reached its end…
Infected, it became infected, he whispered to himself.
The “simple” of the procedure vanished. The absurd humming of his heart was unleashed to his body in a fever.
Boring. Numbingly boring, that hospital bed.
But the dull humming infection and the boring bed could not reach his dreams. So he dreamed of the meadow where he had the face of God, the face of attainment. But no matter how many times he experienced the dream, by day or night, the images always vanished before he could ask the name of the beautiful woman. The waking humming stifled his question.
The old man, resurrected, was staring at the student. The student, realizing this, could no longer think. The old man’s complexion now held a healthy shine. His gentle smile displayed a series of crags and dimples, etched into his face through years of sustaining that posture. He wore dull, old-fashioned clothes: an outdated collared shirt buttoned to the neck, baggy khaki pants, and clumsy shoes. Yet the outfit seemed horribly out of place on this particular old man. Perhaps the old man knew this, but he was used to being out of place, to being a little too substantial for his surroundings.
“So young man, where are you going?”
The student felt self-conscious of his youth in front of this man. His adult clothes could not hide his boyish face. The student sensed that the old man knew this in his question. He opened his mouth and then realized that the destination of their airplane was not a sufficient answer. Not really knowing why, he said,
“I… I am going to be a doctor.”
“Must be a strange feeling.”
The old man chuckled.
“Must be strange, devoting years of your life to become a doctor and now here you are. After you get off this plane you will be a doctor.”
“Yes, I suppose that’s true.”
The student smiled politely. Silence followed, awkward but full of many thoughts beyond the realm of words.
And all of a sudden I wallow in my seat as the force of it all gathers before me, like the universe has decided to privately showcase its immensity just so I would feel my insignificance. I try to take solace in my dream, in the meadow, in the white coat of importance and salvation, in the beautiful woman. But time is running out! When the plane lands, the dream will vanish and I will be a student no more. I had been so certain that to be a doctor would bring attainment and fulfillment, yet my anxiety bursts into fear. Oh that she would just say her name! Then attainment! Then fulfillment and satisfaction would follow! But what if she would not answer, what if she had no name? I see her face, high above me, and she starts to hum a song, but the humming turns to brutal laughter. The dream is crashing down. It is vanishing. I am not her savior. I am not her savior. I am not her savior.
The student, with a face deathly white under the ceiling lights, asked the old man where he was from. The old man saw right through the question, but obliged. The conversation devolved into a frivolous back-and-forth humming, the kind so often shared by strangers.