Nina has a dream to become a nurse, if things can hold together long enough.
I struggled in school. That's why I didn't think I could be a nurse when I was young. Growing up, everybody made me think that I was destined to only do nails, or hair, or maybe become a massage therapist if I applied myself. But the older I have gotten, after I completed massage school and realized how little I'm changing the world around me, I've realized that becoming a nurse isn't so impossible. Massage is a piece of cake. But I'm only helping people who have money to burn on that kind of thing. I'm not helping the people who really need it.
I know I can do it. All those people who don't think I'm so good, who think I'm not smart, all the teachers and old friends and all those people, they don't know anything. I know I can show them that I have what it takes. I can be a nurse. It's all I want.
When my daddy died, he left me some money. And I know there would be nothing better for me to spend it on than nursing school. My daddy would be so proud of me. I know he would be. He was the one who told me that he didn't think any other daughter could have a bigger heart. That's why he always called me sweetheart.
My mother stays quiet when I talk about nursing school, but she hasn't said no, and trust me, she knows how to say that. I tell her about how so many people see nurses every day, in the hospital, in doctors' offices. Nurses are there for everyone, practically on the front lines. My mother doesn't like when I talk about the front lines, or how nursing is a battle, since my brother left for Afghanistan. She talks about my brother a lot but doesn't like it when I talk about him, for some reason. And then she blames me for not thinking of him.
Since David went to fight, after our daddy died, my mother is quieter than ever. All she talks about is my brother, who actually is younger than me, contrary to what most people think. People look at me and think I'm so young, so I like to surprise them with my experience. I tell them I'm a licensed masseuse, and that gets their eyebrows up. Sometimes pervy men make sick jokes, but I just brush them off. Like that guy in front of me in line at the community college. He made a creepy face and said, so stupidly, "Oh, really, you're good with your hands?" but I just laughed at him and then ignored him until it was his turn to buy his textbooks.
Anyway, my mother has her hands full with worrying about my brother. I know she worries about me, too, I guess...I mean, she sits there in her armchair with her bad hip all day and I know she must worry about someone other than David. She sits in the chair and dusts the house, when she feels like it. When I'm a nurse I'll buy her a nice reclining sofa, so she can sit and lean back. That will be nice for her.
If anyone believes in my future as a nurse, it's Vicky. She supports me so much. We talk about my potential in the ICU and if my nerves can handle the incredible amounts of stress that nurses face. I know it must be so hard, but I'm trying not to worry. I'm putting off all the stress of college until I actually start going to class and will have an idea of what it's really like. I managed to get through massage school, and let me tell you, that wasn't easy. You wouldn't believe how many muscles the human body has! I guess I'll have to relearn all of them for nursing, too.
Oh, yeah, Vicky. She seems concerned about my chances of making it as a nurse, but she always tells me at the end of our coffee breaks, that she knows I can do it. Vicky's a massage therapist, too, but she says she's come as far as she wants to for now. She has a daughter. I think it would be a good example for her daughter if she had some impending goal like I do but she says she's just concerned with putting food on the table. Vicky sounds just like my mother used to, when Vicky says things like that.
Vicky is my best friend. We're almost the same age. She's twenty-four and I'm turning twenty-three in two months. I call Vicky whenever I can't stand hearing silence in my house. I call her when I want to ask her opinion on something, on my becoming a nurse, or men, or sometimes just about what TV shows have been good lately. Sometimes she can't talk long, when I hear her daughter crying in the background. Vicky's boyfriend left her five months ago.
I've already looked at my textbooks. Some of them are new and they have that flat, pasty smell. I get nervous looking at more than one at a time, though. I get anxiety just thinking that somehow all that information in those books is going to have to find its way into my head.
I start class on Monday. A morning class and then in the afternoon. Tuesdays are my extra busy days, though. Three classes in a row. My mother has agreed cook dinner on Tuesdays. Otherwise I'd have to do it on top of all that class time, or else order takeout. We can't afford to eat Chinese that much, though.
Daddy was pediatrician, until he got cancer himself. So ironic, to me. You help people to not get a disease, and then you get it yourself. Sounds like an impossible thing. Impossible that it could happen, and impossible that you could stop it. Thinking like this gives me anxiety, and talking about these things is like putting a fire under my mother. She gets red in the face and holds up her hand like I'm a car heading right toward her. I stop myself when she threatens to boil over, and I wonder, what would I do if she did, finally?
Sometimes I wonder what I would do if my mother got herself into a really bad state, if all that sitting and worrying wasn't enough anymore and she started acting out, like in the same way troubled kids do. Doing what, I don't know, just something not good for her. Like eating soap or something like those people you see on TV. I can see all the pent up feelings in her, just watching her in her armchair or occasionally staring out the window over the kitchen sink. I wonder how she can stand to be in that state. I wish she would just explode, sometimes. But I know that explosions cause damage, even explosions in people. Maybe especially.
At night I lie in my bed and I worry. I guess it runs in the family. I don't worry too much about my brother David. I can't do anything for him, anyway, and we were never very close. I don't worry about nursing very much. That's one thing I'm so focused on getting right that I can't afford to let myself get too worked up about it. I worry about my mother. But she's never going to change.
Mostly I worry about Vicky suddenly hating me. I worry about her changing her mind about me, about her losing faith in my dreams of being a nurse, and that she'll stop answering her phone when I call. I worry that she'll take her coffee breaks with the receptionist. I'm terrified of losing Vicky, because without her, I wouldn't know how to look at myself. I'd have to try getting that from my mother. And I know I really can't get anything from her, not anymore.
The last thing I worry about is my daddy. I cry sometimes. I think of all the smiles he had for me. I think of his mistakes and the times my mother screamed at him, and he screamed back. I think of his secrets that my mother doesn't know I know. But mostly I miss him. He never knew I had it in me to be a nurse. If there was anything I could ask him, it would be one thing, and not even about me.
I want him to tell me how the world manages to turn every day. Because I'm just waiting for it to stop.