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Barren Trees

ALANNA TISDALE

          I was on the train on my way home for Thanksgiving break. Zoning out, eyes closed, I was listening to music, big headphones on. Somewhere between Rhode Island and Connecticut, I opened my eyes and scanned the scene on the outside of the window. I was shaken out of my daze to realize that the trees blurring by on the other side of the glass had no leaves. The image of the bare, empty branches reaching into the gray sky was eerily cold-looking. Eerily wintry.
           The last time I could remember looking at trees, they definitely had leaves on them. What month is it? What day is it? When I recalled that it was November 22nd, it instantly made sense that the leaves had already fallen. The season of gorgeous fiery coral, orange, and lemon-colored trees had come and gone, without me noticing at all. Wasn’t it August a few weeks ago?
           Before I left Providence, an old friend of mine had sent me a message. Away on another continent serving with the Peace Corps, she mentioned that I hadn’t responded to a letter she had sent me in September. I could tell she was peeved. “I’m sorry! I need to write back to you. I’ve been crazy busy!” I told her. In my own mind, I justified my absence—if she only knew how unnaturally intense this year has been so far, she’d understand that the idea of sitting down to write a five page letter to somewhere in Africa was not near the top of my to-do list.
           But as I sat on the train with the gray, barren trees zooming by, I wondered, Is that okay? Before I came to med school, it was of utmost importance to me to keep in touch with my close friends. Out of all my friends in my social circle, I was the one who would consistently write emails to catch up with everyone else. My best friends would joke about how bad they were at keeping in touch in comparison. But since the beginning of second year especially, it seems the tables have turned. As the months have gone by, I have chosen different rooms to study in at school, but I can guarantee that I have spent more time in the Warren Alpert Medical School building than any other structure with four walls and a roof. I didn’t notice the leaves change this year, and I certainly didn’t notice them fall.
           Today, my younger sister told me that I’ve always had a pretty cut and dry personality but that it’s gotten 10 times more cut and dry recently. She jokes with me that I’m becoming more and more of a mutant and that all med school is, is a place where robots are made.  Maybe she’s right. This is the first time this year that we’ve had more than 17 hours off after an exam. And this is the first time we will have gone more than an afternoon without work to do, in 13 weeks. Summer seems like a faraway dream.
           From my point of view, it’s as though I don’t have time or energy for the extraneous. When I speak, I don’t beat around the bush. I don’t enjoy hearing my female friends’ drone on about romances I know will never happen. At times, when I’m talking with people, I find myself wondering what the point of the conversation is. My day to day routine spreads me so thin that the thought of really catching up with an old friend tires me out, and I tell myself that I will, as soon as I have “more time.”
           I don’t really know where this path is taking me or how I will feel after my four years of medical school are over. All I know is that it’s just about winter. And I never even noticed the leaves fall.  ■

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