Needless to say I run home and look up what the restrictions are on doctors dating former patients. (Well, after falling into bed and sleeping for ten hours that is. Thank gawd it was a weekend. Thank gawd I forgot to notify the puppy sitter that I was home and she came by anyway.) But it seems like Alec and I would fall into a grey area. He was not my doctor such that I was sharing intimate details with him "that could be used to influence my decisions." But he did treat me, so…
It's a grey area and Alec doesn't seem the type to take that big of a risk. Not with something as important to him as his career.
So you can forgive me for a little whoop of joy a couple days later when I ring into my voice mail and instead of hearing the voice of a classmate, I hear, "Hullo Sam, this is Alec…" There may have been a bit of dancing (…well, o.k. butt wiggling since I'm not that mobile) but there are no witnesses and you can't prove it.
After a bit of phone tag and a call that stretches into almost two hours of free ranging conversation covering work, school, current movies, old movies, music, English politics, American politics, the history of the Middle East (of which he is pleasantly well-informed), we arrange to meet at a coffee shop near campus after his next shift.
This works great for me since by that time my bruises have almost completely faded, something Alec observes almost immediately when he reaches my table. After apologizing. He's late, but given his line of work I'm not surprised and used the time to finish a chapter outline. He's more subdued out of the brilliant orange coverall, but he still stands out. He's obviously taken some care with the casual, clean lines of his clothes and his hair. Simple, functional, but still elegant. Getting the job done is first priority, but that has not completely overwhelmed his self image as an attractive male.
The smile is there, though it is guarded, something I attribute to the long shift that put the slight shadow under his eyes.
But today's conversation is somewhat desultory to the point I'm almost forced to making comments about the weather until he takes a deep breath, sets his coffee cup aside, and tilts his head forward with that condescending look.
Oh no. Not again.
"Samantha. I really enjoy this, and I really like you, but there is something you need to understand. My job comes first. People's lives depend on it. That means a lot more than just a weird schedule. When I am at work, I have to be able to be completely there, in that moment, and focused. I can't be distracted about having to call you at a set time or…"
I suppress the sigh, letting him natter on about how much of his life his job consumes and how important it is to him and that he has to be free to devote his full attention to his job, all the while leaving the vague impression that it would not be fair to me. How nice of him to decide that for me. Again. Until he notices my expression, and my fingers drumming on the table, and stumbles awkwardly to a stop.
I let the silence stretch on uncomfortably, until, affecting my most bewildered expression, I hold up my cinnamon double latte, point to it, and say, "Coffee."
He drops his head and pinches the bridge of his nose. "I've just been a complete prat, haven't I?"
He has, but given that his mind raced that far forward in a panic, I know I'm in pretty good standing. His neurosis just needs assuaging. I chuckle a little and sit back in my chair.
"If you had another profession, then I might have a problem with taking second place. But you save lives. I understand that is not a job, it's a calling and trying to stand in the way of someone and their calling just makes everyone unhappy. I told you that my brother is a paramedic, yeah? That means I know that my sister in law spends her holidays with the kids but not her husband, and that even on his days off he sometimes gets called in so she can never be entirely sure when he is going to be there. And when he does get home he's often exhausted and wrung out and no, they do not get all his attention and energy as soon as he walks in the door. He honestly does try and he's a great Dad, but it's a fact of life that the station is a part of their all their lives and they live around that. But then I also come from a military family, so I am used to the mindset of sharing people I care about with a job, an organization, a calling. I know the score. I know what I am looking at. So as far as your work goes, I'm taking you as you are. So far as your work goes."