Creative Writing 2nd Place – “I am Everyone” by Khue Le

The 2022 MIPS x The Auricle Creative Writing and Visual Art Competition featured some amazing work – here we are excited to share with you the piece that placed second in the Creative Writing division. Titled “I am Everyone” and written by Khue Le, it is a truly moving piece. If you would like to see all winners in the competition, see The Auricle’s July-September Edition.

Good morning! My name is. I’m a medical student.

I’m the daughter of parents who called me downstairs to greet guests I didn’t know and reminded me to speak louder when I said my hellos, so to you, my care and respect comes freshly baked as a “good morning”. I am the girl whom my mum shows her love to through a plate of sliced apples and washed grapes when I’m studying, through a thermos of tea left out for a few minutes so it’s the right temperature to not burn my tongue and through the almost sickeningly sweet condensed milk with toast she makes when I’m sick. So I am careful to pull the curtains close when it’s time to examine you. I tuck in the covers after pressing your shins for pitting oedema. As I talk, I am righting the chair, pushing the glass of water closer to the table centre, moving your bag into an accessible spot. I don’t want you to trip.

I’m an immigrant kid who in Prep, drew lines and hats and moustaches on their letters in class because the alphabet was supposed to have accents. On Footy Day at school, I’m the kid who repeated the mysterious word, “Collingwood”, to anyone who asked what football team I barracked for and had a boy ask me why, if so, I was wearing purple, orange and pink stripes. There are more football teams, I said in embarrassment. So I take extra care to speak slowly and gesture wildly, opening and closing my palms to indicate a beating heart, when I know English is not your first language. In my head, I am running experiments on ways to best explain congestive heart failure to you.

I’m a university student who spent two fifths of their course at home, nostalgic for dreams of studying at libraries and practising auscultation on real people. I’m the blundering person on the team who stumbles on anatomy questions because the anatomy I studied had been colour coded with red arteries and blue veins. Being in a pandemic means loneliness has visited me. It also means I listen hard and carefully when you tell me your story and I try to know you as you were before you came here. The grandfather who spent more than half his life on a boat, the neighbour who walked her little dog to collect the mail, the engineer who built some of the protocols for the equipment I now see in hospitals.

Having a medical condition can be lonely. I didn’t want you to feel trapped in your existence as a patient.

And if you are resigned to the long waiting list and the medication expenses, if you endure pain by sheer will and hasten to get out of hospital so you can start working again to provide for your two daughters, I am reminded of my dad. My dad and his calloused hands. My dad whose working hours were dictated by the ending of the Sun’s rays. I am the older sister who had memorised chip packets in order of their monetary value so I could buy the cheapest one. I’m the 10 year old who grew up defining her financial status by the snacks she couldn’t afford. So I recognise, somewhat, your hesitancy to travel when petrol prices are high, your helplessness when the doctor says you need to attend more check-ups, the determination to overcome this by your resolute jaw and the quiet concentration as you face the window.

When I get home, I will think back to this moment and be angered by the ways spaces have been designed to keep you and countless others out. How, sometimes, it must feel like health is for everyone, except these spaces have told you that you are not everyone.

I am all the experiences leading up to this interaction. I am everyone I have encountered and so, I am the medical student who went into medicine with hopes of redesigning these spaces. Hoping that the next you I meet and all the yous after will access health more easily both in and out of hospital.

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