Off the Shelf
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Eau de Medical School

At the start, it was


Like the sound of a chilled cucumber

Snapped in half briskly on a hot summer day


In the novelty of all things

A foreign state with foreign friends

A foreign box to call a home.

With time, it was replaced with

The reek

Of persistent formaldehyde

Clinging to every pore

And every item owned

(despite relentless efforts to sterilize and compartmentalize)

Its phantom stench in almost every aroma perceived

(whether imagined or real)


The way medical school had become a way of life

Instead of

Just one of the things we do.

And as the formaldehyde settled in

Noses learned to readjust to its background presence

Minds became accustomed to chronic weariness

And dopamine pathways permanently hooked onto the pleasures of tea addictions.

(or simply caffeine, caffeine, caffeine — to each his own)

The appreciation of the small reliefs in life became essential

(treasure, oh, treasure the small things in life)

Like the comforting aroma of milk and Earl Grey

Or the dusty familiarity of Things From Home

Or even that aseptic cleanse of the winter snow.

But mostly, it is that fuzzy

Perfectly humidified air

Mixed in with the embers of last night’s drying tea leaves

Where the most comfort is found as

The rest of the senses succumb in a cradle of

(smooth, rhythmically rocking)

beta and theta waves.

Nita Chen Nita Chen (32 Posts)

Medical Student Editor and in-Training Staff Member

Albany Medical College

Nita Chen is a Class of 2017 medical student at Albany Medical College. To become cultural, she spent her early educational years in Taiwan and thoroughly enjoyed wonderful Taiwanese food and milk tea, thus ruining her appetite for the rest of her life in the United States. Aside from her neuroscience and cognitive science majors during her undergraduate career, she holed herself up in her room writing silly fictional stories, doodling, and playing the piano. Or she could be found spazzing out like a gigantic science nerd in various laboratories. Now she just holes up in her room to study most of the time.