- Afternoon with A Corpse
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[End Page 127]
I skimmed the first two paragraphs of the fine print, then skipped the rest to sign at the bottom. The contract got me a membership in the gym and a black duffel bag I didn't need but a few sessions with a trainer that I did. After the measuring and weighing, we toured the place, ending upstairs in front of a machine sprouting pulleys and cables. He squatted to pull a pin, briefly waving it before my knees, then settled on a weight that I self-consciously noted wasn't far from the bottom.
"We'll start here," he said, toggling the peg into the brick. "This baby's good for the shoulders and back," he added, patting the trunk of the Universal, "but I think free weights are better for everything else." He modeled the various muscle groups that resistance training would improve and gestured toward a poster of a bodybuilder with colossal trapezius and latissimus dorsi muscles. I looked at his ideal man, then back at my arms, and informed him that while my feminine biceps and triceps were perhaps underutilized, I had taken anatomy in medical school and still had a notion of what muscles looked like, even what they did. He almost giggled but looked at me with what might have been newfound respect and told me that he was starting medical school at the end of the summer. I took in his easy, confident grin, the bold yellow "Live Strong" wristband, and asked him if he was nervous.
"Well, I'm kind of scared of anatomy," he admitted. "I heard it's really hard. But I'm going to take an online course before school starts. That way I'll be ahead."
Typical premed thinking, I thought but said, "I'm not sure an online course is really necessary. It'll get you started, but it's not the same thing. Believe me, you'll learn it anyway. Spend your money on a trip and enjoy your summer. You won't get much more of them."
He still smiled but didn't say much more, leading me to believe he'd already made up his mind and thought I needed to mind my own business, so I did. I pushed, pulled, and grunted under his direction, finished my workout, and drove home. But rather than focusing on how I was going to rearrange my schedule to exercise three times a week, I found myself revisiting what we'd said, asking why I felt like this guy was making such a mistake and why I had to be the one to tell him. So what if he spent July and August learning anatomy with DVDs and 3D reconstructions of the mediastinum or retroperitoneum? I was surprised that I had such negative feelings about it. Had I become such a dinosaur in twenty-five years that I couldn't imagine clicking and scrolling through diagrams [End Page 128] of kidneys or lungs to understand how the body worked? Thinking of it took me to my own first days in medical school in Cleveland, Ohio.
"Everything you need to buy is in the bookstore. Lab coats, gloves, masks, and dissection kits. The workbook follows the chapters in Clemente, but any of the standard texts or atlases will do. They sell used kits, but most students buy new ones or piecemeal the equipment," the instructor said rather automatically. "You'll be working in groups of four, so pick your lab partners now, or you'll be assigned to a group." Most groups formed based on the proximity of their desks, and so did we.
The class began in the lecture hall with a brief introduction by the anatomy professor.
"I know many of you have never seen a cadaver before," she said, "so you may be anxious. I recognize that, but you'll adjust. These people donated their bodies so you could learn from them. That's why you're here. Whether they died of old age or some illness, underneath we're pretty much the...