Excerpt from Chapter 12: Florida

Student life in Sofia turned Maria’s everyday routine upside down. Lectures, seminars, lectures, seminars, lectures again, seminars and practice problems. She was used to doing something right the first time and quickly became one of the top students in her class. She also actively participated in sports. She played volleyball at least 3 times a week with fellow students. She was known as a happy, ever-smiling girl, however closed and cold when it came to her personal life. Even though she was very beautiful, the fact that she didn’t drink alcohol or smoke made her almost disinteresting for her fellow students. They were whispering at the corners of the medical institute that she may have had some American boyfriend but he dumped her…

Getting a medical degree is not a joke. In the first month of education they took Maria’s group to the morgue for an exercise. Neither her colleagues nor Maria had been in such a place before. The teacher at the exercise, a young assistant and a doctor, took out a scalpel and something like a butcher knife and craftily “chopped up” the body of a dead man, lying beside him. He cut out and showed them organs, body parts, muscle groups, and other important for the learning process things. Three of the students who couldn’t take the view fainted and had to be brought back outside in the garden. Women turned out to be tougher in this challenge. All of them had to reconsider if they would stay and continue with their chosen medical career path. This is why this visit was made in the beginning of the first year. Maria managed to remain calm during this intervention, however weeks after that she felt upset. A lot of things in life now seemed different. She wanted to discuss this with Mathew; she assumed he had a similar student experience.

“Dear Mathew!” she tapped on her keyboard. “I hope you are ok! How is your learning process, fellow student? Do you have any free time? Did you get to know your roommate? Do you do your own laundry? I was just wondering. Do you have any time for the soul; do you read novels? What about poems? Do you have good looking colleagues?

I am well! I study hard for university; it’s interesting. I still can’t get used to the idea I am going to become a doctor! How about you? They already took us to the morgue, we had a lecture there. Did they take you? I didn’t enjoy it, but I stuck it up!

After this visit I feel different. I had never seen death so close before. Is this what remains from people when they die? I don’t believe it! I refuse to believe it! I think I better understand the discussions we had with you in Plovdiv now. Remember – you were telling me about life after death, about eternity?

Yesterday I went to Sade’s concert here in Sofia. She is an amazingly good singer – blew my mind! Please, find one of her CDs and let her music be my personal gift to you! I hope you’ll like her! When I listen to her, I imagine I am here with you… I miss you!… Today I bought a really cute yellow teddy bear. I named it Mathew and I sleep with it! I love you!… Why are we still apart?… I’m sorry, I feel silly…

I rarely go to church. I don’t know anyone in Sofia; the sisters seem a bit insincere. I don’t want to get baptized! Why should I do it? How can some baptism stand between us? Isn’t it enough that we love each other? Even during Communism it was enough for two people to love each other to live together! The missionaries are very polite though; I regularly go to the English courses they teach. I will surprise you with my “perfect” English… Ok, I am getting sleepy… Bye… Good night!”

Time always flies faster that we wish. Minutes pass tediously slow, but months pass in a flash. Christmas, New Year’s, St. Valentines, Easter were the celebratory motels on the boring but necessary highways for the medical rally every student took part in. Mathew Nelson finished the second semester with excellent grades. The healing abilities that he showed as a missionary now found practical, academic development in his manly nature. Mathew was born to be a doctor but he was not supposed to stay in Utah if he wanted to further develop his unconventional skills. The mighty corporations, the world pharmaceutical producers would destroy anyone, who dares to offer medical know-how, a product, or a method different from theirs, like a fly. Besides, the conservative and harsh rules of the Mormon Church seemed to be created by doctors. There was no need to be a doctor among Mormons, they superseded medical functions by preaching super-healthy lifestyle. There was no way they would know an unexplainable oddity of the demographic development of ex-socialist countries where you can meet an old drunk more often than a doctor. A fact by itself worthy of scientific investigation.

Maria also completed her first year with excellent grades. And outside was May – in both Sofia and Salt Lake City. The month of grass, flowers, and love. The vital juices of plants, animals, and people were turning to a higher gear. In the air everyone could feel the wave of a nice, fresh, and scented bacchanalia. In one city girls lusciously bared their shoulders and knees, lowered their necklines, and dressed in miniskirts, while in the other it was quite the opposite – long, closed dresses dominated, buttoned up to the neck; necklines and miniskirts were frowned upon, not to mention bare shoulders. A little question for the kind reader: which city refers to the first description and which to the second?

Mathew actively and regularly went to his Sunday meetings in the Church in Salt Lake City. He met there many attractive young girls with wealthy fathers. They were competing to hover like butterflies around the young, handsome, and elegant doctor, but were unsuccessful for the time being. He stayed faithful to his Bulgarian girlfriend. Both of them had a hard time with this relationship, but together they managed to overcome the long distance for now.

One warm evening, when in Sofia it was actually early in the morning, Maria surprised Mathew by demanding that they speak on Skype immediately. Mathew sat down comfortably, turned on the camera on his computer, and poured a glass of apple juice.

“Mathew, Mathew! Hi, hi! Can you hear me?” almost screaming said Maria from the other side of the planet. “Are you there? Mathew, I have great news! Sit down, so you won’t fall – I am coming to you in America! Yaaaaay…”

“Hi, Maria! I can hear you!” calmly answered Mathew. “What do you mean? Is this some kind of a joke?”

“No, Mathew, it’s not a joke!” continued excitedly Maria. “They approved me to go to a student brigade in Hollywood, Florida, at Hard Rock Cafe & Casino. I will be working at the reception for 3 months! Aren’t you happy I am coming to you? I have a visa and a ticket. I am coming! Hoorayyyy!”

The happy news had completely clouded and confused all the knowledge about geography of the Bulgarian girl in love. So what? Why does a doctor need geography anyway? To tell a person from Salt Lake City that you are going to see him in Hollywood, Florida, is like telling a person from Sofia that you are coming too see him in Lisbon. But what are 2,600 miles for two hearts in love?