'Finding Bluefield' Tells a Lesbian Love Story Set Against the Back Drop of the '60s
â€śSure. I know they work residents hard,â€ť Nicky said, â€śbut if you donâ€™t take breaks, youâ€™ll never last. Iâ€™ve seen it happen. What time you get off?â€ť
â€śI finish a double shift at four thirty,â€ť Barbara said. â€śItâ€™ll have to wait for some other time.â€ť
â€śFour thirty is perfect. You can rest in the car. I love to drive.â€ť Nicky stood and turned toward the kitchen. â€śIâ€™ll meet you out front,â€ť she called out as she pushed through the swinging doors that led into the kitchen.
Out in the parking lot, Barbara inhaled deeply and kicked the dirt into a dust cloud. Traffic on 147 was heavy as she waited for the light to change. Chevys and Fords mostly. The high August sun sent beads of sweat down her brow, and she shielded her eyes with her left hand. When the light turned green, she ran across the road, back to the hospital.
Fighting fatigue, Barbara sat on the bench in the nursesâ€™ dressing room and hurried to tie her sneakers. Several nurses had already made it clear that they didnâ€™t like sharing their space with a woman doctor. But the hospital only had a male doctorsâ€™ changing room, and the Chief of Medicine wouldnâ€™t allow her to change there, so she was forced to use the nursesâ€™ space. And since new residents relied upon the nurses for help, Barbara avoided being in their room during shift changes. She grabbed her bag and took the stairs to the ground floor where she stopped suddenly. Nicky was waiting outside the hospital entrance. She had forgotten the plan, or at least did not think Nicky was serious. Barbara was about to turn back into the stairwell when Nicky waved.
â€śI like the convertible,â€ť Barbara said as she approached Nicky. â€śBut really, I donâ€™t think this is a good time.â€ť
Nicky leaned over and pushed the passenger door open. She had the Chevy Bel Airâ€™s top down and the windows up. â€śWhenâ€™s your next shift?â€ť
â€śI have twelve hours off,â€ť Barbara said.â€¨â€śNo problem. Iâ€™ll have you back in plenty of time.â€ťâ€¨â€śBut I need to sleep.â€ťâ€¨â€śYouâ€™ll unwind in the car, and then Iâ€™ll take you home and youâ€™ll get some sleep.
Youâ€™ll sleep better after you get some fresh air. Trust me.â€ťâ€¨Barbara noticed the pile of Kennedy for President leaflets on the floor mat. â€śDonâ€™t worry about those,â€ť Nicky said.â€¨â€śIs it always this muggy around here?â€ť Barbara asked. She pushed the pamphlets
to one side as she sat down.â€¨â€śOnly in the summer.â€ť Nicky slipped into first gear. â€śSometimes in the fall. But
only a little in the spring and rarely in the winter.â€ťâ€¨â€śSo youâ€™re supporting Kennedy?â€ť Barbara lifted a flyer from the floor.â€¨Nicky removed a pack of cigarettes from her shirt pocket and shook one between
her lips. â€śHow can you tell?â€ť She didnâ€™t offer one to Barbara. â€śWho do you like?â€ť â€śTheyâ€™re all the same. I donâ€™t vote.â€ťâ€¨â€śNixon and Kennedy? I donâ€™t think so.â€ť Nicky turned onto Main Street. â€śPay
close attention here. This part of town goes by fast,â€ť she said, pointing out the Montgomery Ward, the Five & Dime, the Squire Theater that was showing Jack Lemon in The Apartment, Laura Leeâ€™s Beauty Salon, Bluefield Hardware that was having a paint sale, and the Smokehouse Restaurant. â€śThey couldnâ€™t be more different.â€ť Nicky continued as she made a left turn and headed away from town.
â€śWho?â€ť Barbara yawned. â€śSorry.â€ť
â€śRoll down your window and let the wind blow through your hair. Itâ€™ll feel good. And while youâ€™re doing that, Iâ€™ll explain to you how Nixon and Kennedy are different.â€ť
â€śThey might have their differences,â€ť Barbara said, â€śbut Iâ€™m saying that politicians are all alike.â€ť Barbara took off her glasses and exchanged them for some sunglasses.
Nicky shifted into high gear. â€śDid you want to be a nurse when you were a kid?â€ť â€śI never wanted to be a nurse.â€ťâ€¨â€śBecause not many girls grow up wanting to be doctors.â€ťâ€¨â€śIn the Soviet Union, where doctors arenâ€™t as rich, half the doctors are women,â€ť
Barbara said. â€śAnyway, no. I never wanted to be a nurse.â€ťâ€¨â€śOkay, so you always wanted to be a doctor. You must have been an interesting
little girl.â€ťâ€¨â€śI didnâ€™t always want to be a doctor.â€ťâ€¨â€śWhat did you want to be then?â€ť Nicky asked.â€¨â€śI wanted to be a cartoonist.â€ťâ€¨â€śComics or funnies?â€ťâ€¨â€śFunnies,â€ť Barbara said. â€śI drew a strip in high school. I was the editor of the
school paper. I drew one in college too. But I wanted to be able to support myself.â€ť â€śSo you picked doctor?â€ť
â€śPays better than cartoonist, and I was good at sciences. I like knowing how things work. I like figuring out ways to fix things.â€ť
Elan Barnehama was raised in New York City and now live in Northampton, MA. He received an MFA from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and a BA from Binghamton University and has taught writing and literature at several colleges, been the writer for a university president, led community based writing workshops, coached high school varsity baseball, was a weekend radio news announcer, and a short order cook. Heâ€™s written two screenplays and is at work on a new novel set in NYC during the Vietnam War. He can be reached at elanbarnehama.com