First Time

We all remember our “first time.”
Get your mind out of the gutter, please. That’s not the first time to which I refer. However much, it has outsize importance to some people. But, no.

I remember one night at a boat show. We were out having dinner- our little clique of builders, boaters, riggers, and me- the carver. The topic of memorable first times came up. We had a pretty impressive group of far travelers, so many recollections of sunrise or moonset at exotic locations got related. Then there were the boating-related stories: European canal trips and the fine wines and eateries visited. Finally, one or two of the group chimed in with hilarious anecdotes from boat shows past.

Through this, I made the rare comment, laughed or grinned with amazement and amusement but did not share any of my own experiences. I couldn’t think of anything. I had traveled in the Navy, but being very young – and under the influence of fellow reprobates, I was more familiar with the interior of barrooms in port cities than with their cultural glories.

At last, I recalled something that I was sure the others had never experienced. So I told this tale:

” I belong to an exclusive club open to only a small segment of the population in any country. If you are not a member of this club, but have participated in this, you are probably a member of one of the outlaw sects still practicing human sacrifice.” Now I had everyone’s attention. “As a young man, I served as a scrub technician in surgery. My typical duties included preparing surgical instruments, passing them to surgeons, holding retractors, etc. But not all surgery is routine, and sometimes I’d play a more active role. Near the end of one procedure, deep into the thoracic cavity, the surgeon looked up at me and said, ‘Lou, have you ever touched a beating human heart?’
He then took my right hand and gently instructed me to touch the heart. For just seconds, I held the heart under my hand. It will always be one of my cherished memories.”

It was hard to gauge the group’s reaction because it was so varied. Some looked squeamish, others tried to process what I had said but had nothing to add, and a few looked at me as though they were reevaluating what they had previously known about me.

At last, one of my friends smiled and said, “it’s time for another drink!” The next safer topic was interesting boats we had seen at the show.

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