A Memoir. The Other Island is a fantastic book by Jaime Martinez-Tolentino. Amazing to read the complete novel but why not a single chapter? This story is so vivid that you will be trapped in Jaime’s world. Enjoy it and have a nice Monday, Yareah Magazine friends!
The Island Across the River, by Jaime Martinez-Tolentino. [From Chapter 7 of The Other Island: A Memoir. Melbourne, Australia: ASJ Publishing Co., 2013]
The summer of 1958 promised to be one of the worst in my life. I went into it having just experienced the single, greatest disappointment in my life: not being accepted into the High School of Music and Art, and thus forfeiting any chance to ever become a concert cellist, as I had thought I would.
Aside from that, I knew that once the summer was over, I could only look forward to attending a regular, New York City, working-class neighborhood high school, where I would probably receive a mediocre to poor education. I couldn’t help but feel that the extraordinary instruction that I had received in Joan of Arc Junior High School’s special program for gifted and talented students had all been for naught.
“Jaimito, this arrived in the mail yesterday. Your dad and I want you to read it and tell us what you want to do.”
Mami handed me an envelope with the logo of The Hospital for Special Surgery on it. It was located on East 70th street, but I had never heard of it.
“Well, aren’t you going to read what’s inside?” she asked, walking between the pantry and the stove.
I read the neatly typed letter in which the director of Admissions informed Mr. and Mrs. Martínez that they had learned of my post-polio condition through Joan of Arc Junior High School. Would my parents agree to taking me to their hospital for an evaluation? they inquired. They made it very clear that since the hospital was affiliated with the Cornell University Medical College, by letting them examine me, we would be rendering a great service to their students and their younger faculty by exposing them to the consequences of an illness that was quickly disappearing from the United States since the release of the Salk “killed virus” vaccine in 1955.
When I finished reading the letter, Mami asked:
“They say that it won’t cost us anything, don’t they?”
“Yes,” I answered, referring to the next-to-last paragraph. “It says here that all visits and treatments will be provided totally free of charge.”
“Well?,” she asked, walking up to me.
“I’ll go,” I replied. Then, as an afterthought, I added: “I’ve got nothing better to do this summer, anyway!”
The day of my appointment, Mami and I took a bus across town from our apartment on West 64th Street to the hospital on East 70th Street, overlooking Manhattan’s East River and Franklin Delano Roosevelt Drive. When we reached our destination, we noticed that the hospital occupied a new building, all glass, steel and polished stone. The institution had moved to its new facilities only three years before.
“If you will just fill in the paperwork, Mrs. Martínez, we will call you when we’re ready,” said the receptionist. I translated for my mother, and then we sat down in the waiting room. After I filled out the papers and Mami signed them, she picked up a fashion magazine and flipped through it. For my part, I picked up several hospital brochures and I read them thoroughly.
“Hey, Ma! It says here that that this is the oldest orthopedic hospital in the United States. Can you believe that they opened in 1863, in the middle of the Civil War?”
“This building doesn’t look that old,” she replied, and then she smiled.
I continued reading, knowing that my mother had a humorous streak to her when she was relaxed.
The brochures also indicated that the hospital had performed thousands of orthopedic surgeries, that it was considered a world leader in its field, and that its medical staff had over ninety-five years of familiarity with, essentially, every musculoskeletal disease known.
I interrupted my mother’s perusal of her fashion magazine again.
“Hey, they’re affiliated with the New York Hospital and with the Cornell University Medical College!”
“Uh-huh!” Then, more flipping of pages. A few recipes, and lots of pictures of beautiful people.
“And it says here that since the 1940’s, they became a national center for the treatment of victims of the polio epidemic!”
“That’s why your father and I wanted them to try and help you!” she replied, and then she put an arm around my shoulders briefly.
“Now, keep your reading to yourself and let me look through my magazine.”
Do you enjoy this story? It will continue on Yareah Magazine next Monday. Have a great week!