I met Mademoiselle in the fall of 1993. We were sudden housemates at the rundown Phi Rho Sigma medical fraternity. Please understand that Phi Rho wasn’t a frat in the Animal House sense of the word. No goldfish, no hazing, no group activities. There might’ve been a party, one, that I remember.
The frat had a cat for about two weeks, a mostly feral lad with a lackadaisical “owner” who fed him only occasionally. In one of my Worst Decisions Ever, I captured Louie, stuffed him into a box (from which he escaped and rampaged about my Volvo 240 DL while I was attempting to drive), dragged him to my family’s vet, and got him a set of shots. We ensconced him in the common room of one of the Phi Rho houses with a litter box, food, water, and occasional human interaction. Louie the Free Range Cat was having none of it. He pooped ALL OVER and at the end of a couple weeks we returned him to the wild to which he was accustomed. But I digress.
I enrolled in the cult-like Summer Anatomy. All of human anatomy, literally every single artery, vein, nerve, muscle, origin, insertion, organ jammed into two months. Dr. Robertson, our esteemed professor, lectured entirely from memory. My hair reeked of formalin and I couldn’t eat chicken for several months.
Prior to joining the fraternity, I lived above the Food Basket, a grocery store located about two blocks from the medical school. I never actually lived there. My friends helped me move my belongings up the rickety wooden fire escape. Goldenrod, my 1970s hide-a-bed, nearly killed my friend Molly’s betrothed.
The entire apartment vibrated, dancing to the rhythm of the freezer units hung from my floor – the Food Basket ceiling. I moved out. Goldenrod played nice on the way to Phi Rho. Summer Anatomy meant I lived alone for a couple months in the three-bedroom, second-floor apartment. I got the best room.
Meela moved in at the start of the regular class schedule. A woman of few words, she had a quietly wicked sense of humor. I can still see the position of her hand as she’d adjust the frame of her glasses. Meela practices emergency medicine in New Mexico. I’m sure she’s perfect. Absolutely unflappable.
Mademoiselle’s real name is Patience. Her other real name is Ekuatinne. Born in Minneapolis, raised in Cameroon, and fluent in at least three languages, Patience returned to Minnesota at 17 and eventually landed at the U of MN Medical School. She rounded out the inhabitants of our apartment, taking the glorified closet known as the third bedroom. The three of us tied dishtowels around our waists and Mademoiselle attempted to teach me and Meela the basics of Cameroonian dance, with limited success.
Patience made a lasting impression, changed my life really, in the form of Moist Flushable Wipes. I questioned her about the rectangular pack of something sitting on the back of the toilet and she schooled me on the many merits of the MFW. I became an instant convert. “Fresher than toilet tissue alone,” was the motto of Cottonelle brand Moist Flushable Wipes.
When Ace and I decided to join together in unruly matrimony, Moist Flushable Wipes came along as part of my dowry. Apparently, MFWs are hard on the sewer system, hard on it to the point that cities are considering banning them. Ace went into a tailspin when we got wind of the rumors. I rushed to Costco and purchased a petite back inventory. We plan to install our own wipe-munching system in our sewer line if necessary; we’d do just about anything to preserve our right to bear MFWs. I sometimes wonder if Ace will be standing at my funeral, rhapsodizing in his introverted nonverbal way, about the Three Best Things that ever happened to him: The Big E, me, and Moist Flushable Wipes.