7 Surprising Facts About Me Few People Know by Peter Palmieri
Author of The Art of Forgetting
1. I was raised in a home with no television and no refrigerator.
We did have complete (if outdated) sets of Encyclopedia Britannica and Encyclopedia Americana that helped pass the time on rainy days and in the evening after it got too dark to play outside. My aunt – who raised me from the age of five — bought fresh food every day during the summer. In the winter, our entire terrace became a freezer. I don’t remember a single instance when our food spoiled or when I couldn’t find something to keep me entertained.
2. I was a remarkably dumb kid.
I thought grownups stirred coffee because they liked the sound of spoonsclicking on porcellain. It didn’t occur to me that they were trying to dissolve the sugar. When my aunt told me that a blinking light on a car meant it was about to make a turn, I didn’t believe her. I thought the blinking lights were just there to make the cars look pretty, like the lights on a Christmas tree. Once, I overheard some grownups talking about a kid who had choked on an olive pit and had to be rushed to the hospital by ambulance. After that, every time I heard the siren of an ambulance I figured someone must be choking on an olive. Even now, when I hear an ambulance approach the hospital where I work, the first thought that pops in my mind is, “olive”.
3. When I was 14, I went missing for a couple of days (well, I knew where I was).
I left the city of Trieste, Italy, where I had lived since the age of 5 to join my older brothers in San Diego. I was to fly in by myself. They were to pick me up at the airport in California. The flight from Trieste to Rome went smoothly but my connecting flight from Rome to New York got cancelled due to mechanical problems. The passengers were offered the choice of spending the night in Rome or to take a flight to Geneva where we could get a connecting flight to New York. I opted for the latter choice, but by the time I arrived in New York, my flight to San Diego had already departed, so the airline set me up for the night in a hotel near JKF.
It didn’t occur to me to call my family to tell them what had happened. I mean, no big deal, they would find out the next day. Turns out my sister panicked when I didn’t show up and made a bunch of frantic phone calls to the airline to try to find me. No one could tell here where I was. Next day, no one was at the airport to greet me, so I took a cab to my brother’s house. He didn’t seem too worried.
4. I became a pediatrician by default.
Up until the end of my third year of medical school, I planned to pursue a career in Psychiatry. I had a scholarship with the National Health Service Corps which paid my tuition and gave me a modest stipend. In return, I had committed to a three year service commitment in a primary care field. Fortunately, Psychiatry was on their accepted list of primary care choices. Less than one year from my graduation date, I received a letter stating that Psychiatry was no longer an accepted primary care choice in the eyes of the NHSC.
Suddenly the career I had envisioned for myself since my junior year of high school was no longer an option. I sulked for about a week, then signed up for every possible pediatric elective I could schedule in my last year of medical school and never looked back.
5. My first job our of residency was at an inner-city clinic on the South Side of Chicago.
I was there to pay back my service obligation with the National Health Service Corps. The clinic I worked in was a boxy rust-colored building with bullet ridden windows on a busy intersection of a blighted neighborhood known as New City. I witnessed three drive-by shootings during my service time, which really only turns out to one a year.
Two things I learned working on the South Side: inner city grandmothers are the most socially conservative group in America and teenage gang-bangers are remarkably cordial after you’ve treated them for venereal diseases a couple of times.
6. My grandfather fought alongside Ernest Hemingway in World War I.
They were both in the far northeastern corner of Italy fighting the Austrians, Hemingway, as an ambulance driver, my grandfather, in a cavalry division entrusted with resupplying the front lines. Just how close they really were and if they met at all is anyone’s guess.
When I ask my now 97-year old aunt about it, she swears they knew each other well and that her father told her that Hemingway was a swell guy. The problem is that Hemingway wasn’t famous at all at that time. So why would my grandfather remember even remember him? I’m guessing the whole story is a false memory.
Nonetheless, each time I read A Farewell to Arms (one of my favorite novels), I can’t help but wonder which one of the characters might have been inspired by my “nonno”. After all, my aunt was right about the turn signals on cars.
7. My grandmother was the illegitimate child of a young man with a noble title.
Swaddled up in a tight bundle, she was deposited as an infant on the foundling wheel of the orphanage of the small town she was born in. If you’re not familiar with foundling wheels, they were a type of hatch on the outside wall of orphanages that allowed parents to anonymouslyleave babies they couldn’t care for. Kind of like the night depository drawer at a bank. They were common all over Europe in Medieval times, and were still used in parts of Italy until the early twentieth century.
It turns out my grandmother’s parents were a young unmarried couple, the father a law student of “noble heritage”, which might just have meant that his family was wealthier than most others, and almost certainly implied that they owned land. My grandmother was happily adopted but did meet her biological parents. In fact she took on her biological father’s surname, and kept it even after she got married – an act that was unheard of in Italy at that time. Which kind of makes you think. The surname was Palmieri; the same name I adopted as I was about to graduate from college. But that’s another story.
Peter Palmieri was raised in the eclectic port city of Trieste, Italy. He returned to the United States at the age of 14 with just a suitcase and an acoustic guitar. After attending public high school in San Diego, California, he earned his bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Animal Physiology from the University of California, San Diego. He received his medical degree from Loyola University Stritch School of Medicine and completed his pediatric training at the University of Chicago and Loyola University Medical Center. More recently, he was awarded a Healthcare MBA by The George Washington University. A former student of Robert McKee’s Story seminar and the SMU Writer’s Path program, and a two-time attendee of the SEAK Medical Fiction seminar taught by Tess Gerritsen and Michael Palmer, Peter is now busy practicing general pediatrics at a large academic medical center while working on his next medical suspense.
Blog | Facebook | Twitter
Genre: fiction: medical (medical suspense)
Release date: June 2013
Dr. Lloyd Copeland is a young neurologist who is tormented by the conviction that he has inherited the severe, early-onset dementia that has plagued his family for generations – the very disease which spurred his father to take his own life when Lloyd was just a child. Withdrawn to a life of emotional detachment, he looks for solace in hollow sexual trysts as a way to escape his throbbing loneliness. Still, he clings to the hope that the highly controversial treatment for memory loss he’s been researching will free him from his family’s curse.
But when odd mishaps take place in his laboratory, his research is blocked by a hospital review board headed by Erin Kennedy: a beautiful medical ethicist with a link to his troubled childhood. The fight to salvage his reputation and recover the hope for his own cure brings him face to face with sordid secrets that rock his very self-identity. And to make matters worse, he finds himself falling irretrievably in love with the very woman who seems intent on thwarting his efforts.
Praise for The Art of Forgetting:
“Read this one!” Bobby Garrison, Amazon Reviewer
“Entertaining medical thriller!” Roy Benaroch, MD
“The Art of Forgetting is unforgettable!” Apollonia D., Amazon Reviewer
May 27, 2012
“Will you hand me the condom, Dr. Copeland?”
“Don’t call me that” Lloyd said with a flat voice.
The Asian girl sat straddled between his legs, facing him, stroking him slowly with both hands. She cocked her head to the side and flashed a licentious smile. “Why not? Does it make you feel dirty?”
Lloyd stretched to reach the top of the nightstand, grabbed the square blue packet and tossed it with a jerk of his wrist. It spun, pitched and yawed, colliding on her bare bosom where she trapped it with one hand.
“When’s your fiancé coming back?” Lloyd asked.
The girl gave a playful frown. “I got it, Professor. Don’t worry. I’ll be a good little medical student and just shut up.”
“I didn’t mean it like that.”
“Yes you did. It’s okay. I don’t want anything from you, Lloyd.” Her voice was steady, composed. “I don’t need anything from you,” she opened the packet with her teeth, spit out the corner of foil, “except this right now.” She grabbed the base of his erect phallus a bit too firmly for his liking. “And when Craig flies back tomorrow, I won’t need this either.”
Lloyd offered her a conciliatory smile but she didn’t look back. He could see that it pained her to have uttered her boyfriend’s name while she was in bed with another man. She rolled the condom on him with deliberate clinical professionalism, with the same concentration and detachment she might have used when practicing a medical procedure.
Say what you will about medical students in the sack, Lloyd thought, they certainly weren’t squeamish. And they had few hang-ups when it came to the naked human body. Even the act of sex was often treated more like a didactic exercise rather than passionate love-making, which fit Lloyd just fine.
Most other women had a natural inclination, almost a biological prerogative to form attachments after a roll on the hay – the nesting instinct. Screw them a couple of times and they’re romping around the apartment in your dress shirts, cooing in baby talk, dripping a sassy coziness as they smile that coy smile all girls learn by the time they’re twelve. Oh sure, it’s sexy as hell, but a sure sign that they’re marking their territory, exploring possibilities in their mind. Pretty soon they start to imagine a future together, they role-play like amateur improv actors to see how the relationship feels, how well it “fits”. The sight of a girl wearing his shirt, Lloyd knew, was diagnostic of emotional bonds congealing.
But Alison would be all right. Lloyd had noticed her months ago when she rotated through the Neurology service – long silky black hair, sexy horn-rimmed glasses, low-cut blouse showing just enough cleavage to entice Lloyd to imagine the rest of her breasts. And then there was the way she looked at him when he gave impromptu talks on rounds, smiling at his jokes. No forced laughs like those idiots gunning for a better grade.
When she completed the rotation, she had met the minimal criteria Lloyd demanded of his medical student consorts. She was a) near the end of her fourth year with b) no plans to do another Neurology clerkship (so she would never be under him again, so to speak) and she c) had plans to leave the city upon graduation to do her residency elsewhere. But with Alison, Lloyd had hit the jackpot, the mega-lotto in terms of imprudent relations with a medical student. There was a fail-safe assurance – at least as fail-safe as these things ever get – that virtually guaranteed they would never become emotionally entangled. Alison was engaged. To be wed! This would be a strictly short-term, purely sexual affiliation.
When they bumped into each other in the hospital lobby and she let it slip that Craig was heading east for a six-week trauma rotation, the die had been cast. They both knew at that moment how things would end.
For the last two weeks he had volunteered to cover consults on the surgical ward where she was rotating. He made small talk with her, hovering just beyond the nurse’s station, not as attending to student, but as one colleague to another: a transparent but effective method of flattery.
One particularly warm afternoon he invited her for coffee after work – a minimal commitment on her part. One small step for a woman, a giant leap towards Lloyd’s eight-hundred thread count Egyptian cotton sheets. She had gone home to change and arrived in a printed summer dress with spaghetti straps and a hem which rode up on her silky-smooth tanned thighs. Over Frappucinos, he insisted that she call him by his first name. Before parting they eagerly compared work schedules to arrange their next meeting. They agreed on a Sunday champagne brunch date. The forecast called for a hot, languid afternoon of bliss.
And here they were, at last. Alison mounted him, her eyes fixed on his with a resolute intensity, biting her lower lip, her chest rolling with every breath. While on rounds at the hospital, Lloyd had tried to imagine her love-making face – a favorite hobby of his when studying women’s expressions. He pictured her grimacing, eyes tightened in an expression of sustained agony as she shrieked with pleasure. Instead, the first time this afternoon (with Lloyd on top) she had kept her eyes open, studying him the entire time. Instead of shrieking, she emitted a steady low pitched groan, like a loud purring. She projected a docile politeness – cautious and gracious. The result was a deliciously subdued climax which opened their eyes to the myriad, succulent, erotic possibilities and whet their appetite for more.
Now she was grinding her pelvis with increasing forcefulness. The pretense of submission had evaporated. A drop of perspiration trickled between her breasts, gathering speed on its downward flow, then slowing as it found the shallow trench of the linea alba of her abdomen. Lloyd smeared it with his thumb, then brought his hands up to her breasts and smirked.
She leaned forward and grabbed his shoulders, clenched her teeth. Lloyd swept his hands down her flanks and clutched the small of her back. She dug her nails in his shoulders and pushed harder still.
She seemed intent on punishing him for the impudence of bringing up her fiancé. But if the price to pay was a little rough play, he was all for it. He brought his hands over her buttocks and pulled her to him with deep, lunging thrusts. She fell onto him, nibbled his lower lip, tugged at it with her teeth then licked it before nipping at it again.
The last bite brought a sharp pang of pain, accentuated by its utter unexpectedness. Lloyd wrapped his arms around her, arched his back and spun her over. Her eyes widened with a sudden trepidation, those beautiful almond eyes. But as Lloyd continued his rhythmic thrusts every shred of apprehension vanished, her features relaxed.
Lloyd’s beeper vibrated. It inched to the edge of the nightstand like a wind-up toy and tumbled onto the hardwood floor, buzzing at a higher pitch for just a few more seconds before zonking out. Lloyd and Alison exchanged a curious look of surprise and laughed, never stopping their love-making. At last, she wrapped her arms and legs around him as Lloyd collapsed and Alison convulsed with jolting twitches of ecstasy.
Minutes later, after catching his breath, Lloyd sat up on the bed, leaned down to pluck his beeper off the floor and studied the number on the backlit screen.
“I thought you weren’t on call today,” Alison said
“I’m not. It’s the lab.”
Alison rolled onto her side, propped on her elbow. “Did a mouse escape the asylum?”
“Maybe. They’re smart mice.”
“You should call.”
Lloyd shrugged. “It can wait.”
She brushed a finger down his spine, ever so lightly.
“Really, you should call. I don’t mind.” Sensing his reluctance, she got up and walked towards the bathroom. “I gotta pee. Call the lab.”
Lloyd looked at her as she walked away, her silky hair pulled over one shoulder. A sepia tattoo of a pair of luscious eyes adorned her lower back.
Low, flat ass.
Lloyd found it necessary to start finding faults in his lovers when it came time to start letting go. It was a form of debriefing he subjected himself to. A way to script his memories to preserve the raw physical aspects while air brushing away any lingering romantic vestige.
There was Ingrid, for example, the German flight attendant with the looks of a supermodel in all respects. Well, almost all respects. Lloyd was startled when he saw her feet poking out from the bed sheets. Enormous, masculine feet replete with sparse dark hairs standing erect on her big toes like misplaced exclamation marks. Amanda had a sharp eye-tooth that gave her otherwise angelic face a menacing aspect when she smiled. Melanie was a beautiful brunette but she had shaved her pubic hair in a way that it reminded Lloyd of Hitler’s mustache. And Rachel’s peccadillo was to ask Lloyd (after the first sex date!) if he was going to call her. When he told her he would – and he almost meant it at that moment – she expressed an unjustifiable, downright sinister skepticism. “Will you really?” she asked. What nerve! How dare she doubt him! Such brazenness could not go unpunished. He never called her again.
Lloyd turned on his phone. He scrolled down, found the programmed number for the lab and pressed, “Select”. As he listened to the ring tone, he picked up an old silver cigarette lighter from the surface of his nightstand, read the inscription etched on its face, then buried it in a drawer.
By the time Lloyd ended the call, Alison had returned and was slipping on her panties. The soft light filtering through the curtains set her aglow. There was a fluid elegance in her movements which reminded Lloyd of a geisha.
He pictured her on her wedding night, radiant, with clueless Craig looking dopey in a tuxedo with tails and an oversized clip-on bow tie. He imagined the two living in a quaint suburb, a German luxury SUV in the driveway, a golden retriever frolicking on a lush lawn, a baby carriage on the front porch.
A tide of envy surged in Lloyd like bitter bile. An unwarranted enmity materialized towards the man who would have her in a way that Lloyd would never experience. A searing pain bore into him like a pang of hunger. It swelled as if propelled by every beat of his heart. He put the phone back on the nightstand.
“Come here, Alison.”
“What happened in the lab?”
“A mouse bit a lab technician, but he’s fine.”
“Who’s fine, the mouse or the technician?”
“But you meant the mouse.”
“It’s not just any mouse. He’s maybe the smartest rodent in the world.”
“I thought that was your distinction, Lloyd”.
Lloyd put a hand over his heart and winced. “Now that really hurts.”
Alison smiled. “Go check on your mice Lloyd.”
“Where are you going?”
“Look, I had fun. A lot of fun, but I think I should be going now.”
“I have a split of Prosecco I could open,” Lloyd said.
Alison reached for her bra; a pink lace number that looked brand new. Had she purchased it just for him?
“God, no,” she said. “I should try to study a little tonight.”
“What for? You already matched in Dermatology.”
“So you can study the rest of your life.”
She walked over and turned her back to him. “Can you help me with the bra?”
“Sure.” He stood up behind her, slowly slipped the bra straps off her arms, cupped his hands over her breasts and nuzzled the nape of her neck. His lust had been fully sated but he felt an overwhelming urge to take her from Craig just one more time.
“Lloyd! You’re such a bad boy!”
“Let’s make love.” He was getting aroused again.
“You haven’t had enough?”
“Or we can just cuddle in bed,” he said feigning a perverted innocence.
“No. I don’t think I can do that.”
He pulled her closer so she could feel his erection against the small of her back. She brought her shoulders back and stood on tiptoes to raise her bottom and rub against him. They kneaded their bodies together in slow rolling waves. She placed a hand behind his head and combed his hair with her fingers.
Lloyd bent down and tried to slip her panties off. She grabbed his hands and said, “Stop! Wait… let’s take a shower. I have things I want to do to you.”