A Saviour of Sorts
Anthony Taylor was tired.
More specifically Anthony Taylor was exhausted by the cesspool of mediocracy that was his life. He was tired of everything he was and even tired of everything he knew he would eventually become. Upon falling into such fits of depression he would find himself spending hours, neatly unpicking everything that was wrong with his existence. It eventually always came down to all the never ending expectations he had failed to meet that were so much greater than anything he could possibly achieve. It was a vicious cycle built on failed hopes and dreams that he tortured himself with each and every waking day. What really killed him was the way life seemed to keep enticing him to carry on with morsels of success that never seemed to amount to anything in the end.
He was born Anthony Davis Taylor to Mavis and Jameson Taylor in Niceville, Florida. It was a town that took after its name, for the most part anyway. As an African American man in an African American family he had always walked around their sleepy town knowing that he was different. It was in the subtleties that the ignorance and judgment of others seemed to lie hidden, almost as if they were waiting for the him to slip up so that they could feel justified for possessing such prejudices in the first place. However, on the outside most people were warm and friendly which he supposed was good enough. The town was full of those who considered themselves to be godly people and blatant racism wouldn’t have fit into the righteous images they had formed of themselves. Besides it wasn’t as if his family consisted of beggars living off the hard work of others, the Taylors considered themselves well off and rightly so.
It was something that had been instilled in Anthony from a young age. An idea that those who were successful became so as a result of their hard work. God didn’t reward anyone unjustly his mother would always say. He thought back to the rare occasions in his childhood when his father, a Neurosurgeon at the local hospital had taken days off so they could travel to the beach together.
“Listen son, everything we have is because of everything we are. To be a Taylor is to be tireless, motivated and a cut above the rest. All I ask of you is that you make something of yourself. To be average is not acceptable, nor is it acceptable to be lazy or complacent. We are not weak and we do not fail but instead thrive and succeed. You are my only child and my sole legacy. Your mother and I have invested everything we have into you and it is not unreasonable to expect you to make the most of it. All I ask of you is that you change the world in ways that your ancestors could not. Never see the dark brown skin that covers your body as a barrier but as an inheritance. It a chance to live every single day reminding even the most racist of people what living, breathing black excellence looks like.” Jameson Taylor had stated as they had watched the clear blue waves crash into the shore line.
“Yes Father” Even at 10 years old Anthony had felt the weight of the words his father had purposefully placed on his shoulders. Jameson made a point to make his son aware of the blood, sweat and tears that financed the very foundation of their blessed lifestyle. However the reminder was neither appreciated or necessary, the endless hospital charity events were more than enough to remind the younger Taylor of not just the kind of circles his father had forced his way into but the pure intellect that had allowed him to so.
Growing up in the shadow of prophesied greatness had initially not been such a hard task. As a young kid his drive had been more than enough to set him apart from the rest of his peers. Whether it was building the most majestic sandcastle or drawing the most detailed family portrait, he excelled. The next stages of education were no problem either, his hard work and proficiency propelled him to even greater heights. By the time High School came around it was clear that Anthony Taylor could have been anything that he wanted and his future had been one filled with endless possibilities. However if you had talked to any of his peers they would have all had trouble recalling a single personal detail about him. His isolation though self-administered was not entirely intentional. His drive meant he created opportunities for himself that those around him hadn’t even considered. Always looking to elevate himself when he was a part of the Chess Club, a Leader of the Science Club and a rather proficient tennis player. It left very little room for friends, not that the teenage Anthony Taylor had ever felt like his was missing out. His peers were rather childish and juvenile in their ambitions, easily entertained by stupid whims and urges. He on the other hand had decided that on his father’s instructions would change the world. Which required him to lay down the foundations necessary to do so as soon as possible. He did any and everything to improve himself.
He was naturally steered towards the Sciences and Mathematics and excelled to the point that his AP teachers in these subjects found themselves both lost for words and resources, that they could give him to keep him occupied and entertained. To this day he probably couldn’t tell you what he liked about the subjects so much. Perhaps it was the clear and definitive answers they often provided in order to explain the wonders of the world or the clear affirmation the logical answers gave him when he was right, which was often. Maybe it was just simply in his blood with his father being the world-renowned brain surgeon and his mother the brilliant nurse. Whatever the reason, the next logical step was for Anthony to go down the route of studying medicine. His SAT scores were the envy of parents and students alike. Make no mistake hours of preparation and practice had gone into such perfect execution but it would have been safe to say that the same outcome could have been produced with less half the effort. That’s just how brilliant a young Anthony Taylor had felt he was at the time and those around him could not have disagreed.
Everything he set his mind to he achieved and then some.
His pre-med years at Cornell were also doddle just as expected, simply providing him with further confirmation that he was as gifted intellectually as he was practically in both the theorisation and the execution of scientific experiments. By the time the MCATs came around he and everyone he knew expected him to ace them and ace them he did not. The mark he obtained could only be described as a complete and utter train-wreck. It single handily decimated his chances of attending even the worst medical schools in the country. His chances were so well and truly dead he was sure that not even his father could bring them back to life.
It was highly unexpected and at the time had felt like the whole world was conspiring against him with the sole mission of crushing him to dust. The way his parents had acted hadn’t been all that helpful either. The look of disappointment was one foreign to both their faces when it came to their only son but they both managed to wear it well. They wanted him to know how his failure embarrassed and upset them. At first it hadn’t been too bad when there was still hope for him to retake them but yet again he failed miserably. It seemed he and aptitude tests were the worst of enemies destined to neither be properly acquainted or understood by one another. A salty worn-out tear trickled down his face as he remembered the day he received his second chance MCAT results. His mother had just stared at him blankly and his father had looked away in disgust.
“It is okay I blame myself. No, you know what the blame should be placed on both your father and I” Mavis Taylor had said her brown eyes darkening with pain.
He remembered how he had looked up at her with hopeful eyes. Ready to hear the words “Son I am sorry we have always pushed you so hard even though you have always given nothing but your best. You can’t do any better than your best and I am sorry we acted like this was your fault. These things just happen sometimes we can’t always achieve everything that we desire. Failure is a natural part of life and your best will always be good enough to us”. His father was a proud man and he didn’t expect him to verbally apologise but in his minds eye he could see him agreeing with his mother in comforting silence.
However this fantasy was quickly and viciously ripped to shreds and the hope that hard burned so brightly in his dark brown eyes quickly diminished, snuffed out by the suffocating smog of humiliation as she continued to speak.
“It is our fault for believing you to be so much smarter than you are. It seems you are one of those people who works hard but is not naturally intelligent. I suppose we expected you would be due to the feats your father and I have accomplished but nonetheless it seems all you inherited was our work ethic. Come to think of it I am not even sure if that is true, any bumbling idiot off the street could have obtained a higher score than you. Perhaps you didn’t try at all and you just wanted to embarrass us for the fun of it. If that was your aim then congratulations you out did yourself.” His mother had spat out with such hatred that he had wondered how she could possibly be the same woman that had given birth to him.
Perhaps he had been stupid to assume that their love for him would extend far past his academic achievements but come to think of it he had never disappointed them before in his life. It was in that moment that he realised why he was an only child. His parents never wanted a child in the first place, they had wanted a trophy that they could use to shine an even more favourable light on themselves. A son who was brilliant and athletic, who could make all the other doctors, nurses and relatives jealous. One who was perfectly moulded in their plastic self-righteous image. They didn’t care about his feelings at all, they had just pretended to on the rare occasions when they were home so that they could get even better results from him. He was their status symbol and that was why he had been granted the little attention he had been given as a child. In order to make sure he remained pure and unmarred, so that when others shined their light of scrutiny on him he glowed perfectly for all to see.
“It seems you have peaked and I suggest you decided what your next plan of action is because I am for one am tired of looking at your face and upon the failure that lies within it” his father had sighed as he shuffled past his mother. It seemed he was no longer interested in him, like a child discarding a broken toy he called the hospital and made some appointments for later that day to keep him busy, there was obviously no reason for him to stay at home any longer.
They say that only a parent can break their child’s spirit and once they do not even a parent can put it back together again. As both his mother and father left the room Anthony Taylor fell to his knees knowing the saying couldn’t have been closer to the truth. A loneliness shrouded his heart but a newfound determination smouldered in his ashes of the torment in his soul, forged in his belief that he would work to prove them both wrong and he wouldn’t return to his childhood home until he did.
Unfortunately he never did.
Which suited his parents just fine, as far as they were concerned their real son would never have disappointed them in such a manner. However that didn’t mean that they wouldn’t request his appearance at certain functions and events when they wanted to play happy families and keep up appearances. As he completed both his Masters and PhD qualifications in Haematology he retook his MCATs every year religiously even going as far as too get a tutor. Time and time again he was royally disappointed but one good thing was born of all his misery. Alyssa Roman, his tutor was a Cornell Medical student who had aced her MCATs on the first go. She was endlessly patient but as tough as nails. He hadn’t really caught onto the fact he was falling in love with her until after his final try at the MCATs. He had breathed out a shaky sigh when he saw the substandard test scores and even though he had been expecting it, the pain was just as fresh as the first time he had tried and failed.
“That’s enough. I mean it you might not see it but you are absolutely brilliant and the world is going to need every bit of that brilliance to save it. You won’t find the cure to cancer stuck ordering tests to confirm what you already know is wrong with someone. You are better than spending your whole career learning how to do the same thing extremely well. Your drive and understanding is unrivalled and you are not defined by a single test, especially not this one. I refuse to let you waste any more of your time thinking about it.” The steel in Alyssa’s voice had been enough to convince him that she was right but it was the kindness in her chocolate eyes that showed she really meant it. He knew her words were fuelled only by good intentions. He felt his battle-hardened ice cold heart start to melt and once it did there was solidifying it again.
Soon after that they started to build a life together in Midtown, New York as the both started work at the New York- Presbyterian/Columbia University Medical Centre. Alyssa as a resident and Anthony as a Healthcare scientist. It was a time in his life when Anthony Taylor believed his was truly content, and the couple welcomed the arrival of their first child Wyatt a few years later. He wanted his son to grow up in an environment where he was free to be whoever and whatever he wanted to be. However he was never able to shake the disappointment his parents had shown in him and that affected his parenting more than he ever realised. There was a pain behind his eyes, it was subdued but it was always there. The doctors all around him reminded him of what he could have been and the weight of it brought him down all the time. Even though he loved his work he felt like there was more out there for him and that he could be more.
However a few days after his son’s 10th birthday everything changed. It only took one look at one blood sample for him to realise that his life might have some deeper meaning after all.