The year was 2000. It was a new year, a new millennium, and an exciting start for many people. But for me, it was an unhappy time. I robotically went about my duties, focusing on academics to try and distract myself from crushing heartache. In order to survive, I forced myself to concentrate on the things in my life that brought me joy: my friends, the gospel of Jesus Christ, my floral design class and teaching the Anatomy Laboratory at Brigham Young University, where I was a student.
I came alive in the anatomy laboratory, ironically, among the corpses. While otherwise numb and detached, when I stepped into the lab I was on fire with the joy of teaching. I love the human body: the structure, the physiology and the perfection of God’s creation. I taught two labs a week and two open study labs. Each lab had 15 students. I was in charge of teaching the material on human cadavers, human specimens and models. Another perk of getting lost in teaching was a temporary amnesia from “what’s his name” for a 2-hour stretch.
The Human Anatomy Lab, with its dead bodies and overwhelming aroma of formaldehyde, is an unlikely stage for a budding romance. During the three years that I taught, I occasionally received gifts, advances and invitations from male students. However, I was barred from dating a student by academic rule, and was ethically opposed to it. Plus, I felt maternal toward my students so it would seem mildly incestuous to date them.
I met Parke the first day of lab, winter semester of the year 2000. It was a new millennium, a new semester, and, unbeknownst to me, the beginning of my life.
Although I usually wore scrubs while in the lab, I dressed up on the first day since we don’t handle the cadavers until a couple of weeks into the semester. That morning I remember borrowing my roommate’s salmon pink collared dress shirt. I paired it with black slacks and tall black boots. I sat down in the front row while my students were filing in. Parke sat next to me.
When the bell rang I stood up and promptly started. “Welcome to Zoology 260 Lab. I’m Ashley Holmes and I’ll be your instructor….”
Later Parke told me he was stoked to land a seat next to this little hottie. But when the hottie stood up and introduced herself as the instructor, he was flabbergasted. His journal entry dated January 12, 2000 reads, “My lab instructor for Zoo 260 is fine. Looks like Elizabeth Hurley and is AWESOME!”
During that winter semester, I vaguely remember wearing scrubs, pulling my long hair back in a pony tail, grading papers and wrapping the cadavers with wet towels. But if you ask Parke, he remembers cleavage, me caressing his bicep, and me standing on the front table and shaking my booty.
OK, each of his memories needs explaining.
Cleavage: Cleavage is a very powerful weapon that needs to be used carefully. It can damage your image, but it can also be used as hook, line and sinker. I can admit to using cleavage as lure. I’m a woman and feel the need to shake what the good Lord blessed me with once in a while. However, while in the anatomy lab, I was a paragon of professionalism. No, I would have never purposely put the girls on display. It must have been accidental cleavage. And Parke, having testosterone, had no choice but to notice.
Bicep Caressing: During a lab on muscle anatomy, I was explaining hypertrophy, which simply means that when you exercise a muscle, it gets bigger. In front of the whole class I turned to Parke, put my hand on his bicep and said “Parke knows what I mean, right Parke?” I had no idea what that meant to Parke at the time, but he later told me how proud he was that I had noticed his bulging bicep.
Booty Shakin’: Part of the anatomy curriculum included teaching body movements. One week I put Beastie Boys’ “Body Movin’” on the CD player and cranked up the sound. I jumped up on the front table and stood up so the whole class could see my demonstrations from head to toe. I demonstrated joint movement such as abduction, circumduction, external rotation etc. That affected Parke profoundly. He finally had a good excused to survey my body while I put it on display. He actually pulled out a couple of dollar bills and threw them at me…OK, not really.
It’s amazing with so much cleavage, bicep touching and booty-shakin’ that he managed to pull off an A, but he did.
Near the end of the semester, I was proctoring a final exam when Parke cracked the door open and beckoned for me to come out into the hallway. Once I quietly slipped out of the room, he asked if I could go over his grade. Oh brother, another pre-med overachiever type, I thought. I laughed because Parke was the most consistent student in my lab: A’s, A’s, A’s. He never missed a question. He was always in my open study lab. I told him that I didn’t need to look at my books, I was certain that he would get an A.
There was a pause.
“Well then, would you like to go to the Ballroom Dance Concert with me tonight?”
Whoa. A longer pause.
I needed a moment to analyze the situation. My first thought was Ahhh, cute, my student is asking me out. I felt administrative and maternal toward Parke so it was interesting to step back, open my eyes and see him as a man. This man was 6 feet tall with thick dark brown hair which, for BYU standards, was long. It touched his collar and grazed over his ears. His eyes were piercing blue. Why had I never noticed those eyes before? He had large shoulders which housed thick muscles. He reminded me of a taller Tom Cruise (Mission Impossible-esque). My next thought was about the rules against dating my students. I could overlook that rule since the semester was almost over and his grade was computed. The next invading thought was Chris. I acknowledged why I hadn’t noticed this gem in my lab; I had been completely distracted by an engagement, then broken engagement, and heartbreak all in one semester. I wasn’t even close to being over Chris. The moment Parke asked me out a thousand suns started chiseling away the outer layer of ice, but my heart was still frozen. I wasn’t opposed to meeting another man. In fact, a good rebound might be just what the doctor ordered. I was just oblivious to any advances. My last thought was I already have plans. I did have plans with my two best friends from home. It wasn’t easy to get the three of us together and we had finally secured a night of scrapbooking at a local scrapbooking store. For a moment I weighed my options: spend a night with scissors and paper or spend a night with this sexy new development.
“I already have plans.”
I decided to have integrity, though I was instantly peeved at this value. The moment I said those four words, I wanted to take them back. I wanted to go with Parke and discover if there was more to him than academic achievement and inviting blue eyes. Plus, I didn’t want him to feel defeated. It must have taken a lot of courage to ask me out in the first place. I asked him what his summer plans were. He was heading home to Cheyenne, Wyoming and I was staying at BYU for a spring semester. I was discouraged. Oh well, I guess we’ll never get together. I gave him my email address and asked him to write me over the summer hoping this would offer some comfort after my rejection.