7/12/09

The Waiting Room (Excerpt)

The things they wore, they faces they carried: these things varied greatly by experience and injury. Sara Fernandez wore her Hannah Montana shirt and blue denim shorts. Her face was tear-stained as she held her clearly broken arm against Miley Cyrus’ face, the fabric wet and crumpled.

Bob was in his work clothes; construction pants from Carhart were ripped to reveal the huge gaping hole in his leg, steadily pouring red. A TV blared but he did not look up. His name was called first, rushed into the ER as his skin paled and his balance wobbled.

Annie knew where she was going (17th floor, general medicine), so she had the necessities. Her big bag, complete with computer and cell phone charger and change of underwear. Books, DVDS, insulin packs. A notebook detailed her latest symptoms; she hadn’t eaten since Tuesday and she could hardly speak. Her words on the page spoke for her, though she knew they’d ask again and again. Her palms were engraved with nail marks; she had screamed silently for days.

Cameron sat at the edge of the waiting room; there was nothing to notice but the look on his face. His eyes squinted together and he was literally doubled over; all you could see was his face and his knees, becoming one.. There was a magazine he did not read. All he really had, all you really need to know was the rupturing appendix and the way his mix of his tears and spit synchronized their descent to the hard linoleum floor.

A shirt soaked with vomit, that’s what Jamie wore. Too many times he had said yes, yes, I’ll have another and now his BAL flew off the charts. Annie and Bob and Cameron and Sara stared, slack-jawed, wide-eyed. Right before he was thrown into triage, he left a reminder of his youth on the floor.

But Brian James, with his haggard clothing and weary face, knew what he was carrying. There was no pain to distract him.  He looked around the ER and memorized the faces. He wrote them down in a reporter’s notebook; long forgotten for another job, another place. He gripped his hand, checked for his shirt pocket for cigarettes and walked outside.

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