“5250, transferred from Mercy Lilywhite. She’s been there for… twelve of her fourteen days, so guess we’re looking at a 5260 if things don’t improve.”

We both looked up at the static-mad ball of rage, clenched in her seat, hardily refusing the scale. Peppered with varying states of keloids, scattered over her arms and ankles, the girl was a color wheel in her own right. What had once probably been a slight, ethereal figure, now bloated with water weight and every ounce of carbs, probably held fast with any of the eight different medications. She had that kind of look they got, like a wild beast in too small a cage. Given space to run, food, and freedom, maybe you’d see something regal, something composed. But take all these bricks of humanity away, zoom in close and you just see the crazed breathing, screaming, someone who’d been held down by you too often.

I raised an eyebrow at Chris, trying to read her tired eyes. It was past eight, and she should have been off shift an hour ago. Typical case: single mom, put herself through nursing school to keep three kids off the streets. Does she still kiss them goodnight?

“Jesus…” She bit her hand softly, right between the thumb and front-finger, and widened her eyes. I understood that look. That look said,jesus fucking christ i can’t deal with this animal right now but how do i say that PC? After so long in the day, so long in the career, most of us had our own special version of that look. Even me.

“Fuck okay, just get the paperwork for a 60 ready. Doctor won’t be in for another two days anyway and she just don’t look like she’s goin’ anywhere. I don’t want it to lapse, we’ll have the emergency Doc sign off when he makes his rounds this weekend.”

“Without her exam?”

Chris pointed to the girl who still gripped the sides of the stretcher, and kicked away the nurses’ reach. They shouted for sedatives, and I nodded. I would fill out the paperwork. Doc would sign off on it without seeing the patient’s face. Chris would get home just a half hour too late to read her kids to sleep, have a glass of wine and receive a text to cover the AM shift, starting in seven hours.

The girl would be stripped, asleep in the gray land of seroquel, and laid out in a strange bed, in a strange room, next to two strangers. She would wake up afraid, in a haze, and start the new day that way.











(I woke up, but wasn’t really awake.)