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Finding Time




A new patient lives in Room 5

Alone, uneasy

Sitting in silence on sterile sheets

He doesn’t know if he trusts me yet

It’s okay – in this ward, they always come around

He seems shaken by the hospital sounds

This too will change, in time


Time, that tricky, slippery companion

Is running out for my new patient

“Do patients like me survive?” He asks

Brave-faced but weary

I want to say yes, that time is on his side

But we both know it’s not


Last week, Room 5 had another occupant

Her name was Cheryl

We did everything we could for Cheryl

But in this ward, everything is often not enough


For the three months Cheryl was here

A beacon of sunshine spilled out of Room 5

She sang every morning

Conducting her imagined orchestra with ancient hands

She’d say the most comical things


There were Cheryl stories each night

After work around the dinner table

“Mommy, when can we meet the funny lady?”

I told them I didn’t think it was such a good idea


By the end, there was only a shell of Cheryl

And then she passed, with family crowded around her

Family, and me

And then, it was quiet

They left together to grieve; I had to tend to my other patients

I stayed alone in Room 5 for a minute, gazing at the empty bed

Cheryl’s nurse dropped in with a pat on the back

“There will be other Cheryls.”


That day, and the next,

I found myself crying in the only minutes I had to myself

Scattered throughout the day,

Within the cold confines of khaki-colored bathroom stalls

Just a few tears, wiped away before seeing the next patient


In the car on the way home, I was forced to face myself

I had never noticed just how grey the upholstery was

I dug through the pile of CDs and popped in the only one I wanted to hear:

Cheryl’s favorite song, on repeat the whole way home

On the first repetition, I cried

On the second, I sang


The new patient in Room 5 has no family

I’ll befriend him – I always do

Hurts too much to see them go it alone

By the end, he’ll be another Cheryl

More tears, surrounded by khaki walls

The same song on the car radio

Driving that same road to nowhere

Watching the cars pass

Watching the lives pass

Fighting the fight against death’s indifference

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