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Tipping Point




That angry lady with the bright two-toned purple hair and deep rings under her eyes

the texture of tree-bark from an improper mixture of tears and foundation

is leaving AMA.

I have not met her, but I’ve heard her anger waft across the unit

And the residue of guilt that greases the space between action and inaction,

Between my-problem and not-my-problem,

Finds a voice to whisper about not trying hard enough, not doing more, not staying later,

Not somehow forcing her to see that if she leaves she could die.

I watch impotently from around the corner.

I watch a doctor get rebuffed.

I watch two nurses lecture, and then bargain.

I try to look busy enough to have a reason to stand still

Still searching for an in, a crack to chip away her anger at all doctors, all family, all friends

And finding nothing…there! A drawing.

Whose drawings are those? I ask.

My son’s. I need to go home to him now. I’ve wasted enough time here without any help!

Is your son okay at home?

He’ll be better when I get there.

I know a lot of doctors have talked to you tonight, but…

No. No. No. I’m leaving. I’m leaving! You can’t stop me.

We talk more about her son, and

I walk away in defeat

To sit on the tipping point between caring more and caring less.

And as the hours blow past and knock me towards one side or another,

I wonder if the weight of the sleep I’ve had or lost,

Or the food I ate or forgot about

Will help me fall on the right side of empathy,

Or perhaps the left.



Against Medical Advice

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