fiction, Scribbles

Just Another Nurse

Just Another Nurse


I like being with other people, even if I’m not actually with someone. I like to watch people. In a way, it makes me feel like I’m part of their lives. It’s probably a stupid feeling, but it makes me feel important. I am desperate to feel that way sometimes. 

Yesterday Jules told me to stop dating that married doctor, but I hadn’t known he was married. It would make sense why he bothered paying for all those hotel rooms, and never took me home with him, and never stayed the night.  

He didn’t believe me when I told him that I liked sleeping in my car, curled up on my side with a blanket and the seat all the way back like someone was holding me cradled against their chest. He said he wanted me to have a place to go because he felt bad for me sleeping in my car. Once booking my hotel, he always offered to stay with me. Just for a little while. All the signs were obvious, but the aching in my leaden bones was able to drown out all the whispers in my head.  

Brenda said I should keep dating him and tell him to pay off my student loans. 

I tried to call my mom. Twice. Her and my dad are traveling up north in their motorhome after losing their house in the protests. She says they don’t have service very often. It makes sense, and I know she’ll call me back sometime this week.  

I’ve never much liked working twelve-hour shifts. I like it even less now that I have to spend my time bathing people, mopping up accidents, and arguing with addicts about their pain med schedule. I’m just thankful they hired Cathy as my CNA. Without her, I could never survive having twelve patients. That’s double our limit, but the union disbanded. There’s no one checking to make sure they give us masks daily, or to make sure we’re not short-staffed.  

Jules is too scared to explain she has shingles because of what happened to Sarah. Sarah was pregnant and refused to work with patients who had the virus, so they let her go. It was in the name of protecting her health, and they even wrote up a report saying the hospital didn’t need her despite the incoming hordes of patients. 

I close my eyes, and the music washes over me. I don’t know what song this is, and I don’t care. Megan, Jules, and Brenda brought me here. They want to buy me drinks, but I don’t drink. They want me to dance, but I don’t dance. I just want to sit amidst the movement, and watch people, and live out a tiny piece of their lives as the lights flash, and pictures are taken, and videos are made.  

My friends are okay with that because I’m their safe ride home.  

I scroll through my phone, so the man three seats down who keeps glancing at me will think I’m busy and won’t try to talk to me.  

A text comes through from my sister. I had tried to call her five minutes earlier when I was sure the man would slide into the stool next to mine. Instead of returning my call, she texted, Why did you call? I stare at the words lit up on my screen until the notification disappears.  

Yesterday morning I asked the doctor if he was married, and he acted a bit strange. Said he was in the middle of a divorce.  

I went to the bathroom and vomited, then I blocked his number.  

Lunch today had a little buffet because Stanley brought sandwiches, Brenda brought cheese and crackers, Jules brought potato salad, and I brought baked beans. All store bought. We sat spaced out across the nurse’s station. It’s outlawed, especially thanks to the virus, but management wasn’t around.  

We piled the food on paper plates and ate in silence for the first ten minutes before Jeremy told a story of how the old man thought he could bandage one of the patients himself. He used a handful of cotton balls with not even enough wrap to go around the patient’s stomach. Jeremy said it looked like a murder scene with blood squirting out every time the patient moved. We all laughed and shared stories of having the old man‘s patients and how he was so nice but really needed to retire because his practices were as outdated as the days of Regan’s presidency. Megan showed up late with cupcakes for dessert.  

The musician sounds like he has a trace of an accent. I examine his shadowed appearance and try to decide where he’s from and how old he must be.   

Megan is attempting to dance with a dark-haired man. I overhear her giggling over how she hates orthopedics, or orthos as we call them, because they don’t know about anything other than cutting open a knee and tying some ligaments back together. She’s probably had too much to drink because she only talks about work, and a lot of times, it’s enough to make even the most desperate guys squeamish.   

After I blocked the doctor, he showed up that night, tapping on my passenger window. I should’ve parked somewhere else, and I knew that before I pulled in to the parking spot. He said that even if I hated him, he still felt too bad to let me sleep in my car because I am very special to him. In his hand was a bag with sub sandwiches. Dinner. He rode with me to the hotel, and I knew where it was going before he invited himself inside to use the bathroom. Curled up against the cold leather of my suburban doesn’t compare to someone who can hold you close and whisper lies that you are desperate to hear.   

Part of me felt sick, but I brushed it off as having donated plasma that morning. That $50 goes a long way for groceries. 

I will probably stay at Jules’s house tonight. It is the quietest since her divorce, and she has that spare room from where her kids are grown and gone. They all take turns dragging me over to their houses, but I really don’t think the parking garage is that dangerous. I park next to the wall and out of the light where no one can see me huddled under my blanket.  

My old landlady’s name was Jessie. I had just finished working four days in a row, and was a bit delirious when she tried to talk to me about raised rent prices. Sometimes, there’s a buzzing in my brain that dulls everything I hear and mixes up everything I try to say. It’s the same buzz I hear when patients or their families scream at me, and I can’t explain that I have eleven other patients, the doctors won’t answer the phone, and my CNA is hiding in the bathroom with a migraine. So, I just smile, and nod, and process their words as best I can. I do the same with Jessie and never burden her with the knowledge that the new prices mean choosing between my apartment and making my student loan payments.  

Most of my things went in storage. I only need two more months before I can request lower monthly payments. If they don’t raise taxes, I can afford to move back. In the meantime, the hospital has showers, a relatively safe parking garage, several friends with spare couches, and an adulterous doctor.  

The head ortho at our hospital is named Wilkins. Today I shadowed him to take orders. He was training a new doctor who actually had the guts to interrupt him mid-sentence, asking if he should help me first. There was probably a lot that I needed to do. The nurses seemed short-staffed. I probably needed to check on a patient or something. Anything other than follow them around. 

Wilkins laughed. He explained to the new doctor that this was my job. You see, nurses are like dornicks, little rocks used to prop doors open that you never notice or appreciate until there isn’t one around. That’s why he always likes to keep nurses around. 

The new doctor stared at him, stunned. Wilkins glanced at me, as if waiting for me to agree, then explained how when one nurse isn’t around, another can jump in and take over. Like little worker ants that just keep going, and going, and always find a way. So, I didn’t have anywhere that I absolutely had to be. 

I said nothing and walked away.  

The guitar solo washes over the crowd, and everyone sways in the same direction. Brenda grabs my arm and pulls me up, just as the man several seats down stands. He stares after us. We go to the mostly empty floor, and I empty my mind to join her in this awkward, embarrassing dance that makes us both laugh until tears blur my vision. Jules and Megan join us. I have to work tomorrow, but tonight, I don’t have to be a dornick, or a worker ant, or a mistress. I’m not even desperate to feel important.


Photo by Mick Haupt 
Story inspired by my sister, an RN, and her coworkers and friends.

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Scribbles

Eyes Closed

Eyes Closed


The sky is so blue. She closes her eyes and imagines that she’s falling. Falling. Falling, from very far away. Clouds surround her, and she starts to sing. The ground looks like her great aunt’s quilt. The air is so pleasant up here. 

A noise disturbs the silence. She opens her eyes to see a helicopter approaching from one side. It looks like a slowly approaching dot, but she knows what that almost see-through line on top of the dot represents. Spinning blades that will tear her apart. Her heart starts pounding, but she calms it. 

Surely they will see me. 

She’s falling so fast, but the helicopter is following. Struggling to keep up, yet still following. Pointed right at her in a slanted nose dive. Soon she will outfall it, and it will pass her up and be unable to catch her. 

Sure enough, the helicopter passes slightly overhead. She feels like laughing. 

But wait! Someone’s jumped out!  

It’s one of those smaller carrier helicopters that don’t have doors on the sides. She would have noticed if the door had opened. 

Now, the person is free-falling beside her, all adorned in white except for the black visor on the helmet. They have a parachute backpack on. They don’t have wings like her. 

She smiles, knowing she could outstretch her wings at any moment and let the person fall right past her. Strange how they manage to stay beside her, but slowly, slowly, they creep past her, falling just slightly faster because she hardly weighs anything. The helicopter circles around and is struggling to catch them again. The ground no longer looks so much like a quilt. 

The person outstretches their hand. 

“We’re here to help!” comes the muffled sound of a woman’s voice. 

“I’m fine!” she calls out and smiles, but the mystery woman continues reaching, moving as close as she can. 

It’s rare for someone to approach her in the sky. It’s hard to notice a falling speck. 

This person is running out of time to release her parachute. 

“Take my hand!” says the muffled voice. 

The mystery woman grabs her arm. She twists it back, but the woman’s got her. Her heart jumps to her throat. What is happening! Who is this! 

A sky fight. She hasn’t had one of these in a while. And never against a wingless person. 

Mystery woman grabs both her arms, and they spin. Spinning. Faster and faster. Her hair gets in the way, and all she can see is orangey-red that whips against her cheeks and eyes, forcing them closed. 

The woman has to deploy her parachute soon, and the jolt will allow her to escape. Yes! No need to panic. 

The wind is spinning in her ears too fast. She can’t hear the helicopter.  

“Margot…” She hears. The woman knows her name. Why isn’t the parachute deploying? What is that?  “Margot!” The woman’s got some kind of weapon. This evens the fight, but they’re too close to the ground. If she lets go to get away, the woman will probably fall to the ground and– 

“Margot! Supper is ready, c’mon!” 

She opens her eyes to the blue sky. It takes a minute for her eyes to adjust, then she rolls over and tumbles to her feet. She’ll have to finish the sky fight later. 


Photo by Johnny McClung 

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Dreamer

Dreamer


My brother bought me a necklace for $75, and it’s probably the tackiest thing I’ve ever seen. A plain golden chain with tiny cursive letters spelling out the word dreamer. I actually laughed out loud when he gave it to me, and fortunately, he thought it was because I loved it. 

I wear it all the time, just because it is so expensive, and tacky, and not even remotely worth the price. It suits me, I think. I find it so basic that I actually like it. Maybe my brother knows me better than I thought. 

Yesterday, I saw the most beautiful person I’ve ever seen in my life. It was on the subway, and I had to look twice. I don’t think I would have found him beautiful had I not been in a certain mood, but yesterday was one of those days where the world is beautiful, and anything’s possible.  

I glanced at him, then my heart started pounding, forcing me to look back. He had dark hair, a smooth face, wearing a jean jacket and straight legged pants rolled up a couple of times to reveal about half an inch of his socks. He had headphones on, and he stared out the windows at the blackened tunnels with a look of wonder. 

A basic, beautiful boy. Perfect for me. 

And so, I decided that I was in love. 

I’m nineteen, so it’s about time that I have my first love. 

I’m normally a very timid person – sits in the middle of the classroom to avoid attention, never speaks first, breaks eye contact first – type of person.  

But, I’ve always wanted a first love, and yesterday was one of those days. It took some convincing, but I took out my phone and, very obviously, took a picture of this beautiful boy. He saw me, just like I knew that he would.  

I instinctively grabbed my dreamer necklace when I felt my face burning. I forced myself to look at him and smile. He looked freaked out, just like I would be if someone had randomly snapped a pic of me. 

Bad idea, bad idea, bad idea, my mind kept informing me, but I shrugged it off and told it, Oh well.  

It was too late. 

The middle-aged business woman sitting across from me snorted, having seen it all go down, but quickly covered her mouth.  

I know, business woman, I know.  

There are two types of awkward – the kind that makes everyone laugh and blush and naturally love. And then there is the kind that makes everyone uncomfortable to where they don’t know if they should laugh or cry, so they just look away. Unfortunately, I’m the second kind. 

My dream boy did not shuffle over and speak to me. Instead, he spent the rest of the time staring uncomfortably out the subway’s darkened windows, refusing to look in my direction. 

I laughed softly. I hate myself. 

No I don’t. 

I actually love everything about myself. I just wish everyone else did too. 

That’s the story of my first love. 

I think I will download the picture of this boy, print it off, and stick it in a notebook somewhere with the date just so I can look back at it one day and laugh. 

Today is a beautiful day. Just as beautiful as yesterday, but there isn’t as brave a feeling coursing through my veins.  

I’m sitting in my room listening to the most beautiful, empowering remixes of love songs. Most people would probably find them stupid, just as my brother does, but I like them. The sun is shining through my white translucent curtains, and I swear, I want to travel. I want to go running; make a difference; love someone; read a book; rule the world. But I won’t. I’ll sit right here in my room dreaming of doing all of those things until chills travel up my arms because, for me, the idea of something is so much more attainable than the actual thing. 

Is anyone else like that? 

I smile and roll over onto my back and instinctively grip my dreamer necklace. 


Photo by Jordan Whitfield 

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Scribbles

Aberration

Aberration


Why the ice? Why the tundra? Why the middle of nowhere you ask? Because it’s barren. Because I don’t want to look for Beauty in an obvious place. 

Josh clutches the ad between his forefinger and thumb. Why did he agree to do this?  

Wanted: 10 – 12 individuals who want adventure and are willing to risk their lives to get it. (I’m just kidding. Austria is fairly safe.) 

Why couldn’t he be a normal kid who got a basic-paying job in the short transition space between high school and college? He didn’t even want to go to college. His older brother Stephen just got promoted to CEO of JanGlass, and he agreed to fund a trip for Josh. Not college. But a trip. Because Stephen wasn’t going to pay for Josh to go party and mess around and eventually drop out because Josh never wanted to be there in the first place and so he wouldn’t care about his classes, and he would end up working at some ho hum job in a JanGlass warehouse after wasting several years of his own life along with thousands of dollars’ worth of Stephen’s hard-earned money. 

I’m a photographer, and I‘ve made journeys like this before. But I’m not as young as I used to be. Plus, I love the company, so long as your hard-working, respectful, and a bit on the curious side. Otherwise, you won’t like this job, and I won’t like you. 

There was a typo in the ad. A freaking typo. Oh well. This guy was supposed to be a professional photographer, not an English major. 

This job doesn’t pay so much in money, but it does pay in adventure, experience, and the chance of a lifetime. 

Stephen made a face when Josh first showed him the ad, and then he started laughing. He asked if Josh was serious, and Josh didn’t know what to say because, frankly, Josh didn’t know. He still doesn’t know. He’s made half-hearted decisions his entire life because they were the decisions he was supposed to make. Play this sport. Ask out this type of person. Go to this or that university, so long as you go to university.  

Stephen stopped laughing and said he was proud of how mature Josh was becoming – going someplace new as more than just a tourist and going with the intention of discovering what he wanted to do with his life, being a leader and not a follower.  

Josh still didn’t know what to say because he hadn’t even thought of that. He just couldn’t think of a place to go, and time was running out when he found this ad. 

Places we’ll be going: Across a few of the Alps (mostly in High Tauern) and anywhere else we need to go, depending on what we encounter or have yet to encounter.  

How long we’ll be gone: Around a month and a half. I’ll try not to make the trip any longer.  

Type of person: You need to be strong enough to carry your own weight on this trip, that includes carrying your own equipment like food, clothing, and camping supplies. You may need to carry a few other things as well, and be prepared to walk for several miles in a day’s given time, rain or snow, up or downhill. 

Josh wasn’t sure he was strong enough to do this, and he wanted Stephen to talk him out of it. Instead, Stephen made him come to the gym with him for the three weeks leading up to the trip, talking to Josh everyday about the story of a famous man who went to Antartica and wrote a similar ad to convince men to come with him, and how Tolkien used that story as part of the inspiration for The Hobbit.  

This Daniel Jackson reminded Stephen of the photographer from the Walter Mitty movie, and the more Stephen thought about it, the more Stephen liked the idea of sending Josh to Austria to find himself. 

Disclaimer: It’s very unlikely that you will die (unless you do something incredibly stupid), but I’m writing here to let you know that any who answer this ad do so at their own risk. I will interview all who respond and decide for myself whether or not you would be a good fit for this team. 

The interview is in Grossglockner, exactly where Josh in now, and he’s not going to purposely throw it despite how his stomach is churning and curling away from the rest of his insides. He will try his best because his brother paid for him to come all the way out here. And maybe he’ll get to join the adventure team with world class photographer Daniel Jackson. And maybe he’ll figure what he should do for the rest of his life, or at least develop enough of a spine to say no to whatever he doesn’t want to do. 


Photo by Jakob Owens

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