It’s after 7 already which means she’s late… She’s set up to relieve a now disgruntled colleague that may have been working all night, which means she’s getting some shitty half-assed report. All of this also means she’s at a disadvantage from the gate and that she might as well stop for coffee. Piping hot overpriced java will take the edge off. She stops at the cute cafe around the corner from the hospital.
The barista is sickeningly chipper.
“How ya doin’ girl? The usual?”
“Not bad, no complaints, I’ll actually do a cortadito.”
This smaller version of her usual might be the smartest bet. Who knows when she’ll get to pee.
“Ok, hun. Amen, no complaints here either. Any day above ground is a good one.”
Jane knew this is something that people who don’t know any better say….The Outsiders. She knew of plenty of people way above ground, ICU’s, Operating rooms, maybe 9 floors above ground, on ventilators in soiled hospital linens, existing, waiting for the tide to turn.
Jane awkwardly chuckled, nodded in false agreement, and grabbed her coffee. The cup was finished before she’d shuffled through the now crowded cafe.
She bursts through the main entrance of the hospital, flashes her badge to security. The guard is preoccupied on his phone. It’s half past 7 and she’s now obnoxiously late. She riffles through her open tote bag. Where the fuck is her badge? She just had it three seconds ago. She swipes in. The sound of the time clock does something. It’s a switch, a prompt to throw on the suit of armor and step into character.
She’s been a nurse for a few years now. When people ask what she does she never knows how to answer. As you grow old you become defined by your profession. She never got used to that.
“What do you do?”
“I’m a nurse.”
“That’s awesome, I’d bet you see a lot.”
She’d had this conversation countless times and had now refined her diversion into the next subject to perfection. She’s proud to be a scrub-donning warrior, but when she clocks out….she’s done. A wonderer by nature each day is a strange voyage between ponderings and reeling back to reality, stepping in and out of the role and trying to remember to eat at least once a day amidst the chaos.
She looks at her assignment in a hidden office, away from the rest of the other staff. The peripheral chatter and complaints make her anxious. She finds a way to center herself, the pre-shift ritual. This is how the day begins.