Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

The Nurse

Today, I thought I’d share a piece from a contest I’d entered a few years back.  The sentence given to start the story was: “The nurse left work at five o’lock…”


The nurse left work at five o’clock.  Her shift would not be over for another seven hours, but she’d left the building, not knowing when, or if, she’d ever return.  Closing her eyes she pictured the floor of her ward, the floor she’d walked up and down and back and forth for the last decade.  In her minds’ eye she could see every dent where she’d kicked the wall in frustration and the small scratches in the thick vinyl wall covering, nearly invisible places where her angry nails had left their mark – a sick Hansel & Gretel trail leading from rooms 301 to 375 and back again, in case she ever lost her way.

Standing outside her car with her keys in her hand, she hesitated before unlocking the door.  She had no idea where to go once she slid behind the wheel of the ’67 Mustang, but she didn’t really care as long as it was far away from the fog that surrounded her, the thick cloud of pain and despair that had followed her through the hospital hall, down the stairs and out the door tonight from room 304.

Leaning down she began to slowly and gently bang her head against the silver frost finish of the old car.  The thumping grew momentarily louder and it took a moment before she realized it was coming from behind her, the result of someone else’s footsteps.  She stood and turned to see the father of the patient she’d left behind.

Before either of them had a chance to speak, the man smiled and threw his arms around her in a hug that was strangely both welcome and repulsive, though she tried not to stiffen or go limp, letting her body give way to either emotion.

When the man had finished, he pulled back from her and shook his head.  The nurse waited, for the inevitable outpouring, the white-hot anger of grief that would burn away the warmth of the previous hug, leaving her once again cold and alone.  Because that was often how these things ended.

How many times would she have to shoulder the pain and suffering of the loved ones that her patients left behind?  The older nurses had warned her, calling the third floor the Despair Craft Carrier and that their jobs were just to transport their patients to the next realm or intervene to try and delay their trip until a later date, usually after the most important loved ones had shown up.  Either way, the job was difficult and often turned out to be more than most nurses could bear, which is why so many old-timers ran the floor, once the the tender-footed/hearted neophytes put in their early transfers to some other area of the hospital.

But this time, there was something different in the demeanor of the family member standing before her.  The man’s body language did not indicate resentment, nor did his eyes beg for answers.  For a moment, the nurse thought that cold and fatigue had numbed her ability to feel or see clearly, but this man had obviously come to communicate something besides pain and grief, though she knew he had to be filled with both.  There could be no denying he suffered from exhaustion and sorrow, as his eyes were swollen and red from the loss of his oldest son, but there was also an unusual tenderness as he smiled weakly at the nurse.

The nurse hung her head, unable to look up at the man and embarrassed at her loss of words in his time of unspeakable sorrow.  She was nervous, but also relieved to hear him speak first.

“Thank you for everything you did for my son and for my family.  Not just for what you did, but what you give of yourself – day after day, hour after hour.  I just wanted you to know how grateful we all are that you were there with us.”  He put his hand up, as though he were giving her permission not to speak and backed away.

Breathing deeply, the nurse locked her car and began walking, too — in the opposite direction, back through the doors to work, at five fifteen.

2 thoughts on “The Nurse

  • Cynthia Molenda says:

    Well-said but better yet was the description of feelings unspoken leaving their marks. Quite touching & true.
    I would love to send this to my niece who just underwent her ‘Pinning Ceremony’ in Nursing last Friday. How might I be able to do this? Thank you!
    Cynthia Molenda

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