Friday, August 05, 2005

THE DALLOP INFIRMARY

It was half past nine and they were all three gathered under the concrete covering that stretched over the driveway so the ambulances would stay dry when they pulled up on rainy nights just like this one. The architecture was atrocious—the concrete awning was held up by a flimsy metal pole at the end that had once been painted beige and that disappeared into a bed of very poorly kept juniper shrubs.

The only thing that you could really hear was the whir of the hospital’s industrial sized air conditioner and the cars out on the street as they drove through the deep puddles. It was dark and the streetlights and neon signs reflected orange and pink in the shiny puddles.

Only Bosco had a lighter so they all three took turns using it. Mercifully, it was just a regular bic, probably grass green, rather than one of those sturdy metal ones with a naked lady playing card affixed to the side of it. They were also all three smoking American Spirits out of a yellow box, pinching the gray eagle emblazoned near the filter between their middle and index fingers like tall, skinny ladies at a cocktail party. There was something regal in this, something dignified, even though they were only three flappy-soled medical students, meager amounts of chest hair peeking over the tops of their v-neck scrubs. Although none of them realized it, they were exhaling right into one another’s faces.

Our trio of emphysema angels the nurse on night duty behind the desk would always call them, but they all three knew that she didn’t have much of a personal life and that a cross section of her fifty-five year old leg would be no different than that of a lamb shank, so they didn’t say anything to correct her or challenge the statement. Instead, they would try to sneak past her to take their smoking break, one rather rudely even going far enough as to duck under her desk so she couldn’t see him but only hear the squeaks of his sneakers as he went by. That was enough to make her think she was going crazy, as if staring at all those charts or into the vacant eyes of the patients wasn’t bad enough.

When the nurse on night duty took her break she usually went to the room with the two vending machines forever glowing out onto an ugly burlap couch. She would drink a lemonade and flip through a fashion magazine full of clothes virtually nobody would ever wear. While she was down there, the three would often take the chairs from behind the desk and race them down the halls, pushing them and then jumping on, their flimsy office chair wheels carrying them short distances, only enough for them to remember what childhood was like, but not enough to actually recreate it.

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