It’s been a week, still roads were littered with deserted cars smashed into shops and posts. A few shops were left open for all week with their goods unguarded. Those who remained salvaged the wrecked. The police were desperately trying to ensure that properties are returned to the respective owners (if they existed) or to their kin.
Linda took the long walk to work just like everybody else. As Linda walked past the electronics shop, the news flashed that public transports will return to normal condition in two days. The usual anchor was not at the 8’o clock news, the new one was asking people to report to the nearest government booths with the necessary ids to register their existence. By the time she reached the hospital, her legs were screaming in pain. She realized she had forgotten to wear her compression stockings. Just the thought of jumping between wards, attending a sea of patients standing hours long without the stockings would have panicked her, if it were a week ago. But now the hospital is not filled with that usual cacophony. Empty beds, sparse corridors , everything is almost barren, even the strenuous outpatient ward is sullen.
Perambulating across the ward in her divine linen and the pointy cap starched to crisp, she used to administer the hourly insulin to a patient, ease the compound fractured leg of a child on the Thomas splint, assist the recently glaucoma operated elderly woman to the bathroom. Each day was nothing like the previous day. It got harder and harder. Part of her job is seeing people heal and go about their life happy. Not all scars heal.
The day that showed how reality sucks is when she had to insert the IV through the tender veins of Florence. Florence hoped to become a nurse like Linda. Hope is cruel, for it is indifferent to humans. It roots deep like a wild tree in any heart even that of a 10 year old Florence, smitten by Leukemia. Sometimes Linda wished she never had known Florence seeing her going through such a misery. Sometimes she wished she never had taken up this job. Years of toiling had taken a toll on nerves twisting them into a fate of hell. Perhaps she wouldn’t have to live each day in agony if she had not chosen this job.Now there were less records on her table, less data to be sorted, less lab results to be interpreted even though the hospital has become understaffed. Looked like Linda’s life became easier since the event. But it wasn’t.
Everybody remembers where they were when it happened. Linda was in the labour ward delivering Sarah. Sarah had become so attached with Linda since her confirmation of conception that she requested that Linda should be the one to deliver her. Sarah’s loving half, Hank was standing beside her holding her hands firmly with a tense face as much as Sarah. Sarah was screaming in agony with every push.
“Hank tells me you have started picking names for the baby. What did you choose Sarah?”, “Imagine the baby cuddling in your arms, Sarah. Breathe in and push out”, Linda was distracting her from the painful contractions.
Her pelvic muscles were wildly flexing as she let out one big cry and her tummy deflated. Linda knelt down in shock. Sarah barely catching her breathe asked curiously,
“Let me see my baby Linda” extending her arms.
Linda stood up with a heap of dust in her hands. “What happened Linda? Where’s the baby? Where’s my baby Hank? Hank!!! ”
She held onto Hank’s shirt and screamed. Everybody stood in commotion. Cries of people who remained started ascending from bed to bed as they helplessly watched their family and friends disintegrating into dust. A colleague shook her from her train of thought,
“Linda, Captain America is coming live now. Check this”. “…for the first time in two years, this is Captain America live from New York..”.. The camera switches from the news room to a brightly lit podium where Captain stands with a heavy face.
“Today we are all standing as survivors of an unjust event. We all have lost someone. Our friends and families. We failed in protecting you. An apology won’t cut it…. But I’m here to tell you that humanity and compassion have never been ever more important than before. Look around you. There are people mourning alone. Show them that it’s not the end of the world even though it is, because whatever happens life has to go on…..”
Cap’s speech continued as Linda went to attend the calling bell of Florence, “Hey Linda, can you take me to that old man over there”, Florence asked in her tiny voice muffled by the breathing apparatus.
“Sure honey! That is grandpa Wilson? Do you know him? “
“No Linda.. I want to talk to him. Take me to him”
She lifted her from the flat bed as gently as a feather and seated her in the “Fairy wheel”. That’s what Linda called the wheelchair for Florence. Wilson’s eyes were glued to a bird’s nest outside the window that had three little skylarks screeching their mouths wide open. Florence placed her tiny palms over Wilson’s and held onto his wrinkly fingers. Sensing it, Wilson broke his gaze and looked at her. Both just looked at each other for a while. Florence smiled and Wilson reciprocated with a smile and tears rolling down his cheeks like pearls falling.
When Linda reached back to her street, she walked straight to her neighbor. The door was not locked. The cold evening breeze of Queens was rushing inside the house. Inside a woman was holding a photograph of herself and her 15 year old nephew and sobbing. Linda placed her coat around her and sat beside the woman.
“It’s been a week Linda. I didn’t even get to wave a goodbye when he went on his field trip. I was doing the stupid laundry “ the woman gasped in sorrow.
“I’m sorry May” She took May into her arms and hugged her and just sat there with her.
Sometimes all we need is a heart to listen and empathize. Linda found her strength in showing empathy.
cover image : artsgrove.tumblr