Stories: Directions

Tell the cab to take you to the General.  Get out on the passenger side; Marvin died getting out the left, silly bugger didn’t call an ambulance when he first felt the pain.  Through the main doors and please nod to Doris; she volunteered at the desk to your right until the day she died, and still today.  She’s much sweeter than she looks.  In front of you is a cafe, but don’t head there; turn left.  Past the benches, down the hall, and don’t mind Seymore, his sense of humour is poorly developed despite is 122 years around this place.  You’ll see a small hall to your right, which is where you would go if you needed an elevator during the morning rush when you are late for rounds, but you won’t need to head the way tonight. Mr Karpf could use the company… he rides that elevator up and down, day and night, “What floor?” with twinkling eyes that should belong to a child, not that old, worn face.  Three short halls on the left; take the second.  You could take the first, find the stairs, but Mrs Kreiger isn’t pleasant at the best of times and I won’t trouble you with having to explain to her where it is you are going (not that its any of her business).  Besides, the stairs to the basement are creepy.  5 elevators, 2 one one side and 3 on the other.  The button will trigger whichever closest, so long as it isn’t broken, in which case it will trigger the second-closest.  Only 8 floors, but they are deathly slow.  Only one of them has anyone inside who you need to be aware of, but its too hard to explain which elevator of a bank of elevators one must watch out for, so take note of a small child who offers to press the button for you; she’s much sweeter now than before the crash. How time can change a little one.  We almost saved her, truly, but she blew an arteriovenous malformation on account of the blood thinner two days before I was going to discharge her home.  Not home, of course, she had no parents anymore… I guess I never thought that far ahead.  Its pointless, you see, to plan your discharges more than a day in advance, as things change.  Brains fill with blood.  Anyways, she’ll ask your floor, and kindly tell her, and as long as its not the 7th or 8th she’ll be able to reach.  Tell her “one below, please” and she’ll be tickled pink.  Now pay attention: there’s a row of buttons on both sides of the door, and you’ll need to be sneaky and press “1 below” on your side at the moment she presses it on hers.  The curved plastic will light up and the doors will closed, and she’ll be quite pleased that she interacted with a world she has no business in any longer.  You won’t have time for chit chat but she’ll curtsey as the doors separate and you can end your relationship with her however you see fit.  Doesn’t matter which side of elevators you rode, you’ll only be able to go the one way.  Turn right, then left, then right, then down a long hall.  If you see “Microbiology” you’re on the right path.  If you see the kitchen, go back to the elevators and try again.  At the end of the hall you’ll see double doors with large metal bars that press to the outside.  Its the first door on the left before you reach this exit.  The door has no sign, no marks, just a small, fogged window in it.  It will look locked; its not.  For some reason, it never is.  My oversight, I guess.  The small room on the left with the couch is haunted, don’t go in there.  If you sneak a peak you might see AJ wallowing about, who still hasn’t forgiven herself for what happened back in the 70s.  14 years of post secondary education gives you a lot, but not everything, and certainly not what she needed the night she drew the curtain open and spat cruelly ‘is that you’re wife?”.  How we assume… how we err… He hadn’t killed her, you see, but no one in their right mind would have believed it until DNA matches came around a decade later.  Too many bad conversations, too many tears, too much pain. Oh, if I could go back and say it differently, I would, each and every time.  See, you can’t possibly find the words until you’ve experienced it.  Its not so bad, really.  Its kind of, well, nice.  But of course you don’t know that until you know that.  A little further down, and you’ll see 3 large doors leading to three identical rooms.  The one on the left is just storage, see, because there were only ever 2 of us, just AJ and I, and when AJ was gone, the new young girl.  Well, she’s not a girl, I suppose, but I think of her that way.  Vomiting at her desk all day yesterday.  My room was the one farthest from the exit, closest to the row of offices and the conference room you haven’t yet come across.  Through the door and you’ll feel the chill.  The only doctors who wore hoodies at work, we used to joke, until the infection control people got wind of it and started enforcing scrubs.  So we switched to surgical gowns, which only come sterile and cost a fortune – well here I go digressing into politics.  You’re here now, just you and me and more souls than anywhere else in the hospital.  Don’t cringe at the sight of my skin on metal, its no less comfortable than my mattress at home would be to me right now and the perforations actually feel nice.  Cold and dry and lying on a metal table.  38 years I fought the cold of this room, day in and day out, and now it suits me.  11 degrees Celsius.  I appreciate that you’ve travelled this far to serve, I know how little you relish it.  I hated doing AJ, but it was my duty to her, my privilege to loosen the ligature, photograph the abrasion, extract the layrnx.  A privilege that AJ would never be able to return to me, nor I to you.  Anyways, the scalpels and saws and the good pair of scissors should be laid out on the block by the sink.  I appreciate this, really, I do.  You were always the resident who stuck out in my mind even as the years passed and others came and went.  I know that you know this, but in case you are in a contracted state of mind, which you must be, I mean, look at the position I’ve placed you in, please do mind the parts that will be exposed outside the suit.  Oh, and don’t bother with the plastic bag full of explored organs; such a pain it is to fit it back in and close the abdomen, and I don’t want to look pudgy at the wake.  Anyways, I’ll let you get started, so that you can finish.  As I said to you a hundred times, “Why wait when you can make the Y.”  In hindsight I doubt anyone but me ever found that line funny.  “Nurse, the Betadine, STAT’!”  HA! Yes, thats a good one.  You can use it if you like.


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