A Moment in Time
The main doors opened automatically as Julie walked into the emergency room of the Brighton General Hospital on a busy Saturday night. Located on the bottom floor of a concrete building in the center of a sleepy town in upstate New York, the waiting room was an aromatic bouquet of antiseptic latex and an audio potpourri of coughing and sneezing; crying and screaming. Fake leather couches lined the sterile room. As Julie walked towards the registration, she noticed it was standing room only and she wondered where she would sit. It had been a long day and her hand was killing her. Unfortunately, she knew the wait would inevitably be long. Just a few days earlier, she had a simple paper cut on her thumb that needed nothing more than a Band-aide. Now, four days later, the simple paper cut transformed into a bright red star on the tip of her thumb and, her thumb had turned into a sausage link. Julie decided she had no other choice but to come to the hospital, otherwise known as the black hole, in search of antibiotics in exchange for a few hours of time.
With dreaded trepidation, Julie approached the registration window. She chuckled at the bulletproof shield that separated the plague from the cure, the healthy from the quarantined. She was told to have a seat and her name would be called shortly. The fact that the nurse did not offer an estimated wait time was not lost on Julie. Sighing loudly and then succumbing to the black hole of hospital time, Julie sat in the only seat available, beside a sneezing old man with an uncontrollable cough and a tendency for clearing the very large oyster out of his throat and a sniffling boy who found it difficult to listen to anything his mother had to say. She could not help but overhear the conversation of two men who were sitting just beyond Oyster Man.
The first one began with what sounded like the beginning of a joke, “So, how do you make a fish talk?”
The other one looked at him perplexed and replied, “Wait, I know this one, but first I need to do a ‘shroom.”
“What?!” exclaimed the joke teller, “You can’t do that in here man! This is a hospital. You know what I’m saying!?”
“Watch me,” said the drugee, he got up and walked away through the mechanical doors.
The Joke Teller looked on, disappointed that he couldn’t finish his joke before his drug-addict friend took off. God only knows what they’re in the emergency room for, Julie thought to herself.
Turning her attention to her other side, the boy sitting next to Julie said “Biscuits are like mini cakes without frosting.”
Julie looked down at him.
“Hmmm, I did not know that,” she said.
Politely, Julie was trying to ignore the splatter of rice cake pieces on the boy’s shirt and around his seat, like they had been rockets shooting out of his mouth.
“Chew with your mouth shut,” ordered his mother sitting on the opposite side.
Looking at Julie she says, “I’m sorry.”
Julie just nodded her head, held up her bum hand and said, “No worries.”
Julie returned her focus to the nothing-ness that was the center of the room and continued to marvel at the hospital’s ability to stop time.
The mouth of the hospital opened again and three young women walked in chattering endlessly, not even taking a breath.
“So I stayed at the frat party the other night,” the first one said.
“TFTI bitch,” said second one.
“I know right, she didn’t invite me either,” added the third.
The first one continued her story, “…and afterward we went to his room where I was there with like three guys…”
They disappeared into the hallway of the hospital that offered little help to eavesdropping on their conversation any further.
Just when it started to get good, Julie thought to herself. A devilish smile formed on her face in spite of herself.
The automatic doors opened again. This time, Julie could see the paramedics with an occupied gurney between the two of them. The paramedics gingerly maneuvered the gurney to not disturb the occupant who was being given oxygen through a mask. From the distance, the patient appeared to be very old. The patient’s short gray hair spiked over the back of the elastic band on the oxygen mask looked oily and disheveled. The patient’s eyes were closed and his body was covered with a white sheet, only his head and his feet were sticking out from under the sheets. The patient’s shoes were brown and definitely too big to be a woman’s foot. Julie deduced the patient was a very old man. The patient’s eyes were closed and his body was covered with a white sheet, only his head and his feet were sticking out from under the sheets. Julie hadn’t realized it but she was holding her breath. She let out a sigh of relief when she saw that the man was still breathing.
“At least he is alive,” Julie said out loud to herself.
As the gurney rolled passed her, the old man slowly opened his eyes and turned his head towards Julie. His warm gaze held her eyes for a moment startling Julie. The man lifted one frail hand and tried to reach out to her with a closed fist.
The head paramedic said, “I need you to remain still Mr. Smith.”
The man continued to raise his hand towards Julie but he was just too weak, he let it fall to the stretcher bed. His hand opened at the moment it hit the bed. A photograph fell to the floor. Without noticing that something fell, the paramedics started moving the gurney again. Julie quickly reached down and picked up an old photograph of a young woman in a military uniform. The photograph appeared to be quite old. It was a portrait of a beautiful woman in full Army uniform with black hair and perfect complexion. Julie turned the picture over. On the back was written, “Nina 22 – 1938”. Julie tried to get the paramedics attention but they had disappeared into the hallway out of earshot.
Forgetting about her thumb and the pain she was in, Julie stared at the picture.
She ran her fingers along the woman’s hair, over the arch of her cheek toward her chin, and whispered her name “Nina.”
Julie would wait until the paramedics came out to find out where they had taken the old man so she could return the picture to him.
She silently repeated the name in her head, “Nina.”
With an unnaturally strong grip on the photo, Julie drifted off to sleep…
Julie woke to the smell of dirt and smoke. Panicking, she quickly scanned the area for potential danger expecting to see the room in an anxiety driven fright. What she found was not a room at all, rather Julie found herself in an open field resembling a vineyard which happened to be smack in the middle of a war zone. There were military personnel running scared all around her. Grenades exploding, sounds of gun shots piercing the air, and bodies falling in layers across the battlefield. Julie walked a few paces forward and momentarily lost her balance almost tripping over something on the ground. When she looked down, she saw a wounded female soldier. Her injuries appeared grave yet, the soldier looked up at Julie with an empty gaze. At first Julie thought she was dead, but then the soldier blinked her eyes. Frozen, Julie looked around at the pandemonium of the formerly peaceful meadow searching for someone that could help the struggling woman.
Everyone was running and shouting, no-one could hear Julie’s pleas for help. She looked down at the soldier again. This time the soldier looked directly into Julie’s eyes. She was moving her lips and struggling to breathe. Julie knelt down and placed her right ear close to the soldier's mouth so she could hear her whispers.
"Tell him…that…I love…him…always have…," the soldier whispered.
Before she could get out another word, the woman's head fell slightly to the left. Julie knew that she was gone. Julie smoothed the woman's hair from her face and gasped as she stared straight into the eyes of the photograph.
"Smith?” summoned the attending nurse.
Startled and shaken, Julie wiped the tears from her face and replied, "Uh…right here.”
"It's your turn to be seen,” said the nurse.
Julie got up from her seat and walked towards the nurse.