Monday, February 1, 2010

In the dark and early hours of the morning

At night a hospital is an eerily quiet and seemingly deserted place. The empty hallways easily echo my footsteps as I pass through the corridors making my usual rounds and at times the stillness is uncomfortably like that of a tomb. I’ve been on night shift since October and I have yet to find, much less be invited into, the hideaways the surgical staff holds up in until they are needed. Rumors abound by those who have fallen into the good fortune of being invited into such hidden lairs that they are full of free drinks and food and furnished with comfortable chairs and huge televisions.

My key card is still ignored by the security pads mounted next the doors of such suspected places. The little glowing red eye located where I wave my card looks like an angry sentinel rejecting all my attempts. Because of this except for the two other fellow members of the hospital Engineering staff working the same hours as me much of my shift, if not all, is spent alone. In many ways that is a good thing, I have time to perform my duties unimpaired by the usual minutia found on day shift with people scrambling to get their needs met first or the ubiquitous workplace politics.

Another advantage is that I have time for my thoughts, free from the idle and often ignorant chatter that passes for conversation by most of the Engineering staff. Being alone with only my thoughts for company they have a habit of flying off on the wildest of fantasies but every once and awhile the outside world intrudes to remind me that I am not the only one dealing with isolation. The surgical department where I can be usually found is located on the third floor of the main building and very late at night has a twilight-like atmosphere after the corridor lights are greatly dimmed to save money.

A few nights ago while in an operating room doing preventive maintenance checks on the surgical lights I stepped outside into the corridor to take a break. That particular corridor is the main thoroughfare for patients being wheeled into surgery and after, to recovery with one side being the doors to the operating rooms and the other side being a long length of huge windows looking down to one of the hospital’s parking lots below. At night that particular parking lot is empty since it mainly serves outpatients services and several nearby doctors’ offices.

Wanting to clear my mind from all the color-coded wires I had to check along with electrical connections and relays I stared out into the night. With the dimmed lights I had an excellent view of the surroundings in spite of the fact there wasn’t much to see. The parking lot was, as usual, empty except for several decorative street lamps that emitted amber cones of light creating small islands of illumination around several parking spaces. A little further out and across the street was a small diner with one small light still on somewhere inside. And beside it was a sub sandwich place that was completely dark except for the neon “open” sign mounted in the window that continues to blink on and off all through the night like some lame practical joke.

Being on the opposite side of the main and emergency entrances there wasn’t even a few people milling about seeking relief from whatever fear or anxiety that had them at a hospital in the first place. From my view it was like the eerie quiet and stillness from the hallways had been extended outside.

As my mind drifted I did happen to notice a car pull into the empty parking lot taking a position right under one of the amber cones of light. Within moments a mature looking man got out of the car and in a clearly nervous way began strolling around the general area and looking at his watch. Nothing about the man was out of the ordinary; his car was a nondescript sedan and his clothes gave no sign of him being neither very poor nor very rich.

Maybe it’s a statement on the demands, or lack of them, of my job but I was fascinated with that person and why he was walking around an empty parking lot in the early hours of the morning. As I continued to watch the unknown man eventual propped himself up against his car and obviously began to wait looking off into the distance. Maybe it was my empathy working overtime but from what I could see of his face he looked lost and alone.

Despite my interest after several minutes I began to feel the need to return to work so I could finish what was left to check of the surgical lights. However, before I turned another car pulled into the parking lot and pulled right next to the waiting man. A woman dressed very much in the same style as the man quickly jumped out and rushed toward him. They embraced each other with a deep longing that was obvious even from where I stood. The kiss afterward was not one of friendship or family but of separated lovers with something illicit hanging in the air between them. I know, I should have walked away and given the two some sort of privacy but some strange and sad story was playing out before me and I was lost in the events going on as much as the two sad lovers meeting in the night.

After they parted from the kiss it was clear both were distraught and worried making elaborate gestures with their arms as they circled each other talking. More than a few times they each checked their watches giving a strong sign that someone, somewhere might soon notice their absence. Several times as they walked around talking they would fall back into each others arms with their embraces oozing hopelessness and a harsh sadness.

As the drama played out something was decided, the lady grabbed the man’s hands with him looking devastated as they exchanged some final words. The couple embraced momentarily one last time with the woman breaking away and then rushing back to her car. Within a few seconds she was out of the parking lot and driving away leaving the man staring after her frozen in place. It may sound ridiculous but the night seemed to engulf the guy.

I watched a few more minutes half expecting the woman to return and in all honesty I guess the man in the parking lot at least hoped she would since he had not moved from the place she left him. However, she did not and even my interest in seeing this to the end was overwhelmed by my need to finish my tasks.

I returned about thirty minutes later and saw that the unknown man had himself left at some point. I admit to some sadness on my part seeing that the parking lot was empty again with nothing to show that two people who desperately needed each other had apparently said their final goodbyes.

Collecting my tools back in the operating room I heard this old Frank Sinatra tune playing on the radio. I thought it fit the mood of the events I saw that night.


sunshine said...

I guess it's true.
When you are doing something wrong, someone always sees you.
Whether it's scratching your bum or meeting a lover. :P

I loved the way you told that story Beach.
I felt sorry for them. :(

Thanks for sharing what goes on at work. I enjoyed the telling ...


Holte Ender said...

I experienced something similar, in a bus station, many years ago. I was waiting patiently for a long distance bus, when I noticed a young women, waiting impatiently. She looked at her watch every 30 seconds or so. With my beholders eye I thought her a plain young women, but then a bus rolled up and the guy she was waiting for got off, they embraced each other and all of a sudden she became beautiful..

Love that Frank Sinatra period.

Mycue23 said...

Fantasitic writing. You should post this stuff where someone can see it. Oh, wait a minute, you already do that. Never mind. Great Stuff, really. And a little Frank at the end never hurts. I can imagine that gentleman going off to a bar and listening to "Make it one for my baby, and one more for the road".

MadMike said...

Once upon a time......there go I! Good read Beach. Brought back memories.

sunshine said...

P.S. Love the Frank Sinatra. Being a blue eyed Italian, I feel a kinship with him. :P

PENolan said...

Defintely a good read

Beach Bum said...

Sunshine: I felt sorry for them as well. While the events happened and I tried to be as accurate about them as I could the sentiment about their supposed affair is my own and could very well be misplaced.

As I watched them the little wheels in my head spun around I figured that if they were callus people having an affair for some material gain they would not have repeatedly sought comfort in the embraces they seemed to need so much.

In the end they could have been awful people. I just don't know so I went with my gut instinct.

Holte Ender: Funny how things like that happen. I don't do it much around where I live but I enjoy watching people and see how they interact, tells a lot about people.

Mycue23: LOL! I'll puzzle that one out in head for a long time. I know it won't happen but it would be very interesting to stumble upon the lovers separately and see who their possible spouses. If assuming it the actual scenario I wrote about was right.

Madmike: Believe it or not, I know the feeling. Enough said on that one!

Sunshine: Frank can't be beat; few can even approach his talent.

PENolan: Thank you, this a second try at writing this story. I posted it at another site the day after it happened and the first version was awful.

Mycue23 said...

Trust me, Beach, I meant it as a compliment. By the way Beach, are you in Columbia? My parents live there and I am in town from time to time. It would be great to have a beer with you at some point.

Middle Ditch said...

How sad and yes, it is true, one will always be observed by someone.

I was gripped by the story from beginning to end.

TomCat said...

Excellent read, Beach. I start my research at around midnight each day, because there is quiet and I can concentrate, so I appreciate your affinity for the wee hours. I also feel sorry for them. Been there. Done that. 'Nuff said. Such situations often develop from a series of poorly made decisions that seem unimportant at the time, but cascade into web from which there seems no escape.

Randal Graves said...

Didn't this exact same scene play out between Cheney and bin Laden?

lime said...

how heartbreaking. you've described it so well and i can feel their pain and longing.

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

They could have been Bonnie/that Argentine chick/Reeal Hunter and Clyde/Mark Sanford/John Edwards. Though, yes, I definitely hear you, the romanticized version is far superior.

Beach Bum said...

Mycue23: No worries my friend, we are cool. I understood the comment as soon as I read it. Yes, we are in the "Columbia Area" and it would be a blast to meet for a beer.

Middle Ditch: I was in the same area of the hospital tonight and looked back out at that spot. This time nothing happaned and but that damn "open" sign at the sub shop was still blinking.

Tomcat: Some would say I was wrong casting them as tragic figures. And I admit I could have been very off base with my observations but the vibe, which I have come to trust, I got from them spoke to me that they were on the shitty end of some relationship stick. Whatever the case I wish them some happiness.

Randal: That could very well be the case but I sort of pictured Rummy and his lost lover, Saddam.

Lime: Part of my vibe that I mentioned to Tomcat was caused by the thought that if they were totally crazy they would have just ran off together without looking back. It ain't hard to hear stories about such things with one or both eventually going home after running off with a lover to find the bridges not only burnt but blasted. The bar visit I had at Hilton Head last summer where I met and then heard about the story of Catherine comes to mind.

Will: LOL! Believe it or not I cut old Mark Sanford some slack. My wife works in state government and I have met the good govenor. Frankly from my less than a minute saying "hi" to him to hearing him speak at a couple of parties in person and on television the guy could be called a hippy loon 40-odd years lost in time.

Another matter is that scuttlebutt has it that Jenny Sanford is no angel and that their marriage was as much as power play for her as his now defunct political career. Make no mistake Sanford for a while before the republican convetion was being groomed for great things. So much that the state was in a panic with the thought that Lt Gov Andre Bauer would be left large and in charge.

Sanford's emails to his mistress were actual love letters and I would not be surprised that after his divorce that they don't hook up again.

Slimy Edwards on the other hand, in my opinion, had no actual feelings for his lover. So much that it has only been recently he admitted the baby was his. Elizabeth Edwards has also shown herself to being less than an angel in this.

So in conclusion (Dear Lord, I love to run my mouth) this confirmed liberal would give republican Sanford a pretty big, but not total, pass while I would not be opposed to John Edwards having his balls cut off. And to think I once liked him.

Doc said...

What a beautiful picture you paint. It reminds me of the famous painting, "The Nighthawks".

Beautiful, just beautiful.


Rhiannon said...

sigh...this was very interesting. You have me wondering what happened and if they will ever see one another or ever "be together" one day...or was it a final "good-bye" secret meeting?

I'm a sucker for love stories. As a matter of fact I'm living in one in my own life right now and it still feels like a it's not really I'm in this dream and I am afraid I might wake up one day and it will hit me it isn't real...but I guess it is..since I'm "really" writing a comment here about your post.

"Jet-amie"....:o)..that means "Love" in French I believe..


Hill said...

Beach, you are a fine writer.

Felt like I was there with you, watching and wondering from afar.

Sing it, Frank.

Teeluck said...

You write as if you have the soul of an, that is classy writing bro, you should win an award for that, the scene was as vivid as when you saw it, the air was brisk as the chilly morning dew on the cold lonely window pane...WTF, you got me going bro...nice writing.

Beach Bum said...

Doc: Cool, and thank you. I heard someplace that there was a writing contest where the participants had to write a story involving the people in the picture.

Rhia: Good luck on your relationship. Since I pass that way through surgery almost every night my thoughts drift to that couple.

Hill: For a long time I didn't like Frank, but now he is one of my favorite singers.

Teeluck: Thank you, sometimes things just hit me.

Oso said...

you captured what seemed to me to be her knowing their relationship would ultimately fail; him not wanting to face that certain reality.

goatman said...

My God . . . Help me Rhonda,
is there no privacy anymore!!

Will "take no prisoners" Hart said...

Interesting insights, double b. This, though I also must say that I'm disappointed to hear this about Mrs. Sanford. Seriously, I was going to call her!!