The Memory Without Regret

November 17, 2010
By Anonymous

The acute sound awakened me; ring, ring, ring, the telephone chimed over and over. This sound was unrelenting, like a mosquito at sunset. Wearily I staggered over to the counter, from which the deafening sound erupted. Upon answering the telephone, I lethargically walked towards the room from where the call came from; it was as if my brain had been programmed to enter the room with the little green light above the narrow doorway. Opening the door, I traveled over to the bed, and hit the “x” in order to turn off the gleaming green light. Then I exited the room swiftly, closing the door behind me. A nurse tapped me on the shoulder, asking me to do her a simple favor. So I smiled, nodded my head and scurried off to do what she had asked. These motions were similar to that of a dog; I ran off to retrieve something, only to return right back to the same spot, eagerly waiting for more instructions. These memories of my time spent in the Emergency Department seemed all too distant, yet they couldn’t possibly be distant; they reoccurred every week, the same place, and the same routine, the same nurses.
I often wondered how many times I had gone through these actions, how many times I had heard that ring, or how many times I had entered those rooms. Some days the time would slowly creep by; slower than a fish trying to swim through peanut butter. However, other days the clock would tick away faster than one of those instant oatmeal breakfasts, which happened to be quite a novelty over here. Whether the time went slowly, or quickly; I always heard the same question. People always asked me, why you do this; after all what teenager wants to spend their time in the dirtiest place in town. I never knew quite how to answer this question, so I simply shrugged saying I didn’t know exactly why I did what I did. However, I knew that despite all of the setbacks that came along with volunteering in the hospital I still liked it. The atmosphere in the emergency department was unique to anywhere else. There was a certain energy and element of change that always brought excitement to the nurses. Then the patients left and the rooms had to be cleaned, but even then the liveliness lingered in the air.
The room was always such a diverse collection of smells. There was that acute smell of blood, which always sent chills running up my back; or there was that refreshing smell of cleanliness that squirted out of the bottle in the cabinet. Frequently there was that lingering mysterious smell, that unidentifiable sick person smell. It smelled as if the patient had contaminated the room with their intense cough. Sometimes, we could smell the puffs of smoke that the person had inhaled as they puffed their cigarette, before entering the building of course. Other times it was the pungent odor of a house pet that made us wrinkle our nose. Sometimes it was a horse, other times a dog. Every now and then there was a lasting aroma of food that the patient had eaten during his/her stay. These smells were enough to trigger that warm rancid feeling of vomit climbing up my throat.
The one thing that bothered me the most was the most important accessory of all. It was those rubber gloves, the first thing I grabbed when entering the room. They were often sticky, and hard to get on. Sometimes they were even ashy on the inside, similar to the feeling of too much flour on a cookie. I forced my small hands into the gloves, only to pull them out with the slightest remnants of little white powder, which engulfed my hands. Of course this caused me to wash my hands, again and again and again. I was sure that I could be on one of those clips that belonged on an educational film, where someone teaches little kids how to wash their hands; because at the time I was a professional hand washer. After the ritual of cleaning a room was finished, I would shut the light off and bounce over to my volunteer desk. The comfort of my chair quickly formed to my body, making it nearly impossible to get up again. However, I didn’t have much time to relax, as stuff always needed to be done. I didn’t mind these memories even if at times it seemed long and boring. Despite the annoyance I might portray with these memories at moments, I never had regret about my time spent there, not even a minute of it.

The author's comments:
I was inspired to write this after volunteering for the summer in the Emergency Department.

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