Location: in the parking lot just outside the ER deprament ambulance bay, taking in some fresh air
As I passed through the automatic sliding doors, winter crosswinds rifled through my scrubs and ruffled my sweater underneath. It’s probably a few below zero right now, but at this hour in the morning and at this stage of my overnight shift, the adjective of choice isn’t cold so much refreshing.
After working overnights as often as I do, a few of my senses began to dull, or at least change, and I didn’t even realize it happening. The first was probably my sense of smell. It’s not like walking in the street where you smell cars, sewers, and flowers. Maybe even BO on a crowded bus, bacon fat on a grill or trash on the curb. I smell almost nothing, and if housekeeping is doing their job with the pandemic control measures, I will continue smelling nothing.
The second sense that goes is hearing. Despite that there’s an infinite number of new faces that pass through this department in strollers, in arms or on their own two feet, they all sound the same. I deal with so many terrible accents that I almost automatically understand anything that’s an attempt at English or French, and I even sometimes mimic the accent back at them when I speak. I hear so many babys screaming in with different pitches of all ranges of aplitudes and frequencies all the time that I don’t even hear the screaming anymore. I sometimes turn, not knowing why, seeing a kid with tears rolling down their face or with their mouth wide open in a twisted grimace of indignation, but it’s only after a moment after checking if something is visibly wrong with the kid (seizing, breathing (too quickly, too slowly, or not at all) swelling, bleeding, or vomiting) that I notice that they’re actually making noise. I just don’t notice it anymore.
And sight. It’s not that you go blind, but you get so used to flourescent lights that anything else just surprises you.
So put my heel up on a cement block and stretch out my leg for a moment, staring at the morning sky, I’m still caught up in the sublime simplicity of it. At this hour, it isn’t sunlight that amazes me, but the total obscurity of the night.
The least obvious sense that I’ve lost isn’t traditionally considered, but probably should go up there somewhere. It’s my sense of time.
Working nightshifts has me somtimes sleeping four hours when I get home in the morning, and the four hours before going to work. I’ve described it before– sometimes it feels as if I’m living twice as much of a lifetime as I really am, just because I get out of bed twice as often as the average person.
Time is the strangest thing and for some reason, one of the few time that I anchor myself in time is when I stare at something timeless: like that dark nothingness hanging above us. or is it us, who hang off of it?
Maybe it’s the dark that’s in charge. I mean, maybe darkness is faster than the speed of light– you can be blinded by light, but the moment you flick off the lights, before you even realize that the light is gone, even if the light is still burned in your retinas, you were already in the dark, before your eyes even resigned that the light was just an illusion.
Yeah, I know none of that is true, so don’t all you physicists start sending me emails.
back in high school, during prom, I went alone. I still had a corsage, and a few of my closest friends also went alone, but the entire evening was run by the popular girls. The slideshows were all of the, the music was all their favorite choices. So my small band of friends and I, in our tuxedos and glam and Breakfast Clubbish misfittedness left the hall in favor of the hallway, where, sleeves rolled up, we played hackey sack.
You can change the skins, and you can dress us up like men and women, but you can’t change the boys and girls deep inside. Maybe sometimes we play pretend longer than others, but the primary human emotions that connect us, things like friendship, love, rivalry and hate, we know these things from the begining. As we get older, we just get better at them.
If the hospital plays tricks on my sense of time, so does [Supergirl].
There’s a bit of an age gap between her and I. She’s 21, turning 22 in January, while I’m 27, turning 28 in September. I joke, she jokes, we joke about it all the time. And it places me, it makes me aware of where I am in my timeline again.
“… you do know who Foo Fighters are, don’t you?” I’ll ask.
“… they make songs for Rockband…?” she’ll answer hesitatingly.
It ususally comes up with music. But there are other cases too.
“Okay,” she’ll say. “I know OF pong, but I’ve never played it.”
Or, some other day, she’ll ask me: “what is Duckhunt, anyhow?”
At which point, a few scratched lines of defeat will appear across my shame bowed head and my sholders will slump, my arms dangling lifeless by my sides.
But I like it. I’m describing some trivial things like music and gaming but really, it branches out into anything we could talk about, including more personal things. It’s like a little game we play, to pretend that I’m so much more of an old geezer than I am, when, in reality, in many ways I can easily be more immature than her. In some sorta way, the fact that we’re timeshifted a bit makes it easier for me to get in touch with myself, because us getting in sync forces me to remember the small little things about where I came from, and not just who I am. Sometimes I am the way I am and I don’t think twice about it, but all these things about where she came from, a few years shifted from where I cam from, make such a huge difference. I never would have realized it so much in contrast if I was just talking to people who were exactly my age, at least, not as far as the things that we talk about go.
It just feels more… complete. Me, with all my forgetfulness, she helps me remember who I was, and that helps me come closer to being who I am.