The door shuts gently behind me, bringing to a close another shift, one that ended at a time normal humans call bedtime. I've left the world of the permanent nights behind, at least for now, choosing instead to pick the shifts I like, while I still can. The times are different, the hours fewer, the system new to me, but the work and the patients remain the same.
Calls still come in for bad backs, three day old coughs, tight, crushing chest pains and accidents of all types. Cars still fight with each other for a small space on the tarmac, denting bodywork and pride as the space in between goes from narrowed to nothing. Bodies give way to gravity when the ladders beneath them collapse down to earth. Knives and bullets pierce the skin and cause untold, perhaps irreversible damage to the organs hidden from view.
Here and there a life is saved, a soul is comforted, a child is born.
Until the door shuts behind me, the shift isn't over and the processing doesn't begin. Most days there is nothing to trouble my thoughts, the patients merging one into the next, each occupying my mind for the duration of our stay with them, or theirs with us. Some leave an impression, a smile, perhaps, maybe a frown. At other times a question mark looms over the lasting imprint of their faces, the tale of their woes, the miracle of their survival.
Some days, shutting the door behind me, ending the shift with a turn of the key, only signals the start of the process.
I go in to check on each of my already sleeping children, a habit often repeated several times each night since each was born, thankful that I am able just to stand, and stare, and watch them sleep in peace. I lock the front door, but in so doing, open the door to my own thoughts, trying to process the day.
That door needs locking too, but all too often I can't find the keys.