Time is a gift in the ER

Fourteen hours into their shift, the intern headed down to the lobby to pick up the delivery. Today it was Indian food. He struggled to push the elevator button while holding the bags but managed to make it up to the top floor ICU. The rest of the surgeons gathered around the table cluttered with spent pens, journal articles and unused bottles of lidocaine to eat. Someone offered up their extra samosa to share. The sun drooped lower in the sky, and the light outside burned golden and fought with the pale white glow from the fluorescent lights inside.

The day had been so hot that the doctors could see it from the hospital windows: the streets shimmered. People stayed inside, huddled in the air conditioning and sucking down popsicles while trying to ignore the slick of sweat on their foreheads. Finally, the sun started setting, and the temperature dropped five degrees, ten degrees. The houses were glowing tangerine in the fading sun. People emerged to sit on the steps, or on plastic chairs on their front porches. Someone started up a radio down the street. The kids fought over the small bicycle. When one of them won, the other started drawing fire trucks on the sidewalk with a nubbin of chalk.

In the call room, all the phones went off at once. “Level 1 trauma, male GSW,” the attending sighed. The room emptied, and they went to the trauma bay to prepare. They left the table strewn with half-empty takeout containers, lids off, chicken korma congealing.

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