A nurse with a very nice figure walked past me and being a male of the species, I cast an appreciative glance. 

“You saw that too?” my friend said from his gurney. 

“Hard not to notice.” 

“My wife said half of it’s not real.” 

“Who cares?”  


My friend was in the ER of a large urban hospital with a cardiac complaint he’s been dealing with for years. When I walked into the waiting room to check in, I was almost overwhelmed by the throngs of people in varying states of misery. Inside the ER was not much better. All the bays were full, gurneys lined the hallways, and EMTs, cops, nurses, and techs were scurrying about putting out fires medical, legal, and psychological. Even the doctors reminded me of Doogie Howser. 

“One thing’s for sure,” I said. “Working in an ER is a young person’s game. I couldn’t do it anymore.” 

“I think you’re right,” my friend said. 

“Okay Mr. Santori,” a juvenile looking tech said, coming into the bay. “You’ve been admitted. We’re going to take you upstairs.” 

“Good,” my friend said. “This gurney’s killing my back.” Then the tech wheeled my friend into the hallway and another patient, an older man who looked like he’d be shuffling his mortal coil any minute, took his place. 

“Wow,” I said. “You got replaced in two seconds.” 

“Busy place.” 

As the nurses worked on the new guy, I began to suspect we’d be waiting in the hallway for a while. “How long have you been here?” I asked. “Since ten this morning,” my friend replied. I looked at my watch. It was 7:00 PM. 

“Your wife take you?” 


“Well,” I said. ‘You might be waiting here another nine hours.” 


Fortunately, another tech came to wheel my friend up to his room within half an hour. With his daughter and I in tow, we followed his gurney through the labyrinthine hallways of the hospital, onto an elevator, and up to the sixth floor. The room, to my surprise, was well appointed and private. ‘This sure as hell beats the ER.” I said. 

Another nurse came into the room, introduced herself, and then set about reattaching the leads on my friend’s chest to the machine that goes beep. She wasn’t quick enough however and the machine’s alarm began to wail. “That sound usually means someone’s getting an insurance payout,” I quipped. 

“Turn that off,” my friend said. “It’s so loud.” 

“Sorry, sir,” the nurse said. 

As I sat with my friend’s daughter, I listened as the nurse asked the usual repetitive questions. “Do you drink?” “Do you smoke?” “Any history of cardiac problems?” “Did you get your COVID and flu vaccines – yada, yada, yada?”  Then she said, “When was your last bowel movement?” 

“I don’t know. Six this morning?” my friend said. “Steve, when did you have your last bowel movement?” 

“I don’t remember’ I said. “But I’m sure I had one this week. Maybe.” 

While the nurse performed her ministrations, I talked to my friend’s daughter. As we spoke, she got a text from her mother, asking how her husband was doing. “Tell her she’s finally free,” I said. I thought my friend would pass out from laughing. 

“Okay, sir,” the nurse, said. “Is it okay if I check you from head to toe?” 

“Geez,” I said, “You lucky bastard. I can’t remember the last time a woman asked to check me out from head to toe.” I think the nurse suppressed a smile. 

Excusing ourselves to give my friend privacy, I stood by a hallway window with my friend’s daughter and looked at the Manhattan skyline looming in the distance. When I was in the ER with a heart ailment years ago, my friend was the first person I called. Shit scared, I listened as he patiently explained that no organ in the human body had been studied more than the heart and that I’d be fine. Personally, considering the medical ringer he’d been through, I suspected he thought I was being a bit of a pussy. But, when I had cancer, he was there for me then too – usually with a quip or a joke. So, even though my obviously sexist and inappropriate remarks might seem off base to you, my friend would have it no other way. Guys are like that sometimes, using humor to acknowledge profound emotions without mentioning them by name. 

When visiting hours ended, I told my friend I’d make sure his daughter made it safely to her car. “Come on, kiddo,” I said, grabbing my keys. “Time to get you home.” 

“Thanks for coming,” my friend said. 

“You bet. Call or text me if you need anything.” Then we left. 

When I got home it was nine o’clock and I was hungry. As I ate some warmed up leftovers, I thought of all the hospitals I’d been in over the years. When my dad had heart valve replacement surgery in 2012, the only thing he remembered afterwards was that I was there with him in the recovery room. Coming out of anesthesia after my cancer surgery, despite being wacko and not understanding a word being said, I knew my wife was there. As the old cliché says, “Half of life is showing up.” I’m glad I was able to be there for my friend. His wife, however, probably didn’t appreciate my sense of humor. 

But it’s a guy thing. 

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