story by JOHN PALEN
The man in the next bed answers softly. He knows his date of birth, what hospital he is in and why. I hear pneumonia, I hear shakes. The clock says it’s 2 a.m.
The man in the next bed says goodnight to his son, who is going home and will be back in the morning.
I come from the bathroom at 4 a.m. He stands stock still at the foot of his bed. “I've had some diarrhea,” he says, “I'm sorry.” I say I'm sorry. The smell fills the room.
A nurse helps him to the bathroom, helps him take a shower. An aide mops the floor.
She gestures at the floor, says she’s sorry. I say I'm sorry, I was in his way.
Every 12 seconds my IV chirps. Three more drops.
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