Make up a backstory for the next person you meet. It could be a new barista at your favourite coffee shop, a bus driver, a new co-worker, a friend of a friend. Make up their story, their history. You can go as wild and crazy as you like.
Below you will find two pieces from last week’s exercise – Setting: Hospital Emergency Room.
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Fourteen Stiches by Rico
It seems like a lifetime ago but there they are, just above my ankle, fourteen stitches. I see them every morning as I put on my socks, a reminder of the day I begged my mother to go tobogganing for the first time.
The memories of that day come to me in flashes – The neighbour and his son assuring my mother they would look after me, it’s just tobogganing, what could go wrong?…The excitement of my first slide down that snowy hill and then a loud snap… my screams of pain. It must have scared every child and adult on the hill… The face of the angel who told me to bite down on her glove to quiet my screams as they pulled me back up the hill on the very same toboggan… waking up in the hospital to find my big toe the only thing visible under a full length white leg cast… the stupid doctor that told me I had two screws in my leg like some famous hockey player that I had never heard of as if that would make me feel better…
Memories of my first slide down that hill, my first stay in a hospital will always be there every morning when I put on my socks.
The Waiting Room by Donna
“On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your pain?” The nurses are talking to the patients of course, about their physical pain. Pre-op, post-op beyond-op. This helps the nurses determine the level of medication and comfort to provide. It’s their job to make the patients as comfortable as possible.
But what about us, the six, no seven of us in the waiting room. Waiting. Waiting to see if our loved ones will be alright. Waiting to see if we will be alright, with or without them. Does our pain not deserve the same rating, the same care? Could we rate ourselves on the same scale?
There, sitting in the chair by the doorway, then standing, then sitting, a man in his twenties, his face ever changing from shy smile to the furrowed brow of worry. A new father-to-be I’m guessing. But why isn’t he with the mother of his child? A caesarian perhaps? His happy anticipation balances out the pain of his worry so perhaps only a six.
On the couch by the window, two women. One is old, old and worn. No happy retirement in her life. A caregiver for an ill husband I am guessing. She sits staring at the floor. Looking back? Looking forward? She seems to sit on a thin wall. If he lives, if he dies, she will fall either way. I can only guess which will cause the most pain, but pain she will have. Does she not deserve relief? I’d say she is a ten at least.
Beside her sits a fifty-ish woman reading her cell phone. Every few minutes she reaches out and pats the old woman’s hand. Not a daughter I suspect; her pain, her sympathy does not seem enough, perhaps a daughter in law. Is her pain due to a possible loss of life, or an infringement on her own life? If the former she might be a six. If the latter…well perhaps I judge too harshly.
There, on the two chairs facing the doorway is a couple in their thirties. I over-heard them say their son was in to have his tonsils removed. The woman holds a well-loved, oft repaired teddy bear. She caresses its fur as she keeps her eyes glued to the hallway. She knows the hospital does hundreds of these every day, but this is her son. It’s her job to worry. I’m sure she wishes she could have left the bear with her son so he would find it as soon as he wakes up, but for now it works to sooth her nerves. The father reads the newspaper as if it’s just another day, yet every so often I notice his eyes are not seeing the paper at all. He worries too. Parenting is hard and when your child is in pain, it is doubled for the parent. They deserve all the comfort they can get.
The last person, besides me, is a man. He is a smoker. I can tell by the stained fingers and constant movement. You can just tell he is dying to go out for a smoke, but staying for news is a sacrifice his is willing to make. Is he a parent? A husband? A son? I cannot read him. He keeps his story, his pain to himself. If he does not share, how can he be comforted? Does he not think he deserves relief?
And then there is me. My waiting and my pain are over, for now. The news has left me numbed, out of touch with my own feelings, for now. Shock often acts as a temporary tranquilizer so we can do what we must do. Then, later, I will feel. Who then will give me comfort?