It’s night’s abandon
You look across the floor
Ain’t anyone around
Unplug them people
And send them home
It’s closing time
— the prophet lyle pearce lovett
You stand in the empty lobby. The sign says no photography allowed. But that’s OK. It’s closing time.
The late show at the infusion center has a different feeling. The cubicles brimming with people and nurses and bags on poles are gone. Only a few souls remain, watching their hope drip from the IV one drop at a time in an excruciatingly slow race against time. But they race nonetheless; you can’t win if you don’t play.
A skeleton crew of nurses race from beeping signal to beeping signal as the last few stragglers hang on to finish their treatments. The people sit lonely and alone, deprived by COVID of the children and spouses who otherwise would help them pass the endless time. The woman across from you fumbles with an iPad, unable to mute the patriotic music soaring across the otherwise empty room. In the adjacent cubicle, a nurse holds an iPhone while making a video for a husband of how to properly make an injection in the belly.
You sit in the quiet in your little monochromatic world, singing Ani’s Gray song in your head over and over. As bad as I am I’m proud of the fact hat I’m worse than I seem. Drip drip drip drip drip.
Four hours become five hours that turn into six hours. You fear they’ll start blinking the lights off and on in an effort to get rid of you. You’re out of Mo’s blessed Lorna Doones, out of the gung-ho hopefulness that comes with the start of the day. Leave the rakes of heroism for someone else. You just want it to be over. Please.
And then it is.
Your chemo doesn’t appear to be so bad, nothing compared to the horrible elixirs so many have to endure. You walk past a woman in a little room in the back, curled up in her easy chair wrapped in a blanket. Her scarf hides her bald head; the blanket can’t hide her fear. Your heart breaks for the millionth time.
And then you stand for a moment in the empty lobby on the way out, eating your ritualistic stolen piece of string cheese and drinking a Coca-Cola that you wish still came with cocaine.
The room takes on a lovely glow at night, subdued lighting with a view of the shrinking wilderness out the window. So quiet and calm, a counterpoint to the mortal combat going on inside your body at this moment. You look across the floor. Ain’t anyone around.
The sign says no photography allowed. But that’s OK. It’s closing time.