Sarah Selecky: Write a scene that involves porcelain, cedar, and something that’s stolen.

I lean against the sink in the patient’s room on 5, trying to look non-anxious. That’s what we say when we write in the log book, a “non-anxious presence.” The patient got into a fight at a club with another girl and that other girl got the best of her. She has two black eyes and a punctured lung. She’s 22. She’s beautiful. The beautiful kind of beautiful that makes me old and ridiculous by comparison.

The patient is talking with her sister, “She says I stole it, but I didn’t steal shit.”

“You better press charges.”

The patient looks at me. “I don’t know.” She raises the arm without the IV and combs her fingers through her curly hair, working through the blood and sidewalk grit. Her hair is light, with some red in it—not the blood—blond-red like the underbelly of an orange tabby cat. She turns to me, like she just noticed I was there. “Who are you again? Social worker?”

“No, I’m the chaplain. I’m—”

“Chaplain. Like a preacher?”

“Well kind of. I’m not going to preach to you, though.”


I smile and take a breath. “Someone beat you up?” Trying to connect on her level.

The patient loses interest in me. Looks to her sister. “Is there rocks in my hair?” She holds out an orangy clump and the sister leans over towards the head of the bed and says, “Maybe.” The sister combs the hair with both her hands, shakes her fingers out on the floor. “Dried blood. Gross.”

The patient pulls her hair back. “Don’t touch it then.”

“Give it back, I’ll comb it out.”

The patient purses her lips and scrunches up her eyes. I can see the mean bitch in her now, that look the girls from Spotsy had at a bonfire party in high school: Flannel shirts with the bottom part open and flat belly showing, sweat pants rolled down to the hips. Ready to take a shot with you or kick your ass.

“Look,” I say, “I came by because you showed up in the ED with a punctured lung and I wanted to come by and offer some support. To say you can talk to me if you want to talk about what’s going on.”

The patient rolls her eyes.

“That’s okay,” I say. I look at my phone, like I’ve got some place important to be. “If I’d been beat up, I’d want to talk to someone who’s job it was to just listen.” She’s quiet now, looking at me. “I can come back when you don’t have company.” The phone in my pocket, I push my hips off the sink counter and take a few steps towards the door.

“You can come back if you want,” the patient says, “It doesn’t matter to me.”

“Okay,” I say, but I don’t turn around until I’ve opened the door and put my hand under the hand sanitizer despiser. I rub my hands together and look at her. At her sister. I smile. “See you tomorrow morning, then.”