by Nicole Apel

When a woman in a hospital gown looks up at you and says that she’s actively miscarrying and your heart twists and bends and frays like wet wood, remain professional. When a man, bleeding from both nostrils, wipes his bloody face on the back of the ace bandage that covers his hand, keep eye contact. When a child, hairless and hooked to machines asks you if he’s going to live, put hope in that smile on your face and tell him that you aren’t the one who decides these things. And when a baby dies after being left in a bathtub and no water is found in her lungs, don’t cry at work.

Sitting in your dark, tiny office, you hear people frantically shrieking and crying. It’s your responsibility to stop it. To fix it.

A baby, seven months, came in nearly dead. She was in the bathtub. Fell over in the water or something, almost drowned. She’s being resuscitated and she might make it. With enough prayers, she might.

“Get on your knees and pray! Wherever you are, pray jito…Where are you? Wherever it is, pray! Just pray to God that he lets the baby live. Pray as hard as you can, jito. Do it now. Get on your knees, hijito!”

Get up. Don’t cry. Whatever you do, don’t cry.

Enter the family grief room across the hall from your office. Introduce yourself, you’re here to help. Here’s your card. They just want to be with family; they don’t want your help right now. They’ll call you once their grief becomes excessive. Then you will pick up the pieces. All of them. And you will put each piece in its proper place; clean the mess and move on to the next one.

You are strong, you are worthy of love. At least tell yourself that in the mirror, in the tiny bathroom of your tiny studio apartment. You don’t deserve to see the things you see, but you’re strong enough. You were chosen for this. Tell yourself that as the bath water runs hot in the less-than-clean tub that you haven’t had the time for.

As the mirror starts to fog, take your clothes off. Peel the wool socks off your clammy feet that you’ve been on all day.

Put you head under and feel the warm water on your fragile skin. Feel the bubbles tickling the soft fuzzy parts of your face. Breathe deeply. Life will go on for everybody else.


Nicole Apel is lover of all things Latin American and has trouble not quitting jobs because of it. She also likes to write, build furniture, play social worker, and hike mountains.
%d bloggers like this: