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The Emergency Room, by Patricia Coral

Opens its arms to welcome us, the sick, from the United States of

America. Has no beds left but borrows us chairs to sit down six

feet apart. We are not people: we are eyes, bodies infected with

isolation. My love has chest pain, he can’t hardly walk, and I

don't know if air is still reaching my lungs.

To my left Asencio does not have insurance and doesn’t speak

English. His eyes are closed, he’s breathing in the same way that

the ones who are dying breathe. A Black nurse moves her hands

as if trying to invent a new language for him to fill out

paperwork and he responds back making signs with his hands

maybe he understands her, maybe he’s guessing, maybe it doesn't

matter anymore his age, his marital status, or occupation.

Isaak, middle-aged Black man, also waits, his name embroidered

in red on his bus driver uniform. Tonight, he didn’t make it to

dinner. A white male nurse calls me in to check if I'm

oxygenating, he asks me what my religion is and I forget how to


A white woman vomits inside a blue bag, her face red, her eyes

sprouting. She is trembling and I’m not sure if it is because of

the virus, the temperature, or fear. Mohammed lays his head

against a wall, quivering. The Black nurse asks him what his

religion is, he whispers Muslim as if he doesn’t want to be heard.

A Central American mother arrives with her daughter who

doesn’t stop screaming. Shhhh ya, ya mamita ya, ya mi corazón,

the mother repeats to the girl over and over again. I want for her

to be called inside, partly because it moves me, partly because I

can't stand the screams, partly because I don't want to think

of the children that I didn’t have.

Asencio seems to be dying, the nurses take him away.

They call my love inside. He winks at me from afar and I try to

draw him kisses with my hands. I wonder if that will be the last

time I see him.

A young girl in a wheelchair


and I with her.

Patricia Coral is a bilingual Puerto Rican writer, nonprofit leader, and MFA candidate at American University. She writes creative nonfiction and poetry, but frequently her words find their home in-between. Her work has been featured in Fireside Fiction, Mirar pa’ dentro, Voices and Verses, and Crab Fat Magazine, among others.


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