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.