They walk in slowly, corpses clawed from the dirt, pushing feet forward, approaching the desk in silence. Wet faces and shaky hands and cracked voices. They never say the word. You say it, and they nod.
It is always night. The waiting room has one, maybe. They know this.
She tells me she needs a female doctor. “Do you understand?”
I tell her that we have one female tonight, and she is relaxes in the slight comfort the situation allows. “You understand? Please tell them. I can leave.”
“I promise. Don’t leave.”
She sits down in the waiting room and I call the Charge Nurse.
“She needs a female doctor,” I tell him.
“She gets who we give her.”
I hear her through the brown door leading to the patient rooms. She is screaming. Saying something. I hit a button below the desk and the door opens and her voice carries into the waiting room.
I WAS FUCKING RAPED.
City police officers arrive sometime in the early morning. They don’t look at me or ask, and I let them through the big brown door. When it opens you can hear. The nurses diagnose her as Alleged. When a younger male nurse walks out, I ask him if we diagnose all victims as Alleged.
“Most times,” he says. “But if we know for sure, we don’t put it.”
“When do you know for sure?”
He shrugs. “Sometimes you know. Sometimes people lie.”
“Do you think she is lying?”
He laughs. “Would you act like that if it were you?”
I think I would claw him from the gut up.
I think I wouldn’t come here at all.
The nurses stand in a half-circle several feet from her room. She is still wailing, but quieter now, nearly asleep. The light is off in her room. I stand along the wall and listen to their conversation. The doctor talks about her refusal to an examination. How he told her she would not be allowed to press charges, how she could get in trouble for lying.
I tell them that she asked for a female doctor.
The doctor laughs. “It doesn’t work like that. This isn’t a hotel.”
There are two men in the half circle of seven. Most of the girls laugh and agree. A few say nothing. We make eye contact. I say nothing.
They escort her from the building in the morning. The nurses close her account with Refusal to Treat, Refusal to Cooperate. Her hands are crossed in front of her, head down, and the officers hold each arm as they walk her through the sliding doors. More culprit than victim. She looks at me as they pass. I think of smiling but I don’t. I say that I’m sorry. She doesn’t hear me, or ignores me, and they leave.
The nurses crowd around the employee time-clock near shift change. When will we get a normal night? One asks. Only the crazies check in at night. A few of the girls who were silent in that half circle earlier clock out with dead eyes.
I just need to go home, one says.
Before leaving a patient in the waiting room stops us to ask for a blanket.
One of the nurses offers, walks back through the brown door, and returns with a folded blanket for the patient. She smiles and hands it to him.
We are a hotel now, she jokes to me.
Kait is an obscure riverside city dweller with a useless fiction degree. Sometimes she writes but most times she sleeps. Fond of corner tables in coffee shops near windows and foreign dramas and tossed paperbacks.