Late at night, when I’m tired and depleted,
my soul ripping and bleeding after seeing
my last patient,
I rest for a few empty, mindless minutes
before my long trek home.
For I wear the wounded souls of my patients.
I need time to strip naked.
I need quiet time.
After clocking out with my wrinkled right hand,
still clutching the day’s darkness,
I cross the dark street
and wait for the 39 bus, across from the nursing
Yet often, I walk one block to the 36. And I wait.
Eventually, I leave the Bronx community health center
behind, and take the 36 or 39 to Parkchester, and the
6 train to 125th Street.
In the train, I tell myself I’m leaving my traumatized
Once on the train, I meditate and try to cleanse the chaotic
landscape of my psyche. But on my dark journey, a
homeless man appears and all the heavy cares of the day
return. Already, I’ve given too much, I think. Closing my
lacerated eyes, dwellers of the darkness, I obliterate the
At Atlantic Avenue, I transfer to the Q train. And it takes me
home. At Kings Highway, I enter Citibank and someone
slithers in behind me. Turning abruptly,
I see the homeless man clinging to a large, dirty white bag.
Still wearing the wounded souls of my patients and drowning
in a traumatic sea of guilt,
I search for change.
In a minuscule moment, my right hand clutches the loose coins
and removes them from my pants pocket. But when I try to
give the coins to the homeless man,
I discover he’s gone.
Smelling his foul odor, I search the tomblike room, and find him
in a distant corner, covered in dirty blankets, his vacant eyes
peering out at me.
Next to the mound of blankets is an empty tin cup. I drop the
coins in the cup, and for a moment, listen to the stranger snoring.
We’re both spent and it’s time to sleep and dream of a better
world. A container of the day’s darkness, I breathe heavily
and saunter off into the night.
I’m heading home.