The night shift is a very strange animal. I have to nap for at least two hours before going in for the first shift of my three-night stretch. I arrive feeling so rested. As the night wears on, 1 am comes and goes, then 3 am. By 4 am I am like a ghost, my energy is empty but I keep walking the halls, creeping in and out of dark rooms hanging bags of IV antibiotics and fluids. My chest feels heavy.
The hospital I work in is new, but the people are not. The people have been moved down by the river from the aging hospital downtown. I have been away for two years and I am amazed to find that the spirit of the place moved along with all of the vital signs machines, beds and heart monitors. I had thought that somehow the magical energy would have been sapped by the shiny floors and large windows, but the opposite seems to be the case. It is imbued with the same deep purpose but it feels less shabby. Real life happens here. When the trappings of society and all of the things are gone, life is reduced to its essence. Spirits in failing bodies have so much wisdom to impart before they slip into the unknown.
After my stretch of shifts I am almost delirious as I step in the elevator to leave. Yesterday morning I stood in the elevator, suspended between time, until I came to and remembered to press the button for the ground floor. I shared a joke with the sweet older man stationed at the door asking everyone who enters if they have any COVID symptoms. The glass doors slid open and I stepped into the clear sun. The damp August air filled my lungs as I started the long slow walk across the parking lot to my car.
After the last shift of my stretch, I arrive home and step into the hot shower washing away the cares of the night. I go to bed and sleep fitfully for seven hours. Then I wake and see my family, lie on the couch, scrolling the phone, eating, watching TV. then I go back to bed and sleep another six, wake up feeling refreshed and ready for four days off – a trip to the beach with my teenaged boy, a day with my sister and her small children, cuddles on the couch with my lover.
This is a good life.