No one tells you what
to feel when your co-worker
is diagnosed with a virus
that does not relent, has no remorse,
could not care less about your
family, friends, lifestyle, sexuality,
or economic status.
They don’t prepare you for
the see-sawed up and down
roller coaster ride you will experience,
constantly checking to see if he’s okay.
Your insides grow numb,
your mind loses its pistol-like
ability to adapt to anything, and you
find yourself saying . . .
“It’s okay.” “It’s okay.” “It’s okay.”
But, you don’t know.
You can’t know.
You have no earthly idea
if it’s okay.
One day, he’s breathing well
on his own, the next — oxygen levels
have tanked and ICU is clamoring
to scoop up another body and
swivel the bed up against the back wall
of a hospital room that smells more like
alcohol and potent disinfectants
than a place someone goes to
When you work in healthcare,
you grin and bear it, tuck your feelings
deep within you, move on, and
fight until your bones crack and ache
and it pains you to sit down, and you take
your ass home, shower, cook, walk your dog,
and find thirty minutes of rest before you
get up and do it all over again.
And you still wonder,
“Will he make it today”
or “Will today be the day
our higher-ups plod around with
heavy feet to tell us of his death?”
You don’t want to hear the sound
of the Grim Reaper coming with
his scythe ready to strike.
You pray for this loved one, call in
backup and ask them to send warriors
with fangs that cut through tough flesh
and hearts of pure gold.
God becomes a friend you argue with and
confess things you’ve held deep within
you for decades.
You tell him you’re tired of his bullshit —
you want him to let this one be.
Let this man live so his nine-year-old
son can see him smiling once again.
You tell him to get it together and not
make any more room for lives
senselessly lost to something we
And then you cry yourself to sleep
again — just like you did
the night before. And the one before that.
And the one before that.
Then, you wake up,
put on the face they ask you
to wear to work, cover it with a mask,
and ready yourself for more
of the same.
You don’t know — you can’t know
if he’ll live.