The patient

Heck said: “She came in two days ago. Pretty bad shape. Some kind of accident, but that’s all I know. She was in ICU until yesterday. You picked a hell of a day to dial in sick.”

I shrugged. “It’s a hospital, Heck. Things happen. I’m sorry for her, but I’m the janitor. I doubt I was missed.”

He corrected me. “Maintenance engineer.”

Eight-fifty an hour? I don’t think so.”

Anyway, that’s not the point. She’s wired up in 215. Monitors, tubes, the works. Hardly a scrape on her that I could tell.”

You’re not supposed to—”

I’m supposed to clean. And if my mop bucket rolled a little into her room, what are they going to do? Fire me? Take away my license to clean toilets?”

So what’s your point? It’s a hospital. I suppose she’s pretty.”

She’s not – what do you call it? – drop dead gorgeous. But she’s pretty. I can see her working the counter of a boutique, helping the uglies with colors and shoe sizes. But she’s totally down for the count. I heard the word coma, and I thought, shit, man, that’s so wrong. I’ll bet she hasn’t seen thirty yet. Dark hair, a little thin, probably a vegetarian. You know the type.”

So what?” I said again. “So you can’t ask her out yet?”

No, man, here’s the thing. She’s been here for a little more than two days and she’s had zero visitors. I mean no one. Not a boyfriend, not a roommate, not a co-worker or relative. I was talking to Marie, and no one even knows her name. No ID. It’s sad. It made me think of you.”

Thanks, Heck.”

You know what I mean.”

Mr. Lonely, meet Miss Lonely.”

Sort of. Hey, you want to grab a coffee? You got twenty minutes.”

I looked at my watch. “I gotta do a quick inventory of the supply closet.”

You got time.”

And that’s how I met you.

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