Lisa loves being an ER nurse. She dreamed of being a nurse since she was a little girl. She always wanted to help people. She enjoys her coworkers, they are like family, they made her feel safe. Lisa likes that they give her the security she needs, being a girl from a small town, working and living in the city, she felt out of place for a long time.
The ER is fast paced, dangerous at times, intense and challenging. There have been times that she has needed to use all the strength of her heart to help families through the worst times in their lives. Sometimes she is rewarded with the warmth of seeing a family united after a traumatic experience.
Leaving the ER for her trip home always gives Lisa anxiety. The 2 AM, fourty minute ride on the subway always included load of characters. Everything from other late night workers, to partiers, to street people and drug users. There was also the street walkers and gangs. It was nothing that Lisa was used to seeing in the ER, but in the ER she has the security of her family, out here she is alone with no protection.
The walk home during the day is quite beautiful, two storey brownstones along one side, with a cobblestone roadway, next to the cobblestone is a wrought iron fence just before a walking path, all of which is followed by a slow river.
Tonight the ride was uneventful, Lisa breaths a sigh as she exits the train onto the platform. As usual she is hit in the face with smells of the train, oil and grease, and the heat radiating from the brakes. The all too familiar smells from the platform of musty moulds and sewer gases cause her to wrinkle her nose. The lights still half burnt out, it’s been weeks already, but had she really expected them to be working? Not really, but she hoped. For once she wanted a well lit walk way before she had to start her walk down the street.
Tonight, it’s cloudy with no moon, the river has a layer of fog that has rolled across the walking path and the cobblestone. The street lights look like stars through the haze of the fog. The cobblestone is covered in puddles, they share what little reflections that are available from the street lights.
Lisa looks down the long block knowing it should only take ten minutes to walk home, but that’s when she can see everything. Tonight is different, she can’t see ahead more than a dozen feet. Lisa could feel her anxiety growing, but she couldn’t stay here, she had to get home. She started her walk slowly, sliding her feet, not stepping and listening carefully, trying to hear anything that might be a warning noise.
Lisa starts running scenarios through her head if she hears a noise that signals danger. Should she run for an alleyway? Logic tells her to stay in the open, panic tells her to hide. Her training tells to be cautious, she deals with dangerous and violent people every day in the ER, but there she always has her family to back her up. Tonight in the middle of the street in the thick fog, she is all alone.
Lisa takes a step, her shoe enters the middle of a puddle distorting the light reflection, causing the puddle to ripple and the light breaks up into rings and spreads across the puddle. Lisa stops dead, was that a noise somewhere behind her? It sounded like a scrape, she listens carefully, would there be another one? Nothing, she starts walking again, disrupting one puddle after another. Then, there was a noise, it sounded like a metal can falling over and rolling. Lisa’s heart is pounding, she can feel it banging against her ribs. She walks a little faster but it’s hard not being able to see far ahead.
Another noise, this time it’s a shuffling sound, Lisa listens but can not tell where it is coming from. It seems to be coming from everywhere. The fog is distorting the sound making it impossible to track its source. Lisa picks up the pace again, but she stumbles on the cobblestone and falls to her hands and knees. Her hands are scraped and burning, she can feel small stones in the cuts. Lisa stands and pushes forward again, tears in her eyes, she whispers “Please” to herself. She quickly scans the brownstones as she goes by, looking for some indication of a light, none.
Finally she is almost home, she can’t see the numbers on the doors but she is sure she is close. A few more and she will be there. Lisa can feel her heart beat in her ears, her breathing is louder then her footsteps now. There it is, the door, all she has to do is climb four steps and unlock the door and then she’s safe. She stumbles on the second step, but recovers quickly and reaches the door. Lisa digs for her keys in her pocket and in her panic drops them, one more moment of panic as she retrieves the keys. She unlocks the door and slides in and pulls the door closed. Facing the door, she presses her forehead against the door trying to regain her composure.
Lisa, being so focused on getting past the door, didn’t notice that the light in the hall was out. Lisa feels a large hand, cold and wet, slide across her mouth. Her eyes open wide as she is pulled away from the door. Lisa screams in her mind “No!”. Lisa raises her right leg and kicks off from the door, pushing her and the owner of the hand backwards. They land on the floor, the hand loosens it’s grip on Lisa and she rolls off the body. With out thinking, Lisa grips her keys between her fingers and lashes out at the controller of the hand, the keys rake across the throat causing a muffled scream. By instinct alone, Lisa crawls to the corner as she watches a dark patch form on the floor as the air fills with the aroma of iron. Lisa knew exactly what was happening and how long the bleeding would last if she didn’t help soon. Lisa sat in the corner with her knees pulled to her chest, tears running down her cheeks, her body shaking.
For many years I carried several key chains. The one for work had keys for padlocks, keys to access doors, it even had keys to access boxes that have keys in them. I had my van keys and my remote starter with security. I also had a key chain with my house keys.
February 2017 I had an accident that gave me a Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI). My TBI brings with it symptoms similar to a concussion, memory loss, headaches, dizziness, fatigue and others. Now I find myself no longer needing all those keys for work, the keys that were for all those padlocks, doors and boxes with hidden keys. The keys that spent so many years clipped to my belt loop, that jingled when I walked, had gone silent. No longer allowed to drive, the keys to the van have been put aside.
In my pocket is a key chain with six keys, one for the house, one for the garage and four keys I can not identify. I’m sure that at one time, these four keys had some kind of importance, a usefulness, a purpose. There has to be a logical reason to be hanging on to these four keys. There may have been a sentimental connection perhaps, I just don’t remember what they are for or even when they may have been used.
At one time, these keys had a use, a function, maybe even an important purpose. Possibly a new function for the keys will be found, a new purpose for them to stay on the key chain or maybe a whole new function, something different from what they were originally designed for.
Maybe some day there will be a reason for me to need these keys again.
Don’t Stay Alone
I once worked for a group home with mentally challenged young adults. The house they lived in was in an older area of the city, where most of the houses were what would be called, character homes. This was one of those. It had high ceilings and tall windows that went to about eighteen inches from the floor to near the ceiling . There was stained glass throughout the house that added to the old character feel of the house. The mouldings were made of big, dark wood, lots of it, also hardwood floors that creeked. There were large banisters on the stairs and old plastered walls, well painted, but you could tell it’s age. This house was three stories tall with a basement. The basement, although well lit and clean, wasn’t an area many wanted to visit.
Many of my coworkers told stories of how the house was haunted and had spirits roaming around. One of the residents lived on the third floor, all alone. When you worked the over night shift, you generally worked on your own. One of the girls said she would often see the image of the resident from the third floor, sitting on the sofa in the living room in the middle of the night. She knew he was sound asleep in his room three floors up.
Another staff had noticed planters move across the living room floor and it was common to to see images out the corner of your eye, moving out of the room. The basement had a narrow staircase and people had often said, they saw the image of a child at the bottom of the stairs, when they turned on the lights.
There was a period of time in the house where stress with the residents had escalated to the point of violent aggression. This had gone on for several weeks. One night late in the evening after a particularly stress filled day, the staff was gathered in the front office to review the days events and complete reports, when an image, a brown mass really, appeared above the table for a brief moment and then slowly floated out of the office door, into the hallway and disappeared around the corner. We all looked at each other to confirm in our own minds, that we had really seen the same thing.
I’m a, ”you have to show me and I’ll believe it”, kind of guy. After working there, I’m not so sure that is the case anymore. I’m definitely not as quick to disbelieve a story now.