Check In

I work a check-in at an inner city hospital. It’s as stressful as you would think, and at least for me, it’s mostly a blur of people and problems. People screaming at me about their maladies, however severe, has become static. Even people with the sort of novelty problems you’d write in to a magazine about “strange but true” experiences barely make an impact on me any more.

This one guy, though… He was memorable as losing your virginity and both graduation days combined. And he seems to be getting more and more memorable for me as time goes by. 

I’m not saying any dates or times or anything, but I will say that it was a little slower than usual at the hospital. So I was in the middle of getting some paperwork done, transcribing some notes, when I saw a guy coming in. He was at least six feet tall with an unkempt beard half a foot long and dressed in a heavy winter coat with one of those stupid hats that’s like a baseball cap with with fur-lined ear flaps. He was staring at me as he shuffled forward, his eyes heavily lidded as if he was jusy barely staying awake. Like I implied earlier all the patients and guests and guets had sort of blurred together for me, so I must admit I waited for him to come to the reception area while I finished what I had been working on.

Before I could say a word, he tossed a card in front of me, evidently having had it in his hand when he came in since I didn’t see him take it from his pocket. Actually it was more like he dropped it in front of me, since his hand was palm down at the time. I noticed that there was brownish-red under his fingernails before I glanced down to see that it was his driver’s license.

“I thought you’d need some ID.” He said. His voice was deep, raspy, and completely emotionless, the voice of someone barely aware of his surroundings.

“What can I do for you?” I asked. “Why did you give this to me?”

“I need to die.” He said with the emotionless tone.  

“Were you in an accident sir?” I said as I belatedly took the phone receiver. The man clearly was a priority patient, probably had a concussion. There might have been an accident outside.

“No. Trying to kill myself. Thought I could take care of it, turns out I can’t. Cut my wrists right and everything.” He undid the straps on his coat sleeves then and rolled them up.

I’d seen numerous injuries, many of which were mortal. When he said he’d cut his wrists right, he meant he’d slashed the length of his veins down the arm, which is the way to do it when someone really wants to die. It’s called a “morgue” cut instead of a “hospital” cut, the type when you cut across the wrist. And he had cut deep on both arms, neither cut too clean either. But he wasn’t bleeding a drop, even there wasn’t nearly enough coagulated blood on either wound.

That could not have been a man standing in front of me who had cut his arms like that who was still standing even though… no, that simply had to be a prank, but where could the camera person have been? Who’d prank a hospital?

“What did you…” I said as I looked from his arms to up to his face. I had a good look at his face. The man was dead pale and his eyes white to an unnatural degree.   

“Yeah, cut ‘em in the shower and let ‘em bleed for a long time. Realized I wasn’t gonna die after a while.”

“I…” was all I could say. His eyebrows twitched slightly in that way people’s do when they remember something suddenly.  

“Something else I did.” He unfastened the clasp under his chin clumsily, removed the hat, and turned his head to the left. Even with the sight of those wrists, I wasn’t ready for this.

He had an exit wound at the base of his head where it would meet the neck. I could see the wall behind him, which made it clear this wasn’t a trick. Heh. A dead giveaway. The bullet went right through the portion of his skull where his brain stem would be located, the part of the brain which controls all those vital involuntary functions. Like heartbeat.

And he’d barely bled a drop. I remember that perfectly.

After that, it was all a blur. I must have been crying in a corner after calling security or something, because I have a blurry memory of some security person escorting him away. I remember he was much taller than the security guard, It looked like a child escorting a hulk. That hardly mattered, as long as he went away and he didn’t come back. It was the last I ever saw him and the last I’ve heard of him.

I don’t remember anyone telling me not to mention this. They wouldn’t have needed to: I’ve tried my hardest not to think about it for awhile, then I can vaguely remember going awhile without thinking about it. For whatever reason, lately I’m finding myself more and more thinking back on that exit wound and what the man had to say. I question constantly why he went to the hospital. What did they do with him? Did the hospital know something about him that it’s not sharing? How far will they go to keep it secret? Who else is like that patient? Do I want the answers to any of these questions?

You remember how I said that the other patients have blurred and become white noise for me? I really want it to stay that way.



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