"I liked it," Mali replied.
Joe's eyes had grown heavier with each word of his story, and by the time Mali had complimented him, he was no longer conscious.
Mali smiled, and pulled the covers up over his torso, carefully as to not aggravate his injuries. A nurse entered, a black woman in her early thirties. It was his nurse.
"My, my, my, he sure does have a lot of lady visitors," she observed, winking at Mali.
"We're just his...traveling companions. Any word on when he'll be released?"
"Not just yet, honey. The doctors still need to clear him on his internal injuries, if they are any."
"Okay. I hope that's soon. We're all a little anxious to leave."
"Yes. I met that friend of his....young black girl. She seemed very heavy with guilt over his situation."
"Yeah, that's Casey."
"Well, she's a sweetheart," the nurse sarcastically stated. Mali smiled.
"You just have to get to know her, I guess," she told the nurse. "How long have you worked here?"
"About twelve years now. Came here as soon as I became an RN. This hospital has been my life for quite sometime. It's where my children were born. It's where my husband died. Chances are, it's where I'll die, too. God willing, I hope that's not for awhile."
Mali snuggled into a chair next to the bed while the nurse continued to check Joe's vitals. "Everything seems okay for now. Would you like something to read? Visiting hours are over in about an hour, and I doubt he'll be awake for awhile."
"Could you tell me a story?" Mali asked the woman.
"I really...I'm working right now, honey. I don't think I have time for..."
She didn't finish as she saw the disappointed look on Mali's face.
"Perhaps a short one, then."
This isn't a story as much as a strange night here at the hospital. Three drunk drivers in critical condition in the span of three hours, a mother giving birth to a still-born, a child with cancer crying over a ripped teddy bear....those things are normal here, as heartbreaking as that seems.
But this night was different.
A man came in. About thirty or so. He was experiencing symptoms of a heart attack, but no one knew for sure what was happening to him. Especially the doctors.
They ordered to observe him overnight. Perhaps his body would give us some sort of clue as to what was ailing him.
I was assigned to stay in his room for a couple hours until Jill, the other nurse on duty, was to take over.
Someone claiming to be his brother came in to watch over him. I figured he was harmless. He just sat next to the bed, staring at his supposed brother.
I swear, for a moment, I saw flames in his eyes. The sick man started to turn in his sleep almost as soon as I saw the fiery eyes.
The "brother" stood up, almost defensively. Then the sick man woke up.
I immediately jumped up and paged the on-call doctor. I knew it would be just a moment before he arrived, but the sick man started to speak.
"Save your strength, honey," I told him.
The "brother" then began to speak to the sick man in a strange language. Here at the hospital, I hear all sorts of different languages. But this one I had never heard before. It almost seemed...ancient.
Suddenly, the room was filled with white light. I could still make out the two men, and I swear to mighty God above I heard the "brother" say to the sick man, almost behind the language being spoken,
"I am sorry. What we have together...it will never be. I can never see you again. You must stop loving me. Our different responsibilities will never allow it. You must forget me."
And then the "brother" was gone, just gone like he had never been there. The sick man began to cough and cough and a strange black ooze dripped from his mouth. He suddenly seemed healthier, and much more alert.
Then he began to weep. "My love," he muttered through his sobs. Then he began to sing.
It was a sad song, one that caused me to weep as well. It reminded me of my husband, and the love we once had that, now, could no longer be. It was as if every heartache and strong feeling of despair had filled me with the sick man's beautiful, angelic voice.
Then the room went completely white. The on-call doctor finally arrived to find me slumped in the corner, asleep and pale, with shallow breaths escaping me.
To this day, no one saw the sick man or the "brother" leave the hospital. Even the security tapes revealed the two never leaving.
I have no idea what happened in that room that night. But I think an angel's heart was broken by something it could never be with.
Ever since then, I believe every living thing here on Earth and elsewhere, knows heartache.
"I really gotta go now, honey. I'll check back in an hour before you have to leave."
"Thanks. That was a beautiful story," Mali said, her eyes glistening with the threat of tears.
The nurse exited. Joe suddenly stirred in his sleep.
"My baby...." he muttered in his dream-state. "My baby's gone...."
Now Mali's eyes did leak their salty tears.