They never gave her the children’s ward.
Actually they never gave her any of the regular wards. Of course they were polite about it. As polite as you can be at a god forsaken government hospital.
“Nurse, only emergency ward hain.”
She never asked why.
That’s because she knew. She knew from the look on the patients face when she first went up to take their temperature. She knew from the giggling behind her back at the nurses’ station. She knew from the drunken whispers of the ward boys at night.
She had never been pretty. And by the time she hit her thirties, her face had started to turn against her. The prickly hair that grew under her chin had started to multiply rapidly. The boils that came only in summer, now refused to go.
Her eyes became smaller, her nose bigger, and her hairline started to recede.
She had given up looking at the mirror some years back. She had also given up the thought of finding a man.
She looked at the other nurses. How they flirted with the doctors. And she ached to be held, to be caressed, to be made love to. Once, lonely and crazy from being on a ten hour emergency night shift that included four accident victims and two dead bikers, she had tried telling the ward boy that she was available for anything he might have in mind.
The fellow laughed hysterically. And said with her the only thing he had in mind was to run the hell out of there.
She never tried again.
Till that warm humid night.
When they brought him in. He was nineteen, and beautiful. And he had just chopped his thumb off. His hysterical parents had brought him to the hospital.
His uncle who had gifted him the gleaming fake Swiss army knife was also there, berating himself for his thoughtless gift. The uncle was carrying the thumb in a plastic bag filled with ice.
Of course they flinched on seeing her. But their grief had made them numb, and they didn’t even ask for another nurse. They begged her to please do something. Sow his thumb back. Call the doctor Nurse , please, save our son. It is true isn’t it, that the thumb will survive in ice. Tell us it is.
She hooked him up on the bed. Told them she’d call the doctor, and that they’d have to wait outside. Then she took the bag with the thumb, and walked to the cold storage room.
She stared at the thumb in the clear plastic. A strong thumb, not too fleshy. She took it out and held it against her cheek. And slowly moved it down her face, across her neck. It felt like a caress, rough and cold, but manly.
She moved the thumb down the swell of her breasts. And that’s when she made up her mind.
“ Sorry, spoke to Doctor. He says nothing can be done. Our Operation Theatre has been shut for a week. And the thumb can only be attached fifteen minutes after being severed. It has already been one hour.”
But nurse...the mother’s wail filled the air.
“Sorry. You have to take him to the next hospital for stitching, or the hand might get gangrene, and it might spread. Go fast”
They left in a babble of confusion and crying. The next hospital was in the next district. And in their hurry, they forgot the thumb. The thumb that was of no use now.
She reached home just as day was breaking. She opened the rusty fridge, and took out a steel tray full of ice. The thumb was placed in a sparkling blue soap dish, next to her bed.
She hummed to herself. Happy that she had two men, one who couldn’t take his eyes off her. And now another, who couldn’t keep his hands off her.
The eyeball, in a glass, on top of the old TV, followed her as she went about making tea and humming her little song.
absolutely love this song. how to save a life by The Fray.