The hum-click-whir-beep of the place wasn’t what stung.
The sterile, antiseptic smell of every single kind of antibacterial wash laid against specled floor, white wall and grey table wasn’t what stung.
The kind, vacant, urgent aces of the nurses wasn’t what stung.
Bullet holes weren’t what stung.
Hands that shook too much to hold the paper cup of bitter coffee weren’t what stung.
The tap squeak tap squeak tap squeak of an idle intern next to an unused gurney wasn’t what stung.
Red on the white sheets isn’t what stung.
Needle and thread, no.
Someone’s sharp voice barking “Clear!”, no.
Betadine on his lips, no.
Cracked ribs, no.
Not the screaming infant with an ear infection.
Not the woman with the fresh hot bruises of love gone wrong written all over her face.
Not the middle aged man who — somehow, only god knows why — has a grapefruit spoon lodged in his left nostril.
Not the young man kicking at the Coke machine.
Not the way everyone else was wrapped up in the tight, suffocating cocoon of their own pain.
Not any of that.
It was the way he could see through the curtain that her hand hung off the side of the table, grey green pale to match the inside of the place.
Grey green pale the way fluorescent lights washed everything into bleak nothing.
Grey green pale wasn’t the color of life.
And it stung.
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