Outside looking in
Maureen Lovejoy had been an intensive care nurse for twenty-four years. The first seventeen she had spent at a hospital in inner-city Los Angeles, the last seven here a Cedars-Sinai. The girl in the bed in room 2311 looked more like what she had tried to escape from at her first job. Nurses talk, read charts, and watch their patients even more so than the doctors. When Maureen had returned from her three days off, she heard the others talk about the girl and the strange men that surrounded her. When she had first arrived -- after surgery, apparently the police had wanted to question her. She had injuries consistent with a violent attack -- rape, she had second and third degree burns on the bottoms of her feet, whip-marks across her chest and back, broken legs, ribs, arm. The police had insisted on questioning her, but the men -- they had sent them away. Somehow. Because, apparently, in an instant the officers has gone from threatening to arrest the men, to “Very sorry to have bothered you, let us know how we can help.” And left.
So Maureen had watched. Watched the men come in one at a time and sit by the bedside, rotating through the five minutes an hour they were allowed in the room. Even when they were not allowed inside the room, two men always sat outside the room guarding the door. And she was pretty sure they were armed to the teeth. They didn’t look like honest men. In fact, the nurses had money going on which man was her pimp. The betting pool had the platinum blonde, blue-eyed man in the dark leather coat in the lead. But Maureen knew who sold the girl, it was the darker one, the thin older man who was always on a cell phone. He just had the look of wrongness about him. Dissolute, that was the word.
Maureen entered the room, turning on the light. The girl -- Anne Smith, that was her name. Not really, Maureen was sure, but that was the name on all her records. She’d been unconscious ever since the last cardiac arrest at seven this morning. The doctors had ordered all the men away for several hours to let her rest. “I cannot understand why you left your poor momma…” Maureen whispered, brushing away the hair from the girl’s pretty face. It was about the only part of the girl’s body that was unscathed. “No momma wants her baby girl selling herself on the street.”
Maureen went around the girl, lifting her arm to take her blood pressure. The left arm was in a cast up to the shoulders, both the ulna and radius had been broken by whatever sick john had done this to her. “You should’ve known better than climbing into cars with strange men. And these men here, they’re the strangest I’ve ever seen.” Ninety-eight over seventy-three. Maureen noted it on the chart, and stuck the thermometer in Anne’s mouth while she checked the IV lines. “And so skinny. Why do you fool girls think you’ve got to starve yourself to be pretty? Did you think you were going to be in movies? Ain’t nobody putting you in pictures now, not with those scars.”
Maureen checked the catheter, making sure it had no kinks. The bag was still half-full. “If you stayed away from those fool pimps of yours, you’d be safe and sound at home. I don’t know how many girls my preacher’s sent home, but every one of them’s momma took ‘em back.” Maureen sighed. “If you’d just believed in Jesus, followed his word, everything would have been just fine. Stay home, keep them pretty thighs closed ‘til your married. Now what you got? A body so scarred no man will ever want you. Probably addicted to crack, too. Even if you do wake up, you‘ll probably only have half the mind you were born with.”
The thermometer beeped. Ninety-eight point two. “I don’t know what those damn men told you, but ain’t no money and ain’t nobody worth what they done to you.” Maureen shrugged. “A fool won’t listen to nobody will they -- not their momma, not their daddy. Bet you‘re in there wishing you minded your momma now and never followed them bright lights, no?”
Maureen left the room, turning off the lights. She did not notice the stream of tears trailing down the face of woman with respirator tube down her throat.