I sat in the break room in the early hours of the morning listening to the sound of the television behind me, my coworker came and set her food down on the table across from me. She pulled out the chair and removed her mask so she could eat, and I wondered, “Will I recognize these people when I leave here?” I hardly recognized myself in the mirror earlier and I’m not even in a COVID-19 unit tonight. I still have on a cap and a mask, all we can see of each other outside of the break room are each other’s eyes.
Sometimes this world is much smaller than we imagine it to be. When I took this assignment in New York I knew there would be brave nurses from all over the nation, but I wondered just how many would be from the South. It’s my first night and there are two fellow South Carolinians at my side. This is both comforting and unnerving: a comfort to know they come from the same region with a distinctive love of fried foods and sweet iced tea, and a sober reminder of the chaos that has driven us all to this place.
It’s interesting to hear their stories and see how close we’ve come to crossing paths in the past; somehow, we’ve all ended up here caring for the people of a community struggling to overcome a vicious pandemic. I know that my time here is for a brief amount of time, but I do hope to meet these people again, without masks and caps, under new circumstances. I hope we can share stories and laughter with less care on our shoulders. Until then, I’ll keep hoping that we will recognize each other when it’s all over.
I stood up to leave and we smiled at each other as I slipped the loops of my mask back over my ears, my break time is over and my armor is back on.
Much love, until next time.