Samantha wiped the sweat from her brow, then the brow of her best friend. Samantha said, "Sarah, we have to go to the E.R. We have to go now."
"No We can do thi --" Sarah's face wracked itself and wrinkled and she dry heaved. Her sharp nails dug into Samantha's arm, squeezed, punctured the skin.
Samantha yelped, tried and failed to pry Sarah's nails from her arm. "We're going now. Period," she said. Sarah puked on herself.
They stared at each other, both heaving. Sarah nodded, once.
The May night was warm and wet and the streets shimmered. "I'll drive," Sarah said, and they both laughed.
Stopped at a red light while a burst of cars passed in front of them Sarah screamed and screamed and Samantha lay on the horn.
The light turned green.
Sarah shouted, "SHIT I SHAT. I SHAT. THIS BETTER BE WORTH IT."
"I FUCKING SHAT, I shit you not. I shit."
"Damnit!" Samantha looked both ways and sped through the red light. Careened around the round about and almost smashed through the emergency room doors. "Out. Now. Go," she shouted as she slammed her door and hopped the hood of the car. "I'll help you," Samantha said, "You!" She shouted, "Nurse!" Then, "Where the fu-ul moon are all the nurses?"
"It's sunday," an elderly man in the waiting room said, unruffled by the car blocking the sliding-doors.
The elevator dinged open and there, for half a second, stood two male nurses: both black, both holding coffee cups, both tall and muscular. One of them had short, bleached blonde hair, the other dreadlocks pulled into a high, back bun. "Well," the blonde one said.
"She shit herself," Samantha blurted.
"Thank you!" Sarah shouted.
Dreadlocks nurse appeared with a wheel chair and, over and through Sarah's objections, sat her in it.
"Right into room seven?" He asked his colleague, who nodded.
"Any idea how dilated?" He asked.
Samantha said, "ten-ish."
"How do you know?'
"We wanted a home birth, but this doesn't seem right, " Samantha said. Sarah started to say something but her words fell apart, knocked about by a scream.
"On a business trip," Samantha lied. "They're unreachable."
"Okay, we'll take it from here."
"I'm with her."
"You're not family young lady. Wait here."
"Please! We've paged the emergency doctor."
"No! I'm her family. Please man, come on. Please." Samantha sniffed. "Please," she whispered. The nurse let her into the room, where Sarah was screaming and wrenching, a bloody baby's leg wiggled and writhed, sticking out from between her thighs.
"Fuck," said everyone.
Sarah did not stop repeating the word.
The doctor, a gray haired black man in light blue scrubs and a lighter blue doctor's smock stepped into the room and assessed the situation. "Fuck, eh?" He said and raised an eyebrow at Samantha. Calmly, he said: "Room three is prepped. Get her there. Now." He turned to Samantha and said, "This is an emergency Cesarian section. You cannot be in there. You can wait out side." He put a hand on Samantha's shoulder and said, "I'm sorry, but she'll be fine." Gently, firmly, quickly he moved Samantha out of the way and the nurse with the dreadlocks hustled Sarah's bed through the
door and right down the hallway.
Samantha sat outside the surgery room and stared at the blank, egg shell wall and felt the tear race unending down her cheeks. She laced and relaced her fingers and then, suddenly, Sarah's screaming stopped. In the sudden silence, Samantha repeated prayers and promises under her breath over and over. The smell of cooking pork danced across her nose. Then the screaming started again and there was a crash and a clatter of thin metal hitting the floor over and over. Muffled swearing. More clattering. The nurse with the dreadlocks smashed through the operating room door, clutching his right eye socket, a scalpel protruding from his sliced eye. He said nothing as he careened down the hallway, swaying from wall to wall; shouldering his way into things, then through a pair of double doors and out of sight.
Beyond the double doors, a klaxon spun, hypnotically fast and calm.
Samantha, mouth open, turned back to the door. Sarah was screaming, "Kill it! Kill it! Kill it!" over and over.
The doctor was the next through the door, out of the operating room. His arms slashed bloody, he cradled something, his face pale, his mouth hairline thin. He ducked and ran in the opposite direction of the stabbed nurse.
Sarah was still shrieking, "Kill it" when two burly nurses barged through the bloodied door, one black guy, one white guy equal in stature and breadth. They wore white scrubs, light blue latex gloves and matching surgical masks. One of them wore thick black glasses and eyed Samantha, who was standing now, as they went into surgery room three.
Samantha immediately heard one of them throwing up. She said, "Fuck," and took off, running down the corridor, chasing after the doctor.
Samantha smashed through double doors after double doors, taking turns at random. Eventually she slammed into a set that didn't budge. She noticed the klaxons, still spinning and spinning. She punched the middle of the doors. They didn't move. "Come on!" She shouted. She punched the doors again and shouted, more loudly. Nothing happened.
Samantha sank to her knees. "Come on" she said, hands on her head, fingers in her hair. "Come on, come on."
There was a hiss, and a beep and a tinny voice addressed her: "Lay down on the floor and put your hands on your back."
"What?" Samantha said.
"Lay down on the floor and put your hands on your back. We do not want any more trouble. Please lay down on the floor and put your hands on your back," repeated the voice, over and over.
Samantha did as she was told. She lay down and put her hands on her back.
The floor smelled like bleach and mints. A moment later the double doors hissed open. Someone zip tied Samantha's hands together and hauled her to her feet.
"Bend your elbows. We're going to sit you down in a wheel chair."
Samantha bent her elbows and sat when commanded to. "What happened?" she asked, as they wheeled her down similar, blank, hallways over and over and then, more interminable hallways. "Where's Sarah? Where's my friend?"
No answer. Samantha clenched her hands and repeated her questions. She asked about the baby; asked about the nurse, the doctor, the baby and her friend, over and over.