Guardian Angel
Lee F. Socquet Jr.

He is a splash of Pepto Bismal in the urine stained room. A stern woman with the pointy face is trying to give you a jug to piss in. Her claw fingers grip your wrist.

"I know you have to urinate, but you can't go running off. You tried to hurt yourself tonight. You have to use this, buddy, do you hear me?"

Her words are like sludge sliding out of her mouth. The room's yellows and browns are melting into mud. You are losing your balance. Slipping from her grip you fall onto the scratchy bed sheets. You do not listen to her words, eyes now watching the new figure in the cubicle. He is tall, face smudgy until he gets closer. He could be Latino, or maybe Italian. He smells like a freshly smoked cigarette and something else, not soap, not cologne. Earthy, and pungent it pricks your nostrils like an exotic spice would. The stern woman still peers at you holding the plastic pissing jug. You shake your head violently at her.

"I'll help him, Margo."

The man is clearer now. The lamps from the bed illuminate his scruffy wide face. His eyes are gray and large. He is tired. Red webbing crackles the whites of his eyes. His nametag says "Horatio Martin." He smiles like someone you know, but cannot remember now. The pills are waging war inside your stomach. It is too late to vomit now, battle cries have already sounded throughout the steaming cavern inside you. He sits down beside you. The ties of the Johnny slide between his fingers. He ties each one up the back and lays you back on the pillows.

"You're going to need to drink this. Don't think about it, just drink." The Styrofoam cup is filled with liquid and what look like ashes. "It'll absorb all the crap in your system."

The top of his hands are downy, a thick fan of black hair sweeps across the veins. You grimace as the foul liquid sink down your gullet. The cup drops to the linoleum when you finish.

"Thanks, Horatio." You inhale deeply, the scent of death mingles with industrial cleaners. That smell could be seeping out of all your orifices right now. His wide chunky teeth spread out from his curled lips.

"I will stay with you until you sleep. You're going to be okay while I'm here." He rises and turns on the machines he hooks you to. "Remember I can't always be around." He shuffles away, his pink uniform whispering like flapping wings.

First published: November, 2003