The woman waves me down outside the hospital and climbs in, talking on her phone. She’s in nurse’s garb, her hair tired up in a scarf over her head. I pull away, and it’s rush hour, the streets are clogged, so I hit some alleys in an attempt to keep moving.
She is on her phone for most of the trip, but as we turn onto her street, she hangs up, stares at the phone, and sighs.
“What a day.”
“One of those?” I ask quietly.
“One of those. You know, it’s hard working in a hospital sometimes. The stuff you see. And then you see that same stuff in your own family. It’s hard.”
“My aunt died in that hospital a year and a half ago,” I say. “Cancer.”
“All kinds of cancer today,” she says, almost as if she’s talking to herself. “What stage is it? Everyone wants to know. ‘It’s in the bone,’ the doctor says, or, ‘It’s in the stomach.’ And at this time of day, you can’t find out anything.”
She tells me how long she’s been in Lancaster. She tells me about where she worked before she came here.
“But today,” she says, smiling, “they took me off the regular floor and put me in the psych ward. There are all kinds of personalities on that floor.”
She laughs, and it’s a lively sound. Outside the car, the leafless trees move together in a slight wind. Brake lights ahead. We stop.
“You know,” she says, “today I was in a woman’s room, and she told me she was the author of Harry Potter. I said, ‘Really?’ and she told me yes, she is the author of Harry Potter, and now she’s working on a book for her future husband’s ex-wife. So she knows she’s going to be married, and she knows her future husband will have an ex.”
She laughs again.
“You can pull over here,” she says. “This is fine.”
I stop the car. She gets out, then leans back in the door.
“So, keep your eyes out for that book!” she says, laughing again.