She hadn't slept in two days.
The chart was simple: chronic insomniac, on medication, referred to the ED four times in the past two months by her primary care physician; not a smoker, no drugs, didn't drink, no anxiety or bipolar disorder, in no physical pain.
Except this time. This time, she hadn't slept in two days, and she had a raging headache. Had to be driven in on the bus because she couldn't see straight, and the hallucinations were getting ready to roll.
The toxicology report was clean; there was nothing in her system. She just couldn't sleep.
She was in the waiting room for forty-five minutes while a room was prepped for the customary exam. She watched the minute hand of the clock inch ever forward, tick after tick after tick after tick, thought she saw it jump once, then again, widdershins. Listened gravely to the man next to her who said his bellybutton had moved.
Now, there was a lunatic. He was a diagnosed schizophrenic. When she hadn't slept, that sort of mad talk made perfect sense to her.
Around one in the morning she was brought into room four, then over to room five, because it was open and because she hated the number four. It was a hard number, she said. Thankfully there was another room open. That hardly ever worked out. The schizophrenic man was put in room four instead.
She hadn't slept in two days, maybe more, now that she thought about it. The circles under her eyes could have been caused by someone's fist, and she was skinnier than a wrought-iron train rail, but she wasn't hungry. She was cold, though, and very polite when she asked for a blanket.
She said that her headache had stayed mostly the same, concentrated over her right eye, like her heart had migrated to that spot and was pounding horribly. She yawned, rubbed her eyes, and fiddled with the metal rail of the hospital bed. She was very tired.
At some time around two, she was admitted to the hospital. She was too tired to understand why, but she signed her name when they told her to, and she was wheeled upstairs without a fuss.
The man in room four tried to follow her up but was restrained. He thrashed until security came. She didn't know he was there at all; the rooms were all starting to move, and some of the lights seemed to be going on and off, on and off, like in the game she used to play as a child.
She was set up in one of the end rooms of the hospital, away from the hustle and bustle of the rest, in one of the darkest spots. A space heater was brought in, the door was closed, and she was alone. She couldn't hear the schizophrenic man, or the crew who brought her upstairs, or even the sound of her own breathing. She took a deep breath, then shut her eyes.
She slept for the first time in two days, and when she woke up, it was to the brightest lights.