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Hospital Doorstep


A man sleeps in the sun on a bench across from the hospital. On the bench
diagonally opposed, across and beside him, an almost doctor eats cold noodles.
The man has his pants low, half cracked, and his hands on his genitals. We all
sleep sometimes with a hand in our pants.

Across the street and inside silver doors, patients rest on foam boards. A few
sleep less peacefully than the man on his concrete. Some inside the hospital are
homeless. There’s a man inside who when asked about other problems (I meant
medical), he said, “My feet are dry.” We looked together. His heels flaked on the
bleached sheets. There’s a man with wild eyes and beard. I saw him standing
just inside his doorway, gowned in yellow (a visible color, for patients who
wander). Later I hurried by again. He stood in the same liminal place, arms at the
same tight angles, but in his own clothes.

“Is there anything that can be done for him?” A woman in a cardigan approached
and now asks my short white coat about the man on the bench.
“He’s going to get sunburned,” she says.
Is he breathing? I think instead of answer.
It’s hard to tell. It is still difficult for me to watch for chest rise and fall in someone
sleeping with hands down his pants. I don’t even know how to help the people in
the hospital.
“I’ll ask,” I try to say. My voice squeaks it into a question. The blonde bob follows
me inside. She informs security.

I remember later, peak out the seventh-floor window, and the man is gone.

Maggie Mass Maggie Mass (3 Posts)

Contributing Writer

University of Illinois College of Medicine


Maggie is a third year medical student at University of Illinois College of Medicine in Chicago, IL class of 2022. In 2017, she graduated from University of Pittsburgh with Bachelors of Science & Arts in English and biology. She enjoys creative cooking, bike rides, and hammock naps in her free time. After graduating medical school, Maggie would like to pursue a career in Emergency Medicine.