after midnight in the pulsing electric

To live here is to live inside a hive of bees. Constant vibration, unresting urgency.

Breastfeeding in bed in the middle of the night, the wall literally shakes at my back. In this living place, this dying place, systems and ducts and fans and machines groan and heave, mechanical innards inhaling and exhaling.

The single, long alarm rings across the paging system. NEONATAL TEAM TO ROOM 311, STAT. NEONATAL TEAM TO ROOM 311, STAT. NEONATAL TEAM TO ROOM 311, STAT.

Said once I could pretend not to hear, drift back into uneasy sleep. But echoing three times in the space of my own private darkness, I’m left boggle-eyed. They said that for us, once. Strength to that mama, to that dada and baby. Strength.

Ten minutes later a familiar thrum approaches in the skies, grows louder. The helicopter lands on the roof above my head, deafening then slowing, and I imagine the running footsteps and stretcher wheels and yelled instructions, and bewilderment, and fear. Another family, another test of mettle.

I am buried in this maze like the smallest of solid centres in a Russian nesting doll. Surrounded by people like me, keeping our eyes on our shoes, thrown together to unwillingly witness one another’s heartbreak.

Religious or not, you resort to almost constant prayer in here. The humanity of it all just runs so impossibly thick.

The air is both stale and stirred up, pulsing electric like the blades of the medivac.