I woke up with a throbbing arm and a head that felt as if a brick had smacked it. I rang for the nurse. I examined my arm. It was braced in a sling and resting on my stomach. I touched my head with my free hand and found a bandage covering a rather large bump.
“Mr. Roberts, has anyone talked to you?” asked the nurse as she swept into the room. She had wide hips and droopy brown eyes. She checked my IV and had me sit up while she fluffed my pillow.
“Uh. No, I just woke up.”
“Ok. Mr. Roberts, you’ve been in a car accident, ok?”
“Yeah,” I moaned, “I figured.”
“You’ve been unconscious for just a few hours, ok? We’ve already set your arm, so you don’t need to worry about that. And you’ve suffered a concussion. We’ll be keeping you overnight, ok? I’ll be back with your meds, and I’ll let your daughter know that you’re awake.”
My daughter? But before I could ask her what she meant, she was gone, chart in hand. I was bewildered and in need of drugs. My eyes were very heavy, and I must have closed them because I jumped when I heard a voice near me.
“Hey…dad,” it came, half chuckling.
I opened my eyes to see Amy smirking at me and shaking her head as if she’d never seen such a fool.
“You look like shit,” she said.
“Well, I feel like I’ve just been rolled down Russian Hill in a barrel.” As I tried to sit up, I learned that my left elbow was pretty banged up, too. I winced as I tried to remember the moment in which I was hit. I had been crossing the street. Then I remembered. She was running away. ”Why did you leave? And…and why are you here?”
“Why do they think that you’re my daughter?”
She brushed the hair out of her face. “They never even asked. I just hopped into the ambulance with you.”
I said, “Am I even old enough to have a daughter your age?”
“Well, I guess you look it.” She said as she sat down on the foot of my bed.
“Thanks,” I said. “I really need to get out of this place. It’s way too clean. Besides, I could really use a drink,” I said, watching the saline drip down into the back of my hand.
“Somehow, I don’t think that’s on the menu here,” she said, looking absently out the window down at the dimly lit parking lot.
The floors were made to look like cherry wood. They even had grooves where real wood would have been fitted together. It was a lame attempt to make the room seem homier. But this was far from home. What I wanted was a cigarette and a glass of Glenmorangie 10. Instead, I was stuck with a chicken noodle soup that tasted like liquid cardboard and a plastic container of applesauce Jello.
“Amy, where are you staying tonight?”
“I dunno. Union Square Park?”
“Very funny. Seriously, where will you go?”
She stared at her gray Chuck Taylors for a moment, looked up and shook her hair out of her face. She stared passed me at the wall for a moment and shrugged. “Sometimes I stay at the shelter on Ellis,” she said, “It’s clean, and they don’t ask too many questions.”
“So, you’re homeless?”
“Like I said, they don’t ask too many questions.”
“There’s a fold-out here in the corner. Stay here tonight, and then we’ll talk about this more tomorrow.”
She didn’t say anything. It was late. She made a bed out of the fold-out chair and curled up under one of the blue blankets she had found in the closet. I watched her sleep for a little while. The nurse stopped in to give me some more pain killers.
“I’ll stop by in a few hours to see how you’re doing, ok?” she said.
“Thanks. My, uh, daughter is going to stay with me.”
“That’s fine, Mr. Roberts. Do you need anything else?”
“When will I be able to leave?”
“We’ll take you for a walk in the morning, and if that goes well, you’ll be discharged before lunchtime.”
She flipped the light off and closed the door on the way out. The room became hushed. The only sound was Amy’s breathing just a few feet away from me. I fell asleep listening to her and devising a plan to keep her off the streets.