The Best of New Writing on the Web

January 14, 2008

The Corridor of Men in Suits

Filed under: Flash Fiction,Writing — litlove @ 12:02 pm

From The Individual Voice

She started working in the hospital in January. Every day, she had lunch alone in the cafeteria filled with doctors and nurses, families of the sick, scheduling coordinators, cleaning crew, insurance billers, credentialing specialists and other personnel that keep a large hospital functioning. To get to and from the cafeteria, she passed through a long hallway lined on both sides with portraits of men in suits, likely doctors, maybe some benefactors.

At first, they all looked exactly the same to her. But over time, as spring blossomed, she slowed her pace to study the portraits, while rushing people jostled past her. She noticed that the portraits were differentiating, becoming more and more distinct. First she noticed that one of the men was laughing. Another had a twinkle in his eye. One looked chipper, another sly. One was strangely black and white, like a stranger in a Hitchcock film. Here was a poseur pretending to be erudite, another conceited, that one depressed, and the next one contemplating suicide, most certainly dead by now. There was comical, seductive, a shyster, Dr. Jovial, a sociopath hiding his malpractice. Here was a philosopher, a bigamist, a neurosurgeon with a terrible bedside manner and a serial killer. She saw a closeted cross-dresser, one pondering his own penis, here trustworthy, there devilish. That one was forced to go to medical school by his parents and only wanted to play the cello.

As you can see, this was a very, very long hall. She became more and more enchanted by their different expressions as summer wore on. The pompous, the meek, the wife batterer in denial, the one so stern he was even condescending towards the photographer. The arrogant, the glib, prurient, deranged, a patient molester, an Old Boy Harvard Yankee with a bowtie. One smarmy, one malignant, one with a terrible prognosis.

They were quite the crew, maybe a hundred of them, who followed her with their approving, disapproving, critical, bemused or sinister eyes. No one else seemed to notice them. They were just a bunch of boring white men in suits. It was like any other bustling hospital corridor to others. To her it was a hushed museum of the ghosts of men who had important positions in this hospital over the years. She befriended them all by the fall. As winter approached, again, and the days shortened, the walk along the corridor seemed to get longer and longer. She stopped watching the men and watched the gleaming, polished floor, instead, day after day, trudging wearily to get her lunch and eating it quickly so she could get back to work. And as the anniversary marking her first year of employment in the hospital approached, she looked up again at the men, astonished, for they were suddenly growing younger.

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