When a new patient enters the ward, everyone sees how far they’re advanced. Beginners have hair and eyebrows. They’re scared. They can’t comprehend why such fate befell them. Those returning for the second or third time completely bald unpack their slippers and toothbrush like one come home after a long journey. Whether they hope or not, they do what they must. They make no fuss about vomit, or getting positive results. Those who’ve been here for months, whose condition got worse after temporary improvement, whose tumor in the stomach has grown, or a new one was discovered in the frontal lobe show where they are; they have no more strength to fear or to trust. No strength to demand to be given special attention. Nurses treat them like some old piece of furniture we like, but would rather give away.
They are the last to get their infusion and are not asked at all if they had stool.
Each one, a distinct body. But like soldiers with feet numb from the trenches’ cold mud, they belong together.