Passing Through Midnight

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Authors: Mary Kay McComas
unsaid. "He was
so angry, he couldn't even wait to get me alone. There were fifty-two
people willing to testify at the trial. The cops had him in custody
before the EMTs could cut me out of my car."
    That had been a blow. That a virtual stranger could hate
her so much and want her dead so badly that he didn't care who saw him,
who else he hurt, or if he got caught. So much hatred.
    There had been no misgivings or unpleasantness in dredging
up the event for Gil, for as surely as she'd known that he would catch
her if she fainted, she'd known he would listen, make no judgments,
preach no platitudes.
    She was comfortable sitting silently in the dark. Silence
and darkness were her second home. For months now, she'd been actively
seeking out such places within herself. Hiding places, where her cries
for help and the sobs of her pain couldn't be heard; where the slide
show of horrified and commiserating faces couldn't reach her.
    Something in Gil wanted to reach out and touch her.
Softly, tenderly, soothingly. He could practically hear the wind
blowing through the schism between the woman she'd been that night and
the woman sitting next to him. Closed up, shut down, out of business.
    "I think I heard about it on the news or something," he
said at last, reaching out to her with words, afraid to touch
her… No, more afraid she'd push him away. "I remember seeing pictures of the car and
thinking…"
    "A television news show ran those pictures during a
segment on Senseless Violence In America." She gave a soft laugh. "My
fifteen minutes of fame."
    "The guy went to prison for attempted murder, right?"
    "And manslaughter. The man who hit the retaining wall died
instantly."
    That was something else that didn't make sense—
why him and not her?
    Again they were cloaked in the stillness of the night, Gil
trying to imagine what she was feeling, Dorie straining to feel nothing
at all.
    "And now you're a doctor who faints at the sight of
blood," he murmured, as if he'd arrived at the sum of her misery.
    Not wanting to scream or cry or tear at her hair, she
chuckled weakly.
    "Worse. I can't stand sick people. I hate the smells and
the sounds." She paused. "I remember being doped up and sort of out of
it, and hearing people moan in pain and… and consciously
deciding not to care. I actively fought against the impulses I'd
developed as a doctor to relieve suffering. I'd feel my own pain and
say this is what happens when you care about another person's agony;
this is what happens when you get involved."
    "By the time I started physical therapy I was almost
immune to the sounds, except that I'd go back to my room exhausted and
half-asleep before I got there. Partly from the strain of the therapy,
but mostly to turn off my brain, to hide away in sleep." Another pause.
"My doctor said I was clinically depressed, that I was still in shock.
He ordered antidepressant drugs and told me it would pass. Obviously it
hasn't."
    "It will."
    "And the smell!" she said with a too-loud, too-scornful
laugh, as if she hadn't heard him speak. "There was an outside door on
the way to therapy, and if someone was coming in or going out when we
passed it, I'd get this head full of clean, fresh air, and then my next
breath would be that too-clean antiseptic and alcohol smell that's so
much a part of what I identify with as a doctor, and I'd get cold and
clammy and my stomach would roll with nausea."
    Her voice faded into the darkness. Gil didn't know what to
say or how to help her. He couldn't imagine what it would be to feel
revulsion for something that was as much a part of who you were as the
color of your hair or the texture of your skin. He guessed, for him, it
would be like loathing the smell of a barnyard or the rich, heady scent
of fresh-cut wheat.
    "I started getting headaches," she murmured, her voice
barely audible. "They thought it was part of the depression also, sort
of a release valve because I wasn't dealing with what
happened—just falling asleep every

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