I was standing waiting to check in for my pre-natal blood screens. I was leaning into Sean, weak and frozen by the general sense of gloom that always weighs down on me at the hospital. It is a beautiful facility, but there is a bleakness, an absence of cushion from sadness and loss. The smokers out front, their faces drawn and gray, and their carriage a mixture of defeat and defiance, seem to represent the threat that it doesn’t always work out.

Passing through the cloud hanging just on the other side of the automatic doors, came person after person, some flicking cigarettes behind them as smoke still snaked from their mouths, each more overweight and infirm than the last. I stepped back into Sean, grounding myself in the safety of his embrace, the feel of his body against mine, healthy and strong. After a while the smokers left, the haze clearing to reveal a wide expanse of blue sky. I looked down the hallway toward the elevators, there was no one, just the hospital’s wall fountain, gurgling softly, cleansing the air.

The woman checking us all in was struggling with her computer, looking over her shoulder at coworkers oblivious to the line that was forming. The faster she tried to work, the more futile it seemed, and I looked away, back toward the window. An orderly was pushing a wheel chair through the exit doors, while a man in his late sixties, tall and broad, stepped out of a large F-150 and walked around to open the passenger side door. He wore a short sleeved shirt in a checked pattern tucked into Wranglers, he was confident and strong. The orderly and the man exchanged words I couldn’t hear and then moved to help the person out of the wheel chair.

Her hair was curly and short, a soft halo of silver with black flecks. Her blouse was light and she held her arms out at her sides, unsure as she stood. The orderly stayed beside her, guiding her while the man watched. His face softened and he gently glided around her, gingerly holding her arms and then she was steady. His touch chasing away any hesitation, and she settled into his arms as he lifted her into the truck. Perched on the seat, her face turned slowly, first to the orderly, a weak “Thanks,” as he headed back into the lobby with the wheel chair. Then she looked to the man, raising a hand and touching his arm, she smiled, tired. He leaned against the truck and beamed. I imagined this wasn’t their first trip to the hospital, most likely would not be their last. But in that moment, there outside the hospital, they were ageless and pain free, in love and cushioned for their journey.