“Radiation Day 4” by Ally Malinenko

The machine is broken,
they tell me when I arrive
but to get changed anyway
because it won’t be too long

which is why 2 ½ hours later
and really late for work I’m pissed off.

The waiting room is packed now
the 9 am people, like myself
have mingled with the 10
and the 11’s
and to compensate
they’ve brought in
graham crackers
and apple juice
to which the patients
flock like vultures.

Next to me is a health aid,
Puerto Rican
young so
it’s to me that she turns to talk

about how this is his first day,
hooking a thumb towards the old
blind man in the chair next to her
about how he’s pissed about waiting
and how maybe she shouldn’t have taken this job

it’s only her third day of work and
already the guy is getting on her nerves.
I give a nervous look but she tells me not
to worry he doesn’t speak any English.

She sighs heavy
tells me this whole Ebola thing is worrying her
I mean, she cleans up shit and piss from this guy
every day and she heard it’s in Jersey
and also Puerto Rico
and once it gets to NYC
holy cow,
they’ll be no stopping it
and she just hate sickness
and I think about suggesting
a job change but instead let her
talk about how
Ebola freaks her out
but not as much as STDs
because, she tells me,
her eyes wide
you can be like
with anyone and then not find out
for like six months
that you’ve got something.

Yeah you gotta be careful
I tell her
and she promises she is
because even though she’s already 21
she can’t imagine dying

I just feel so bad for them,
she motions around the room
her voice way too loud
and I want to remind her
that even though he might not
speak English

the rest of us here do
but she just
and adds
I can’t imagine being old like this and dying.
I just feel so bad for them,

don’t you?

Malinenko Ally Radiation Photo

Ally Malinenko is the author of the poetry collection The Wanting Bone (Six Gallery Press) and the novel This Is Sarah (Bookfish Books). She lives in the part of Brooklyn voted to have the best halal food truck.

Image: “Albany New York Commercial Streets Clinton Avenue Between North Pearl Street and Broadway, date unknown,”  from Albany Public Library History Collection

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