A chain-link fence separates my doctor's office parking lot from the Rhode Island Hospital ER loading dock. I park my car, hobble out, get a glimpse of my old life as a Providence Rescue 5 rolls past.
I don't recognize the driver, and hold my wave at half staff, the realization that I'm old news hitting home. A new academy just graduated, and there are fifty new firefighters now who never heard of me.
It's shift change at the hospital, and I see familiar faces filing in and out, people who I shared the last twenty years with, never realizing that one day would be my last. Conversation once flowed easily, I would bring them a patient, then shoot the breeze with the staff for a little while, friendly banter, nothing serious, but a nice break in the routine of providing emergency medical care to the People of Providence.
Nobody looks my way as I limp into the medical building next door. They are busy, quickly getting to where they need to be, no time for idle chatter with somebody who used to work there.
My doctor is not happy with my condition, nor am I. An MRI and surgical consult are scheduled, and I walk outside slowly, the shadow of the Emergency Room now covering the parking lot where my car is parked. I try not to look at the remnants of my old life, but another Providence Rescue is speeding past me, and I pull over to the side of the road and let him go.