One beautiful evening, Hermione was working the night shift on the Labor and Delivery floor – or “night float,” as they all called it. Then again, she hadn’t looked through a window since a couple hours before sunset, but she chose to imagine that the sky was gorgeous tonight.
She rose from her stool and went to check the monitor at the nurses’ station. All four patients on the floor today were still in the latent phase of the 1st stage of labor. The nurses clustered around the door to the women’s lockers, chatting about upcoming graduation ceremonies and days off of work. The resident physicians dictated patient notes at 400 words per minute and picked away at their dinners in between cases. The attending physicians were nowhere to be seen. Hermione returned to her desk.
With bleary eyes, she proceeded to open her copy of Changes of Labor And How To Find Them and underlined entire paragraphs of text with her blue pen.
A few minutes later, her midnight bedtime alarm went off. In a different life two days ago, she would have taken the cue to brush her teeth and pack away her textbooks for another day. Now, she simply turned off the alarm and tried to ignore the fellow student whose slumber she had disturbed.
“Hermione…” The voice moaned softly.
Hermione counted 15 seconds before answering so as to make him feel as uncomfortable as possible. “Yes?”
Ron sat up in his chair and smoothed over the crumpled pages of his textbook, which he had been using as his teddy bear.
“The struggle is real,” he said.
Hermione never lifted her eyes from her book; in fact, she suddenly felt more alert than ever. She also sensed that Ron was watching her, which gave her another incentive to finish reading twelve pages in five minutes.
“Aren’t you tired?” Ron asked.
“Eh,” said Hermione.
After another long hiatus in their conversation, Ron said, “I’m going downstairs to buy some Distilled Double Coffee from the vending machine. Do you want anything?”
“No thanks,” said Hermione.
When Ron had still made no move two minutes after his last spoken word, Hermione bookmarked her page and turned to face him.
“Do you want to play a game of Interrogation?” she asked.
“Of course not.” Ron furrowed his eyebrows. “What’s Interrogation?”
“It’s the med school variation on the Socratic method,” said Hermione. “It’s known more commonly by a slang term that has terrible connotations – ”
Ron’s eyes grew wide. “You mean pi – ”
“Yeah, that,” Hermione said quickly, “but that word stinks of slavery and human trafficking. ‘Interrogation,’ however, is not torture, so it’s a much more suitable alternative, don’t you think?”
“All right, sure,” said Ron, “but I should really go and grab a – ”
“Great, let’s play,” said Hermione. “I’ll start as the interrogator. What are the components of the fetal Biophysical Profile, also known as BPP?”
“I don’t know,” said Ron with a loud sigh.
“No problem,” said Hermione. “Just memorize these five things: non-stress test, fetal breathing movements, fetal movement, fetal tone, and amniotic fluid index. Next, what are the four main pharmacologic agents used to treat postpartum hemorrhage, and what are their contraindications?”
When Hermione had run out of questions, she asked Ron if he wanted a turn as the interrogator. Ron blinked slowly.
Hermione glanced at the clock on the desktop computer. It was 3:00 AM.
“You know, if you’re bored,” Hermione suggested, “the babies in the newborn nursery give out free cuddles.”
Ron frowned at her. “Why would you want to hold someone else’s baby? That’s so weird. And what if I drop the baby?”
“You’re not going to drop the baby, Ron…”
After they had miraculously stayed (mostly) awake for another four hours, it was time for sign-out. Hermione and Ron stood in the back corner of the meeting room while the attendings and residents gathered around the table to discuss how patients had progressed overnight. (Hermione had once tried to take a seat at the table, but the attending physician graciously explained that these seats were reserved for physicians.)
Suddenly, Hermione felt someone tapping her on her right shoulder. Her eyes flew open, but the only thing next to her on that side was the brick wall.
She closed her eyes to blink, and she was following her advisor through the hallways of the local clinic to meet a Martian patient, but then she caught herself from faceplanting on the meeting room floor. She looked around quickly to make sure that no one else had noticed the sudden jerk of her neck.
Hermione now gave up on keeping her eyes open. She decided instead to close her eyes and pretend that she was concentrating on translating OBGYN acronyms in her head. PEC, TOC, PROM, PPROM, PPPROM… PB&J, PJs.
Once the meeting was over, Ron met Hermione in the main hallway.
“You were dying in there,” Ron said, smirking. “Your eyes were like glass marbles.”
“I wasn’t dying, I was hallucinating,” said Hermione. “I’ll see you tomorrow, then?”
“Today, you mean,” said Ron. “Five PM.”
“Yeah, that,” said Hermione. “Good night.”
“Good morning,” said Ron. “Sleep well.”
They walked out of the hospital into the sunny morning, where hordes of traffic were just starting to head to campus for a long day of work.