The evidence I am overly tired from a long stretch of shifts appears when I swipe a brush
across my eyelid and it is the wrong color. Yeah, I wear makeup to work. I can’t do Nurse Jackie’s bare face and aerodynamic haircut. Nurse Jackie goes for a stripped down, ready for battle look, but to me, she’s given up from battle fatigue. I feel my patients deserve a nurse looking like she expects to have a good day, even if I am more than a little tired.
More than a little tired caused dipping the brush into the wrong color of the eye shadow palette. I look in the bathroom mirror expecting to see a neutral shade of taupe. Instead, a blue eyelid blinks back at me. I’m not talking about Mimi Bobeck blue eye shadow. Even at 5:45 in the morning, and bone tired, I have better fashion sense than that. The blue eye shadow I own is a silvery grey hue called gunmetal. It’s pretty. I wear it for special evening events and gallery openings, but it’s a little dramatic for work. There isn’t enough time to redo it and be on time, so I brush it on the other lid, minimize the eyeliner, and add only a light coat of mascara. A pale shade of lip gloss and I am out the door.
At work my coworkers look at my face a beat longer than usual, letting me know they notice the blue eye shadow without mentioning it. I have no idea what they think, because Oregonians are nothing if not polite.
Where I work, nurses wear surgical masks while inserting Huber (non-coring) needles into a patient’s chest to access his or her port. We are busy this shift, and over and over again I wear off my make up by putting on and taking off the masks, accessing ports. I began to think that Nurse Jackie is right. Why not skip the make up and sleep in an extra fifteen minutes? It doesn’t stay on anyway. Why bother?
My last patient of the shift is an elderly woman, arriving for her appointment too weak to stand. I help her from a wheelchair onto the bed, and adjust its head to a comfortable angle. She is pale, and tired. Beyond the window behind her a September breeze shakes leaves off of the trees which line the street. Her fragility is that of an autumn leaf.
I gather the sterile supplies needed to access her port. I don the surgical mask and she is wearing one too, so she doesn’t breathe her own germs onto the access site after I swab it clean. I look down into her masked face. Her eyes look up into mine, and I see that she is wearing gunmetal blue eye shadow on her eyelids too.