| I walked through the old hospital atrium with my friend. She was talking about how the place had become the new Walter Reed hospital, but all I could hear were faint echoes of screams, from somewhere below. My nose caught the smell of coffee and we stopped to get a cup.
"Where is the psych ward?" I asked, rubbing my face with one hand, holding the coffee cup with the other.
"It's in the basement. Why?"
"I can feel the pain, hear the screams. I'll be fine."
Two hours later, my friend had done what she came for, and then we were walking out. I clung tightly to her hand, the chatter of emotions in my head becoming louder. I stopped, temporarily dizzy and near to screaming from the panic building within.
"Tay!" My friend said, slightly panicky as she leaned me against a pillar. "Are you all right?"
"I'm, I'm fine." I answered, automatically.
"No, let's get you out of here before you go nuts."
We walked, and as soon as I felt the warmth of sunlight on my face, I broke from her grasp. I ran and ran, making it halfway across the hospital grounds before she caught up to me. She found me on my knees in the grass, sobbing and trembling, the pain evident just in my eyes.
The chatter wasn't quite so loud here, more of a background hum, though every once in a while the screams from the burn unit, and the psych ward, would break through and keep me immobile.
My friend helped me into the car and got into the driver's seat, dropping her purse on the floorboard.
"Calm down." She said, not unkindly.
"You're all right. we're out of there now. Calm down. Think of nothing. Collapse yourself so that you're not actively seeking out the emotions. I know you want to comfort those people, but you can do nothing for them. Think of it as they're home now."
I slowly began to relax and calm down, the tears slowing and finally stopping altogether. My eyes were red and puffy, my hands still shaking, the pain clinging to me like a thick oil slick over water. I couldn't shake it.
"Take a shower when you get home," My friend advised, starting the car up.
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