“Got A Cigarette?” by
(28 Stories)

Prompted By The ER

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We met in the hospital.

I was in the ER,  24 years old, 5 months pregnant and blistered with hives.

My face was swollen beyond recognition.

The staff doctor was taking tests before administering meds,

They assigned me a room while I waited.

That’s when Pamela and her captors arrived.

I remember seeing a policewoman in the open doorway.


She was about 30 years old, tall and thin, gigantic boobs.

She had platinum blonde hair tied in a ponytail.

She was dressed all in black with 5”platform heels,

thick pancake make-up and black liner lipstick,

huge golden earrings, tattoos everywhere,

and a thick silver handcuff on her right wrist.

She was assigned the bed next to me.


The cops attached the cuff to the bedpost,

then stood outside to guard the door.

She sat up, spit her gum in a napkin

turned to me and said

“Hi, I’m Pamela, got a cigarette?”


Just then my nurse appeared with the news.

My rash was diagnosed as an allergic reaction I received

while driving with the window down on the New Jersey Parkway.

I happily swallowed my medication.

She also said they were keeping me overnight.


I never knew why Pamela was admitted, or why she left.

I do remember shadows in the middle of the night,

awkward thuds, muffled threats, loud cursing.

I remember seeing a policewoman in the open doorway

as she escorted Pamela out of the room.

Before I shut my eyes, I saw the silver cuffed wrist,

the long blonde pony tail hanging down

on the back of her black leathered vest.



Profile photo of Patricia Valese pattyv

Characterizations: moving, well written


  1. You did that magic poetry thing again, brava Patty!

    I see it all, a slice of someone’s troubled life that you witnessed those few hours you shared a hospital room with Pamela.

    • pattyv says:

      Dana, there was a period in my life when I was constantly visiting that ER. But I guess I find this particular memory so bizarre I will never forget it. She was so Street smart, I felt like a Girl Scout.

  2. Dave Ventre says:

    So very mysterious! Why was she there, why was she under arrest (or had she already been convicted)? A troubled ship that passed you in the night.

  3. Khati Hendry says:

    The ER staff would recognize this scenario oh so well. The intersection of the medical and judicial systems occurs frequently, and health is the great leveler. But what stories she could have told you, and in any case left in your imagination.

    • pattyv says:

      I could imagine what YOU’Ve witnessed Khati. Have to check out your writing this week. I laugh because I was too engaged in my own medical discomfort and just totally blown away by her unexpected arrival. Now looking back wished I asked more questions.

  4. did find myself worrying about those giant breasts hanging from that rail-thin body. But I guess that wasn’t the focus of your concern.
    I guess you didn’t name your baby Pamela? Or…?
    This would be a nice slice of fiction if you submitted it as fiction. But I guess it’s journalism or memoir. Still a nice slice. I

    • pattyv says:

      Thanks Dale, joining Retrospect as a poet is challenging. Yet, I don’t want to venture elsewhere. My mind is too used to “slices” Of mental images. And I also think it gives the rest of you, a nice easy read. Pamela will always stand out in my memory, toppling over with those DD boobs and the 5” heels.

  5. Betsy Pfau says:

    What imagery, Patty! Your face all swollen up and in such discomfort (something coming in the window?). And in comes that exotic roommate Pamela. WOW! Fake boobs, tattoos, handcuffs and all. You’ve created a vivid scene and left all of us (including yourself) asking questions, wanting more.

    • pattyv says:

      Betsy, why the hell didn’t I find out what she did? Oh well, I bought her out from a memory and gave her a place on this forum. Long live Pamela, if she’s still alive, in jail? or perhaps she changed her ways and is now living in a suburban condo with maid service?!?

  6. Laurie Levy says:

    Of course, now I’m waiting for the sequel. Wonder what Pamela did to end up in custody and in the ER. Now, you have me thinking about all of those nameless, suffering people I have seen in ER waiting rooms over the years. Could make a good piece of fiction.

    • pattyv says:

      L, so wished I had found out more about my nighttime visitor. At the time I think I was more concerned about my swollen body than conversing with Pamela. I have to admit it too, she kind of scared me, since I had no idea why she was arrested.

  7. Patty: I always enjoy your unique perspective. The pain you discuss is not just in yourself, aching down into your center. It is about someone else, not related, not from a distance, I have read much literature about pain–either of others or of oneself–but you have mixed it, combined it into something organic–as it should be.

    • pattyv says:

      Rich, pain is such a complicated mess, isn’t it? It’s almost something that demands us to act out in ways that are totally foreign to us. Afterwards, (thank God there’s an afterwards) you really prefer not to relive it, not remember it. I choose my Pamela memory instead. So much more colorful.

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