It started as a lark. A way to break the ice. A bag of sugar-free candies tucked into your courier satchel as you made your rounds to pick up records.
But soon everyone at the hospital began to expect it of you. "Hey, Candy Lady!" the shuttle drivers would greet you. Long-term patients smiled & waited for their share.
And you learned that a piece of candy could open any door. Melt any heart. Soothe any pain. Jesus, the pain you witnessed. Not in the children, but in the parents & grandparents. The kids were brave as hell; it was the adults whose eyes spoke of sorrow & possibilities they'd rather not face.
Pediatrics was always the hardest stop for you.
Remember the day you picked up the first record for that little girl? You knew her story from the news. You knew she had no one to care for her, and it tugged at you harder than anything.
"Stellaluna." That's what you read to her on your breaks. You weren't even sure she could hear you, but in case she could, you wanted her to hear something beautiful.
And the day you came when you found the slot on her door empty. As empty as her bed.
God, how that broke you down. You let yourself outside and collapsed under the eucalyptus tree. You couldn't cry, but you could mourn. Oh, how you mourned for her, lost little girl. How could you ever have thought you couldn't love others, the way you ached for her?
She's the real reason you left. The hole she made in you. But you, Candy Lady, are still strong as hell. Your loving heart isn't a weakness.