Standing in the corridor outside Intensive Care, a young man is trying not to cry. And we're all pretending not to notice. Pretending he's not there. I can't look at him. My muscles tense with his grief, and I want to hold him, this stranger, to rock him against my shoulder and whisper that it's going to be all right. Even though it would probably be a lie. I want to lie to him, this young stranger, because my shoulders tense with his grief and perhaps a lie is all that could make it better.

I can't tell if you all feel the same. We're pretending not to notice. I can't look at him. And he's trying not to cry. He's chewing his knuckles and leaning his head against the antiseptic walls, and trying to be invisible. He hides behind the doorframe, and we're pretending not to notice, and I can't tell if it hurts you all as much as it does me.

And now we're laughing. For us, the emotion is relief. And we're pretending he's not there, because his grief is not our grief, and our story has a temporary happy ending, and we don't want it spoiled. And that makes me feel sick, but I can't tell if you feel the same, because we're pretending not to notice him at all. And I want to hold him, because he's trying not to cry, and maybe with his head buried in my shoulder he'd be able to stop pretending, and maybe he'd feel relief. I want to hold him, but his grief is not our grief, and our stories touch just for this one moment, and it wouldn't be proper.

And you're laughing. And he's pretending not to notice, cos it would only fuel his pain. And my shoulders tense with his grief, but it isn't proper, because for us the emotion is relief. And we don't want him to be there. And he sure as hell doesn't want us. If we weren't here, maybe he'd be able to stop pretending, and maybe he'd feel relief. But maybe the place is to public for that kind of release, and maybe the grief runs too deep.

His grief is not our grief, but my shoulders tense and it makes me feel sick and I can't tell if you all feel the same. We're pretending he's not here, and he's pretending too.

We none of us want to be here. But for us, the emotion is relief.

And my stomach tightens. Once, I thought this kind of empathy was what it meant to be human. But you're laughing, and I can't tell if you feel the same. It's common sense, to block out a stranger's pain. For us, the emotion is relief.

I'm pretending that he's not here, because otherwise, how could I laugh while he chokes back his tears? But I can't tell if you all feel the same. I can tell what he's feeling, though. Why is this stranger so easy to read? I don't know if you feel the same.

For us, the emotion is relief.

I'm pretending that he's not here, because otherwise, how could I stay sane? His grief is not our grief. Our stories touch for just this moment. And that is all.

A/N: He was a real person. And I don't know why he was crying and I don't know what happened to him.