By Matt McAteer
This is the first time that I’ve seen my father in nearly three weeks. As he stands on the other side of the wired glass window, leaning up against the wall by the nurses’ station with his hood pulled up over his graying hair to keep his ears warm, I can tell he’s anxiously counting down the seconds until the clock strikes 6:30. If he comes any closer then they won’t buzz us in. And even after these contact-less days, at 50 feet out I know that his untrimmed facial hair is growing in white and patchy, feeling rough like a weathered stone if you were to rub up against his solid cheeks. It’s odd for me, standing with my mother and the other patients’ families here for the visiting hours. Not too long ago I was on the other side of this door. There’s not much of a difference between patient and inmate, between a hospital and a jail. A sense of agency is lost, and there is little control over the self. A few moments pass before the electric hum of the magnetic lock echoes through the empty halls and the door opens with little force.
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Matt McAteer is a second-year graduate student studying English and Creative Writing at Seton Hall University. Before now, his work has only ever appeared in his collegiate literary magazine. His friends describe his style as “Dirty Realism.” He has lived his entire life in New Jersey.