Four of them, maybe brothers, maybe cousins, maybe friends, stand in the corridor. Flat-peaked baseball caps with hoods over the top and trousers hanging low revealing their underwear. Just their mere presence intimidated all who walked past or saw them there. Security moved them along a little, away from the doors, allowing more patients in without fear or impression of running a gauntlet on the way in to the emergency department.
Crew after crew came in, offloaded their patient and left to find yet another. As the night wore on, some crews ended their shifts and headed home, as the group of boys stood their ground, marking their territory in the hospital passageway.
They caused no problems, never raised their voices, never tried to upset a single person. But try as they might, they remained conspicuous and inviting to suspicious looks. If they'd been walking down a dark street, anyone seeing them would cross to the other side, or even turn round and head the other way.
Heavy gold chains rattle around one of their necks as he moves, pacing up and down as if hunting for prey. As I head for the doors with the trolley they make a path, two stand either side of the corridor, all in silence. Their staring gaze follows me out the door, accusing me of an unknown crime, blaming me for an unknown misdemeanor. Outside, I tidy the ambulance, put away the kit used on our last call and realise that I've forgotten to pick up a clean sheet to replace the one I'd just put in the laundry.
The boys are still there, but as I pass by and head for the double doors, a doctor steps out of the resuscitation room. The boys gather round her. I watch from a few metres away as she says something inaudible, accompanied by a sad shake of the head.
The brothers, or cousins, or friends, collapse as one to the floor and leave me to think.
Even tough guys are human.