The rows of fluorescent bulbs formed an indoor sun. Its cool rays illuminated the windowless psychiatric emergency room. This sun never rose and never set. Only the clocks betrayed that it was nearly three o’clock in the morning.

His left shoulder held the telephone receiver against his ear. The drone of the dial tone filled his head. His right hand floated above the keypad, then dropped back to the table.

He looked at the clock. A quiet sigh escaped from his lips. Lifting his right hand again, he willed his fingers to dial the number that was scribbled on the torn sheet of paper before him.

Instead, he hung up the phone.

He silently rehearsed what he would say if someone answered his call. Would he leave a message if no one picked up the phone? If yes, what would he say? If no, how long should he wait before calling again? Should he even call again? What if someone did answer the phone, but would not stop talking? Could he just hang up?

He shook his head, took a deep breath, picked up the phone, and listened to the drone of the dial tone. His fingers quickly punched in the phone number.

Please answer the phone.

Two rings. Three rings.

Please don’t answer the phone.

The ringing stopped.

“… hullo?”

He finally took another breath.

“Hello. My name is Dr. A and I’m calling from Big City Hospital. May I please speak to Mr. B?” Standard greeting.

“Yeah… that’s me.”

“I’m sorry to disturb you at this hour, Mr. B.” Standard disclaimer between the hours of 10:00pm and 7:00am.

“It’s okay.” Mr. B yawned.” “I was expecting this phone call.”

Dr. A frowned. This isn’t the first time he’s gotten a phone call at 3:00am about this.

“I’m calling about your sister. She’s here at the hospital, in the psychiatric emergency room. She’s okay.” Standard remark to prevent panic. People usually assumed the worst.

“Oh, that’s good.”

“Would you mind telling me what happened this evening?” Standard open-ended question to elicit a history.

“Sure.” Mr. B sounded bored, numb. Most people did at that hour.

His sister tried to open the door to her room. It was still locked.

At three o’clock in the morning, peace eluded them all.