The waiting room
I check my watch, again. It’s just gone 9.15 and still, no doctors have appeared. I stare down at the slate grey floors, identical to the walls, both emanating a clinical gleam. The benign pictures of landscapes hanging on the walls inspire nothing, their sole purpose to fill any empty space. They fail to provide a much needed uplifting atmosphere to the waiting room. I sit; bored, nervous, and await my name to be called.
My gaze falls upon a cluster of geriatric patients, seated patiently in rows of standardised functional hospital wheelchairs. An elderly man grabs my attention. He appears bent with age, all grey hair and drooping skin. But his vehement conversation is what attracts me. With great hubris he recalls a tale from his youth; from his travels around Europe. I catch snippets; I hear him speak of Budapest and Italy, recalling incredibly minutiae details. I catch his eyes sparkling with the memory,
what a life he must of had. I sadden as I compare past to present. The nurse he speaks to is plain with mousy brown hair neatly tied in a bun and porcelain skin containing not a single blemish, the corners of her mouth upturn to reveal a slight smile. She appears almost puritanical in her minimalism. Despite her kind face she possesses expressionless black eyes and offers only monosyllabic glib responses. I pity the man so desperate for human contact that he accosts a perfect stranger. I wish to speak up, to offer my ear instead. I care – I wish to shout – I’ll listen. But social conduct would not permit me to accost the gentleman, and so the nurse sits patiently listening to the mans monologue. It seems tacit that the man is lonely, he does not know the nurse yet he burdens her with his stories. It would not surprise me for loneliness seems to underpin life as a geriatric in a hospital, at least that is what I have come to deduce from my time here. Abruptly the nurse stands, she makes an equivocal excuse then hurries away. Immediately the dantesque of the gentlemen disappears and he shrinks back to his former self; bored and sad. The paucity of joy in this waiting room seems tantamount to the scarcity of water in the desert.
On the opposite sit of the waiting room sits a small child, her legs swinging in a querulous manner – missing the floor by several inches. Each swing appears as a malevolent kick like the child is aiming for something only she can see. She kicks intently as if to inflict pain on this imaginary being. What can this little girl be so angry about? I begin to wonder whats wrong with her, she can’t be more than what 5 maybe? And yet she is here in the neurology clinic awaiting an appointment accompanied by two somber parents. The parents seem dead to the world as if they have a pathological indifference to the goings on of the waiting room, or the world for that matter. They appear inattentive to their little girl who must be scared, confused, distressed.
From their exhaustion I begin to deduce the situation; this is not her first appointment. Their body language gives it all away. The dad: his face handsome and youthful but his unruly brown hair violently streaked with grey like lighting in a storm. His body gaunt making him appear weak as if a strong breeze would blow him over. The mum: beautiful in her pale yellow sundress dress but her body also thin, dangerously so. Her long legs just sticks barely able to her up. Her face etched with a labyrinth of wrinkles, each one telling a different story. The lines around her eyes hint to the laughter she has experienced, good wrinkles, happy ones. But her brow is scarred with deep wrinkles, each one hinting towards a painful memory. And she is frowning, she impatiently glances at her watch and then to the door. Her face then softens as she looks towards her child. The girl: white blonde curls cascading down shoulders light as feathers. Her bubblegum pink pinafore embroidered with flowers and butterflies. Her eyes mesmerisingly blue like the shimmering sea, so tantalising them seem to look through to your soul. With my eyes fixed on the child my optimism begins to grow, I see her bright blue eyes and I forget where I am, I forget my pity for the child and I am reminded only of the joy that children have, that she has. But my moment of happiness does not last, I hear her father sigh and I am wrenched back to cruel reality. I look once again to the parents and I am filled with sadness. I see them exhausted and dreary, little more than a shadow of their former selves. Their beauty faded so only laughter lines and peppered hair remains.
With the sight of the family, my decision is made: I will become a doctor, I need to become a doctor. I refuse to sit idly by while this family suffers, and they are not the only ones. Forgive me for being so optimistic – in reality, I fear I can make no difference to the world but I must try. I must try. It is a difficult role I am up-taking, I am aware. It feels slightly like I am choosing to confront the immensity and indifference of the universe on a Monday morning before I’ve managed even a sip of coffee.
Sitting alone in the corner is a young woman with coffee- coloured skin and wild curls. Her face bears telltale signs of crying; tearstained cheeks and bloodshot eyes. I trace her eyes to the clock, they seem to follow the second hand, seeming to glitch slightly with every tick as if she is counting them. I see a faint halo of sweat dampening her forehead and a slight tremor in her hands. She seems the only patient behaving aptly; for the old man too happy, the child too unaware. She is nervous, scared even. A feeling I can understand. I can feel the pit in my own stomach. I am covered by a cold sweat of my own.
A doctor pushes open both doors as if making a statement and he has succeeded. Heads turn, ears prick. Everyone impatient, waiting to see if it is their name called. “Freya Buchanan” his low gravelly voice announces, his neck craning to look for me amongst the sea of illness. I watch as he calls my name; the old man sighs, the little girls face becomes darkened by a scowl, her parents grow more dismal – if possible – and the woman, the appears unaffected. I am reminded once more of the apocryphally that the doctor will help, I seem to be the only one questioning the origin of this notion. Nonetheless, I stand. I heave myself onto two unsteady legs and pray they don’t betray me. I wish for nothing more than to shrink back into the blue plastic chair, to camouflage my self and pretend that I am not here. I want to run, to scream at him, to bellow that there is nothing wrong with me. But I suppress the emotions, retorting to a tenuous indigence.
I follow him into his office, so sick with nerves I cannot look at the surroundings. I spot a chair and thrust myself at it fearing my legs will betray me. I gather up the courage and look him dead in the eye. Regret, immediately I regret looking for his face wears a solacing expression filled with pity. “I’m sorry…” He begins dubiously, but I stop him. I feared the worst and the worst I was about to receive. But I will not accept my illness and it will not beat me. Abruptly – surprising even myself – I heave myself upright and run out of the office, through the waiting room of dreary faces and sickness, out of the hospital to never look back. After all when one door closes another one opens.
Word count: 1351