The Waiting Room

As the month has ended and my story didn’t get shortlisted, I’m publishing it here. Requirements: 500 words, must use 3 specific words (I’m not mentioning them so you don’t look for them).

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Rachel L. MacAulay fictionI wrap my white robe a little tighter around my body and re-knot the tie. The woman sitting across from me in the waiting room catches my eye and offers a tight smile. We’re all nervous, this quarter-full room of white-robed women, waiting for results on scans and ultrasounds. This is the more serious room—the one down the hall is for routine exams and the annual boob mush. That room has an air of joviality while we wait strained, guarded, prepared. It’s the next step closer to the “Big C” diagnosis and all that it entails. Like a jury pool, this is a time when we don’t want to be picked.

The air holds a faint smell of vinegar, astringent; reminding patients that this is a sterile environment. Things should not grow here—not potential lumps and not panic. We simply need to trust that everything is under control.

This waiting room is nicer and there are refreshments for the seemingly endless wait: coffee with three choices of milk and two flavored creamers, water bottles, juices. I’ve made two trips to the bathroom already because of their liquid generosity.

The TV is set to Rachael Ray’s show. She’s got some cute carpenter on—Ty Pennington. I turn back to my eBook, but find it impossible to concentrate. Finally, my name is called and I follow the technician dutifully into the ultrasound room. I swear it takes less than two minutes, when I’ve waited for at least 30.

I take the same seat for the next waiting period; this time, for the doctor. An older woman and I start commiserating. I, younger by twenty years, am the one giving advice. This is the first time anything unusual has been found in her exam, while I’ve been through it before and have learned to distance myself from any emotion. Confidently, I reassure her that it’s likely just a mistake, a blip; over-vigilance on the technician’s part. But we both know that’s just wishful thinking. We let my optimism surround us.

We continue to wait, both of us trying to read but distracted by our thoughts and the TV. Now it’s The View and, because it’s April, they’re talking taxes. The other woman gets called, goes in, is back in five minutes. More waiting. She takes out her phone, calls her husband, tells him she’ll be later than planned. Routines get disrupted when we least expect them to. Little things like this become big, huge, potentially disastrous.

I’m called in again, another scan, another boob press. Is it wrong that I start chuckling at the absurdity of it all? I tie back up my robe and am directed back to the waiting room. This time we’re talking about dogs, the pros and cons of letting them lick your mouth. We’re all against it: we’re all united, in our robes, in this room, on this day.

Finally, I’m released. All clear. Come back in a year. Do it all again.

© 2015 Rachel L. MacAulay. All Rights Reserved.

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