waiting room

In ALL, ILLNESS by Stephanie Klein


I’m waiting. They wheeled Phil off forty-five minutes ago, a late start. “Go for a walk. Have some breakfast. Go get some coffee,” they said, “and then the doctor will come to your room to talk with you.” I’m not going anywhere. I hate his nurse today. She isn’t telling me enough things. She’s not keeping me updated. The clock in a hospital room ticks too loudly. Sarah McLaughlin’s “Arms of an Angel” keeps piping in over a commercial about pet adoption, a slideshow of abused kittens making puppy dog faces. The squeak of shoes and the whispers of nurses. The light is blue white.

I keep thinking one of two things. Soon they’ll wheel him in, and everything will be fine. The doctor will tell me, everything went as smooth as can be, and we’ll have the results after the weekend. In the meantime, eat, relax, and give some TLC. Or my mind drifts to the IF spot. But I’m all alone here, and I’ve been talking, aloud, with my dead grandmother, reasoning with her to make sure everything goes well. “It’s not going to be any more added drama,” I tell myself, “so get over yourself. Nothing scary is going to happen now because your life has already dealt with that. This will be simple and straightforward, you narcissist. This has nothing to do with you. It’s just medical, and it will be fine, so stop over dramatizing, even in your own head. Your life is not Les Mis."

But the drama in me fights back and wonders if just one doctor would come in, or if she’d bring a team. A social worker. They’d ask me if I have any family with me, if I’m all alone. They’d try to prepare me. Then what would I do? Would I twitter the news? Who would I call first? Would I just sit here, typing into my computer, or would I call his family? My family? Would I go see a body in disbelief? Would I clean or just lie here?

I can’t move, even now.

Phil had to remove his underwear before they rolled him off to the heart catheter room. They’re entering his heart through the groin, and also through the neck. I keep hearing the click of heels in the white hallway and stop typing, suspecting it’s the doctor delivering some news. Each time I think it might be her, my chest gets heavy and my pulse races. I’ve chewed my inner lip into a skin paste. I hate the tick of this clock.

He had to remove all the metal from his body. I’m wearing his wedding ring, loose, on my middle finger. In place of his ring, he rolled a small blue rubber band on his finger. “What’s this?” I said when I first discovered what he’d done, rubbing my hands over it. He loves me that much, so much that he wanted everyone to know that he loves someone, that he’s loved, that he has committed to work on a relationship for the rest of his life. That he didn’t want to live without some symbol connecting us, when I cannot be beside him.

I’m still waiting. I hope the melodramatic me is just bitchslapped a few times into a very normal, boring, safe place.