The Waiting Room
"Hello?" "Martin, it's Bob. Angela was in a car accident last night..." "Oh my God! Is it serious?" "Yes, it's pretty serious. She's still unconscious. Hey listen, buddy, I have to go out of town for a while and I was wondering if you could call the hospital every once in a while because apparently somebody she knows should be around after she wakes up. It sounds kind of silly to me but..." "I'm leaving right now." "Do what you want, Martin. Why don't you get some more sleep; after all it's three in the morning. I've got to go- my plane leaves in an hour. Thanks so much for bailing me out at such short notice, old pal." "Hey no problem, buddy, it's only your wife; no need to be worried or anything..." Martin said sarcastically to the dial tone. Martin ran to the shower and was dressed and in the car in ten minutes. "Excuse me, could you please tell me what room Mrs. Angela Warner, I mean Smith, is in?" "Yes, sir, she's in room 23, but you can't see her until 6:30. You may wait in the lounge at the end of the hall if you wish." "Thank you very much." Martin looked through the little square window of her door. The private room was cold and dark with green tile covering the walls halfway. She had tubes in her nose, her head bandaged heavily, her arms in casts and her neck in a brace. She had a long cut along her right cheekbone. "You're still beautiful, little Angela," Martin murmured softly to himself as tears welled up in his eyes. He turned away and walked down the hall to the private lounge. As he walked in and sat down, he scanned the people already there. There was a seemingly nice older couple, two middle-aged women and a young boy. "I REALLY hope her foot feels better after surgery," one of the women said. "No you don't, Susie. You're the one that didn't want to pitch in some money to help her pay the bill," the other said icily. "I wouldn't talk, Candyce. You don't even want to be here. I loved those fake tears of concern when they wheeled her in; that was a nice touch," Susie laughed wickedly. "She wouldn't even need to have surgery if it weren't for you dropping that iron on her foot." "That was an accident!" Susie's voice started to raise. "Oh yeah, right. It just happened to be after she told you she was engaged to Brad," Candyce said sarcastically. "That was over a long time ago! How dare you imply..." Susie hissed and stood up to slap Candyce when a nurse walked in. "Miss Lane, Miss Rucher? Emilia has awakened from the anesthetic. You may see her now." "Is she all right?" Susie said with concern oozing from her voice. "Did they save her foot?" Candyce was near tears. "Emilia will be just fine. Her foot was saved. Follow me, please." Candyce and Susie shrieked with apparent joy and smiled so sweetly at the nurse, syrup dripped from their mouths like the drool of a rabid dog. As soon as the nurse turned her back to lead them away to their sick friend, they glowered at each other wickedly. "With friends like that, who needs enemies!" Martin thought to himself as he sighed pityingly and reached for a pamphlet. He glanced at his watch: 5:00a.m. He looked over at the little boy who sitting alone in a corner, silent with a blank stare on his face accompanied with an occasional heartfelt sniffle. "How to Deal With Death: The Revised Edition. What an uplifting topic. I should come here more often," Martin thought wryly and tossed the pamphlet on a nearby table. He glanced over at the older couple. They were just sitting there, admiring the lovely chocolate brown, seaweed green and bright orange modern murals. "This is TOO depressing. I've got to get out of here," Martin thought to himself. "I'm going to get some coffee. Could I bring you back something?" "No thank you, dear," the old woman said politely. "Well, if you wouldn't mind, I'd really enjoy a ..." the woman nudged the old man. "George! Where are your manners?" she hissed and then smiled sweetly at Martin who pretended not to notice. "Come to think of it, I don't really want anything at the moment, thanks," the old man quickly corrected himself. "You sure have him well trained, lady," Martin snickered sarcastically to himself. "How about you, son?" The little boy just sat there, tears streaming down his face at the mention of the word `son'. Martin walked quickly out of the room and down the hall to the nurses' station. "Is there any change in Mrs. Smith's condition? She's in room 23." "No, Mr. Smith. We will notify you if any change occurs." "Thank you very much. By the way, I'm not Mr. Smith..." Martin stopped himself when he realized the nurse's attention was directed elsewhere. "It doesn't really matter anyway," he thought. "Martin walked to the coffee machine and after a lengthy battle reached in and pulled a strong black coffee and a hot chocolate out of the slot. When he turned around, Martin saw Candyce and Susie embracing Emilia and giggling as she wiggled her toes at the end of her cast. Even from that distance, their artificiality was so recognizable, Martin wanted to flee from the scene in utter disgust. He walked in on yet another argument as he entered the lounge. "Why did he have to marry her?" "I like her..." the old man started. "Did you say something, dear? Well anyway, like I was saying, I told him, Bob, she will only bring you bad luck, being a divorcee and all. The people at work won't respect you, and most of all, what will the rest of the family think?" "I like her..." the old man tried again in vain. "Well I'll say, I don't think I want to stay here anymore. Personally, I hope she never wakes up. Enough said, let's go," the old woman ordered snobbishly. The old man took her mink wrap from a hanger, placed it gently on his wife's shoulders and proceeded to follow her out of the room like a lost puppy following his mistress home. "Try not to trip over your leash, mister," Martin thought to himself, astonished that the man would take this treatment so willingly. Then it dawned on him: Bob, divorcee...."They must be Bob Smith's parents! How could she say that about Angela?! How could he let her say those things about Angela?!" Martin looked over at the boy, still gaping with rage. He suddenly realized he had been screaming by the look of shock on the boy's face. "Here, this is for you. I don't believe it..." Martin handed him the hot chocolate. "Gee thanks, mister. How come you were screaming about what they said about some lady?" "That some lady is a very special lady who happens to be my ex-wife," he said icily. "But you care, don't you?" the boy asked seriously. "With all my heart, but..." "So that's all that matters. My mommy says so all the time..." his voice quivered and broke into uncontrollable sobs. Martin put his arm around the boy's shoulder who immediately wrapped his arms around Martin's neck and cried into his chest. 6:30a.m. Martin put a pillow under the boy's sleeping head and covered him with his jacket. "The poor little guy," his heart went out to him: the boy's parents had been in a train accident late last night and would probably not survive to see the sun rise. Martin looked in the window again at the coldness and unfeeling of her room. All of a sudden, he ran down the hall to the boutiques and bought an armful of flowers, trinkets and stuffed animals. He slipped silently into the room and arranged everything. The room looked as though somebody had breathed life into it. Flashes of red, bursts of yellow, explosions of orange, waves of purple and the clear beauty of pink all broke through the institutional cold and gave the room warmth and charm. He tore open the curtains and drank in the radiance of the rising sun. He walked over to her bed, took her hand gently and began describing the magnificence of the flowers and the dazzling sun. He told her about picnics they would have and walks through the gardens and boat rides on little ponds. "I wouldn't mind waking up to this," he continued eagerly, but then stopped, despair inundating him, washing away his dreams. "Only it's Bob now, not me anymore," he murmured sadly and walked slowly over to the window. He looked out and down onto a garden where a few patients were being walked around. "That should be us," he murmured softly to the window. "That should be us! We had so much happiness!" Martin turned and said pleadingly to her unconscious face. He took a few quick steps and was at her bedside again. "I love you, Angela," he bent down and kissed her deathly pale cheek softly. "I never stopped." "And I love you, Martin," her face flinched in a momentary attack of pain. "Go and get some doctors, please." Martin stared in shock. Gradually a boyish grin crept over his face and he turned and ran to get some help. "You'll have to wait outside while we examine her, Mr. Smith." "No, I'm Mr. Martin Warner," he said confidently. Martin walked back down the hall to the lounge to check on the boy. As he neared the open door, he saw a nurse comforting the child who sobbed hysterically. "Mommy and Daddy would NEVER leave me! You're lying!" he screamed desperately. Martin turned and walked down the dim hall very slowly. He didn't even care about getting his jacket back. He can replace his jacket. The child can't replace his parents.