Flash Fiction: Waiting Room

I kiss him and hold onto his hand until the orderlies roll his bed out of reach.

“It’s a routine procedure,” the doctor assured us last week. “We’ve done it thousands of times.” I secretly Googled it when we got home and found out the doctor was right. It is routine, but Google also told me everything that could go wrong.

In the waiting room, my overstuffed tote sits stupid and useless on my lap. The doctor said between two and four hours, so I brought along enough diversions to fill the time. A pile of paperwork, sudoku, my iPhone, they all seemed sensible when I packed them, but now I can’t focus on anything but the gurney rolled into another room on another floor where I’m not allowed. What’s going on in that room? Did they cut him open yet? Did they find out what’s fucking everything up? Did they fix it? Can they?

He has to be okay.

“Honeyyy,” he teased, slurring from the sedative and holding up four fingers. “I’ll be out in five minutes.”

“I know,” I said, smiling, but I don’t know anything except all the things that can go wrong.

I try to settle in among the plants and the artwork that have been arranged to make the room feel homey, but waiting rooms are awful places. No matter how much they try to feng shui it, the hum of the fluorescents and the milky hospital stench that’s imbedded into every crevice tell the real story.

Magazines are fanned neatly on the coffee table. The linoleum is yellow with age, but it’s spotless and shiny. I keep looking into the corners searching for dust balls to see how careless this hospital is, but there aren’t any.

I appreciate the effort they’ve made in this room. I do, but I don’t want to be here. I want to be in the operating room making sure they do everything right. I Googled it! I know what could go wrong, and I want to be in that room with my checklist, making sure the doctors go over every single thing.

“Did you check everything?” I would ask.

“Are you sure?” I would ask.

“Double sure?”

He has to be okay.

I pick up a copy of Woman’s Day from the table. A picture of chili dogs on the cover makes me think of how much he loves hot dogs.  He ate six in one sitting once.  Mention them and his blue eyes light up like a little boy’s.

He’s amazing.

What he loves, he loves completely.  Hot dogs, travel, Lewis Black, architecture, and me.

He loves me. Completely. I don’t know why, but I’ll take it. I’ll take it, and I’ll gobble it up, just like he gobbles up hot dogs. I don’t care about the heartburn.

He has to be okay.

I decide to make him chili dogs when he’s feeling better. That will be our celebration dinner. I flip open the magazine to see the recipe, but someone’s ripped it out, and I burst into tears.

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Thank you for reading. I would very much appreciate your thoughts and any constructive criticism you would like to share.  To read more flash fiction from a great group of writers, search #fridayflash on Twitter.

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20 thoughts on “Flash Fiction: Waiting Room

  1. Welcome back, Olivia, I missed you too.
    And you know what? This story was TOTALLY worth the wait. As far as I’m concerned, this was your best flash yet.
    Awesome work.
    I completely felt at home in her shoes.
    So glad to see you flashing again!

  2. Wow, you nailed it. This is how it feels being on the other side of the OR door. You absolutely wonder if the doctors and nurses know they have your whole life under that sheet. Brilliant.

  3. The dangers of a little Google knowledge.

    That last line was amazing, totally nails the whole feeling state she’s in. Well done.

    marc nash

  4. I went through this. You captured this so perfectly. It’s sooo scary when they take your sweetie away and they’re all drugged up. I played four hours of Lumines and tried not to freak out. Eeek scary memories. Good story though.

  5. What a poignant story so true to life. When you go through things like this it is the little items and events you focus on to distract yourself. Then, the feelings still bust through when you don’t expect them to. You really captured this well.

    I agree with the Google thing – I looked up my gallbladder surgery and watched the procedure being done and looked up the complications – probably shouldn’t have – just too much information.

  6. Well written. Watching a loved one go in for surgery, even one the doctors assure will be just fine, is nerve-wracking. You did a great job of showing her feelings through the excruciating wait.

  7. Well you had noting to be nervous about, this is beautifully done. The emotions are raw and real, and the whole thing reads with such authenticity.

    And this is perfect:

    “No matter how much they try to feng shui it, the hum of the fluorescents and the milky hospital stench that’s imbedded into every crevice tell the real story.”

    Well done, and I’m glad you’re back. You were missed!

  8. Super work; all the emotions are there, accessible, honest. The last bit brought it all home — how fragile we are with our hearts. One of the best! Peace, Linda

  9. I haven’t been in that situation and hope never to have to, but boy does it sound like exactly how I would be.

    “I don’t know why, but I’ll take it” – ah, now that one I know 🙂

    Good to see you again!

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