Across the waiting room a mother is sat back, with her coat wrapped between her and the arm-rest; her large pocket book across her lap. Across from Mom, with her back to me, sits a young girl and an equally young boy. The boy is rubbing the girl’s back while she rests her head on his shoulder. The mother keeps a running, uncomfortable conversation trudging along with a few one-word answers, mostly coming from the boy. He looks lost with an expression of fear mixed with shame masking his deep-down indifference. The girl is attractive for her age. Through her distress, she comes across as intelligent and quick but of few words, and she has a contagious smile.
An overly cheerful nurse appears from behind a wall and calls out the young girl’s name.
The nurse stands still and silent with an exhausted smile from a day on stage. The mother and the children stand. The boy stretches an unwelcome arm across the shoulders of the young girl. The mother follows with her coat and bag in hand and greets the nurse first. The young girl disappears behind the wall with no expression.
A few minutes pass.
I pick up the nearest magazine and start flipping through the pages, mostly looking only at the pictures. I flip past a page that catches my attention and I turn back and read the full title.
A couple walks in through the front door in a boisterous manner. She checks in at the front desk while he continues his cell phone conversation. She finishes with the receptionist and leads her boyfriend into the waiting area. I try to remain focused on my article but find myself observing the nature of the couple’s conversations. They behave in an inconsiderate manner that is only less obnoxious because of the late hour and the nearly empty waiting room.
A few minutes pass.
I finally block the couple out when the guy comes up to me and asks for a cigarette. I happen to not have any on me, so I tell him no and for some reason add, “Sorry.”
“No, sorry,” I say as if I had done him a disservice. He responds with a ‘no problem’ and returns to his seat. I had lost my place in the article I was reading and couldn’t help but focus my attention on the, in some way, repulsive couple. They both stand and go outside to smoke. Apparently, she had one cigarette left and is now willing to share it with him. I turn my attention back to my article.
From the door behind my right shoulder, out walks the attractive young girl with the pensive boy and mother following behind. The nurse sends them off politely with her cheerful mannerisms. The young girl’s face is no longer blank but has the expression of raw fear. Her eyes lowered with face quickly shading red, her arms across her chest walking well in front of the boy. The three walk through the outside door and I watch until they are out of sight. Moments later, cheerful nurse reappears from behind the waiting wall and calls to the obnoxious couple. The girl stands and follows the nurse behind the wall. The guy gets up and goes outside, presumably to smoke another cigarette or call a friend on his cell phone. I turn back to my article.
The door behind my shoulder opens again. A girl I thought I knew appears as I stand. The nurse finishes a few last words and hands her a tiny manila packet.. This girl turns and I no longer recognize her. Her face is drooping and her eyes are empty. She stumbles slightly, giving me a half-smile through her anesthesia haze. I go for her hand. The nurse turns to me and asks if I’m driving. I say yes and she says, “Okay. Just make sure she remembers to take these pills again in a few hours.” I nod and I follow this girl toward the door. We get outside and I help her into the car. She is weary from the painkillers and does not make much sense as she tries to speak.
“Are you still hungry?” I ask.
She rolls her head toward me with an unresponsive look. I repeat my question. She closes her eyes with a soft smile and nods that she is. I ask if she still wants to go over to the diner she had mentioned and she agrees. I ask her for a cigarette as she lights up one of her own. We drive to the diner in silence, she in an opiate cloud with me in the dark.
We eat our food through incoherent conversation and then go back to my place. We sleep and spend the next day in bed together. The following morning she says goodbye. I haven’t seen her since.