Sunday, April 9, 2023

Hanging out in a hospital waiting room

is like being stuck at the airport. Nothing is under your control. There's a lot of walking, sitting. Waiting. Before I leave the house, I even pack the same things. My laptop and power cord. Phone charger. Snacks. A bottle of water. A nice hefty churning chunk of anxiety comes along with me too. 

I imagine the flight being delayed. I imagine myself missing the connection. I imagine the plane dropping out of the sky. 

When I am at the airport, I always read a book. And then, after, I will forever associate that story with my travels. This time I am reading the book Manhattan Beach by Jennifer Egan. It's historical fiction, set during World War Two, and has no parallels to me, my life now, and why I am presently sitting in a hospital waiting room. I love this book. I love every exquisite sentence. 

Ten chapters in, and my loved one is out of surgery. All went well, they tell me. I am greatly relieved. I move from the waiting room up to the patient's room and now the real waiting begins. 

One long day and I know this place. 

The Jello cups. The muffled hallway sounds. The pattern on the hospital gowns. One day. Two. The nursing staff leaves, and the new staff arrives. And the next group. And the next.  

In my book the main character is a woman who works at the naval yard and is training to be a deep sea diver. I didn't know they let women dive back then. Or work for the navy. The suit she wears weighs two hundred pounds, and for a moment, when they close her up in it, she is terrified, as if she is trapped in cement. But when she slips below the water line, she finds her bearings in the murk. Her task is to tie a knot. 

Above water I fumble opening Jello cups. The nursing staff changes over again, but now I know everyone on every rotation. I race home to walk the dog, and I am back at the hospital. Pass the information desk, a hallway with dangling lights, the always crowded Starbucks. A Chihuly glass installation. Why is there a Chihuly glass installation in a hospital? Who knows. It's pretty, though. 

Meanwhile, the main character ties the knot underwater. She rises to the surface, triumphant. I've lost track of time. Three days. Four days. Another dash back and forth to let the dog out. She sniffs around the garden where only a week ago, I planted lettuce. Now, like a miracle, a sprinkle of green. 

Five days. Six. Someone tells me it's Easter. Back to the hospital, another miracle.

We're going home. 

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