In the waiting room, we drift. We get up to go to the bathroom. We appreciate the automatic flush. We dry our hands with two towels and appreciate that, in the mirror, we look almost like we did when we first came to the waiting room that morning.
We study our phones and look at TV and we doze, leaning our heads on our hands and closing our eyes. We fold our arms and lean our heads back on the sofas and then look up at the other people and the TV on the far side of the room with the sound muted. How will we know what time it is?
It is as if we are drugged, something in the air that slows our heart rates and makes every move fluid and timeless. We brighten when the young nurse in green scrubs, her mask unhooked from one ear, exposing her mouth for the one sentence report on our patient. We stir our numbed minds long enough to ask a question but she only repeats what she has already said as if that is our hourly allotment of words.
Then we settle back into the cloud of murmuring chatter, waiting sleepily for our next turn, the next sentence spoken by the young nurse. It is a long day of waiting in the waiting room so there will be several sentences delivered, still together they would only make a short paragraph.
That’s what we have to go on; that’s all they think we need to know. All is well; everything is going according to plan. Our patient’s heart with its stiff, unyielding valve has been opened, the sticky valve replaced with a shiny mechanical valve, one that works the way it was designed and is promised to never fail.
Next to us, a woman sits slowly turning the pages of a magazine, settling on one entitled “Pot Roast for a Crowd.” She is using her time in the waiting room wisely, planning for better meals for more people.
We look at the TV, then down at our phones, and then at the wall. We wait for the next sentence.