I have always hated waiting rooms. Time always seems to pass by slower when you’re waiting for information that never seems to come. Arguably, waiting in the waiting room is worse than being the patient.
One time, when I was 9, I was stuck in the waiting room for 8 hours when they did emergency surgery on my Dad for a ruptured appendix. It was a typical day for us- he drove me and my sisters to school and went to work, went back home for lunch. Usually, he goes back to the office after he has lunch with my Mom, but not that day. That day, he made it to his car before he was lying face down in the driveway with the ambulance on the way. Of course, I didn’t know what was happening until my teacher pulled me aside and told me that my Dad was in the hospital, and my neighbor was on her way to pick me and my sisters up. Apparently, you can live a full life without an appendix, but if it ruptures, you have to take it out immediately or you die. I didn’t know this part until the 9th hour when he finally got out of surgery and we got to see him.
Another time, when I was 11, I made my little sister a peanut butter and jelly sandwich to share with me. She took one bite, chewed, swallowed, and almost died. We rushed her to the hospital and since I wasn’t her parent, I wasn’t allowed into the room. I waited for 2 hours in the waiting room for any information about my little sister who I may have just killed. 2 hours is a relatively small amount of time. You could watch 3.5 episodes of Grey’s Anatomy or the first Thor movie. But those 2 hours were brutal because all I could think about was me killing my 4-year-old sister. Turns out, she was just allergic to peanuts.
That’s the thing about waiting- it takes your mind to the darkest place possible. It’s impossible not to think about the worst-case scenario when you’re surrounded by the faint smell of death and chemicals.
Some people say that everyone is on a designated path, where, in the end, despite the choices you make, it leads you to the same end. A lack of control in your own fate. But I hope that’s not true. If it were true, it means that despite one’s best effort, people still end up dying or losing their legs, or losing loved ones. It means that they were destined to go, that they no longer serve a purpose in the universe.
Maybe we have some control over our own lives, or maybe we have none. I’d like to believe we do, that things are preventable and our futures are up in the air because life happens and things change.
Life is happening and things are changing right now. In this waiting room. Surrounded by stark white walls and the faint smell of death. In one room, life is brought to grace the earth, while in another, it’s taken away, leaving nothing but grief behind.
“Asher Moore?” I jump to my feet, clearing my throat. The waiting this time was relatively short- under 45 minutes. Quite surprising for a hospital full of emergencies.
The nurse smiles at me, flipping the chart over her arm. “She’s asking for you.” She gestures to the room down the hall. I mumble a thanks, nearly sprinting to her room. The door is ajar when I get there and I can hear the frustrated groans coming from inside.
I lean against the door frame, watching as my sister flips through the channels on the TV. Her hair is tied up in a nest on the top of her head, and she’s in a flimsy hospital gown, the blanket pulled over her legs.
“Hey dumb ass,” I call as I walk in. “Hospital TV has jack shit.”
She turns her head over to me, a smile widening her face. “Ash!” I plop down on the edge of the bed, pushing her legs to make more room.
“You okay, Syd?” I scan her face, looking for anything that could explain why she’s stuck in a hospital bed. The bags under her eyes are dark and deep as if she hasn’t slept in months and her cheekbones are prudent.
“I’m fine. I don’t know why you rushed me to the hospital,” Sydney says, rolling her eyes at me.
“Hmm.” I pretend to think. “Oh! That’s right, you fainted in the middle of the kitchen.”
“Oh please, that’s normal.”
“No, it’s not.”
“Yes, it is Ash. Everyone faints from time to time.”
“No, they don’t.”
Sydney falls quiet, leaning her head against the pillow and shutting her eyes.
“Syd, it’s me. Please tell me what’s going on,” I beg. As twins, we grew up glued to each other’s side. We did everything together until she fell in love with dance and I fell in love with lacrosse. But that’s the only thing that we do alone. We have the same friends, the same birthday party, the same everything. I can’t stand to see my sisters get hurt and not do anything about it.
“Asher, I’m not dying. I’m just tired and have a massive headache, which you’re not helping,” she says without opening her eyes.
I watch her chest rise and fall in a steady beat for a few moments, just to remind myself that she’s alive. She probably fainted from dehydration. Despite being an athlete, Sydney forgets to drink water when she’s busy.
“Ash, stop it. I can feel you panicking from here and it’s really distracting me from my nap,” Sydney groans.
I roll my eyes, hitting her leg. “Shut up.”
The door to the room opens with a heavy thud, and a rush of people file in. Our mom takes the lead, beelining to Sydney and grabbing her face and kissing it all over, with Dad right beside her. Trailing behind her is the 10-year-old menace we call Leah, who hops on top of my legs to get in between me and Sydney. Leah kicks her feet against my thighs, forcing me to get up and join the people lingering by the door.
“Thanks, Jer,” I say, taking the coffee that my best friend hands me. Jeremy nods, heading to Sydney’s side. I take a swig, but it tastes like typical hospital coffee, which never tastes good. I place the cup to the side, greeting the last person.
“Hey Char,” I say, pulling my girlfriend into a hug. She wraps her arms around my neck, kissing my cheek before letting me go.
“She says she’s okay, but I don’t know,” I whisper, leaning my forehead against hers.
“And how are you?” She takes my hand, intertwining our fingers and rubbing the back of my hand with her thumb.
I bring our hands to my mouth, kissing her fingertips. “I’m okay.”
There is a knock on the door, and everyone looks at the door, where Sydney’s doctor is standing. I break away from Charlotte, still holding her hand.
“Hey Doc,” Sydney says, peeking her head through the barrier of my parents.
“Sydney.” He turns to the rest of us. “I assume you are her family?”
“Technically, we’re not blood, but yeah we’re family,” Jeremy says, smiling at Sydney and I. Charlotte agrees, giving my hand a squeeze.
Jeremy and I have been friends since we were 8. We’ve been through everything together- from heartbreaks to funerals. He even lived with us for a while, when things were rough at home. Charlotte and Sydney have been friends for a while too, so when I started dating Charlotte, we only became closer. Our families call us the not-so-fantastic four, claiming that we cause hell on earth when we’re all together.
The doctor makes a noise of acknowledgment, flipping through his chart. “I’m afraid that this is information is for family only; if you don’t mind stepping out for a moment?”
I exchange a glance with Sydney, wondering what the hell is going on. She mouths “I don’t know” to me before turning to Mom and asking her something. Mom nods, speaking quietly to Jeremy, who gets Leah off the bed and directs her to the door.
“Everything will be okay, Ash.” I look at my girlfriend, her presence a comfort. “I’ll be right outside, okay?” I nod, giving her a last squeeze before she follows Jeremy and Leah outside.
“Good news,” the doctor starts, flipping through the chart. “You haven’t broken anything.”
“Awesome. So I can go home?” Sydney says, attempting to sit up. She holds back a grimace as does, but as quickly as it comes, it’s gone.
“Not quite. We just want to run a few tests before we let you go.”
“Tests?” Mom says, clinging onto Dad’s arm. “What does that mean? What for?”
The doctor takes off his glasses, diverting his attention to our parents. “We just want to make sure that there isn’t anything else going. Before I order any tests,” he looks at Sydney, “I just want to ask you a few questions, alright?”
Sydney looks at me, her face filled with worry. I walk around by her side, taking a seat at the edge of the hospital bed. I give her a nod, silently letting her know that I’m right here.
“Okay. Hit me,” she says.
“Have you been feeling more tired than normal or experiencing any dizziness?”
“I mean,” Sydney starts. “I’m always tired lately, but it’s because of school and dance. I’m always doing something.”
The doctor scribbles something on the chart. “What about headaches?”
“A few, yeah.” Sydney looks at our parents, who give her an encouraging smile.
“Any numbness or weakness in your arms or legs?”
“They’re usually weak after a grueling practice, but that’s normal for a dancer.”
“What about unusual numbness or weakness? Maybe when you’re just sitting in class or walking around?” the doctor asks.
“Doc, should we be worried?” Dad interrupts, looking between Sydney and the doctor.
“Mr. Moore, as of right now, there is no cause to worry, but, I would like to get a CT just to rule out anything serious.” The doctor reassures us.
“Serious, like what?” I ask.
“I’d like to make sure that there is no bleeding in the brain since Sydney did hit her head when she fainted.”
“Anything to get me out of here faster. I have a dance competition coming up and I’d really like to perform my solo,” Sydney says, getting a chuckle from the doctor. He hands our parents a few forms, talking them through the legal and logistics. I watch closely as Sydney listens intently, twiddling her thumbs, something she only does when she’s nervous.
“I’ll have someone take you up.” With that said, the doctor leaves the room, and Mom and Dad huddle around Sydney, pestering her with questions and love.
Using that as my chance, I slip out of the door and into the bleak white halls. Back to waiting, it seems.Start writing here…