That’s what I tend to do when I’m waiting for my hospital appointments; I have my Kindle, of course, but occasionally my gaze will sweep the waiting area and see – but not see. Images are vaguely noted – sometimes they even register – but, more often than not, I’m not actually looking at or noticing you. My gaze slides over you like rain down a window pane, and then – just as rain is wont to do – it moves on to linger briefly elsewhere.
I don’t know how sitting in a hospital waiting room affects others, but for me it’s as though time stands still and the outside world ceases to exist. I am waiting to hear one sound, and one sound only – my name.
But still, you are there in the room with me – and I will notice you. Something about you might even burn your features into my memory; perhaps, as today, the swollen, blackened foot and immaculately painted toenails peeping out of a leg cast, or the painfully swollen arm with colourful hues ranging from scarlet to cobalt to ocean green to black – just as mine was two months ago. I will wonder how you found yourself so injured; I will wonder how far along you are in your recovery – and I will hope that you are no longer suffering the excruciating, burning pain that I have now come to know too well through my own fracture.
I wonder what Nightshade, my Tarantula, is doing right at this moment, and I wish I was at home watching Doctor Who. But my name still has not been called, so I sit here and I let my silent gaze slide across you in passing.
On my Kindle I am reading The Gift Of Rain by Tan Twan Eng; the prose and structure of the narration flows like water over pebbles in a gentle but chattering stream. I absorb myself in this Chinese haven, and yet I still hear all around me.
My name has been called now, and I’ve been sent to the other end of the hospital for an x-ray. D is – quite rightly – complaining about all the to-ing and fro-ing; he wanted to be at work in the library by one o’clock and it’s already a quarter past twelve.
It often surprises people that I notice, appreciate and love fine art. I do though, and so the Monet print on the x-ray waiting room wall immediately leaps out at me. I study it for a while, but I still see you with your leg cast and your crutches, or the sling gently cradling your arm. I hope that my x-ray isn’t going to hurt as much as it did four weeks ago, and I still wonder – even as I begin to read again – how you manage to paint your toenails when your foot is encased in plaster.
I think that the sonographer has called my name, but a woman thrusts a hospital gown at me, ushers me into a cubicle and tells me to change into the gown and wait. I do as told, not knowing what will come next. I discover later that D was on the verge of getting somebody to check on me by the time I came back, I had been gone so long.
I gaze around the cubicle, because I can’t see bruises or casts or painted toenails any more. As I remove my upper clothing a doughy, heavy breasted, middle-aged woman stares back at me from the mirror. I have to remind myself that I am twenty years older than I actually feel, and that epilepsy has robbed me of my ability to be active and fit. It’s epilepsy that caused my fractured arm, otherwise I would not be here.
The cubicle is roughly 2″ by 4″, with a wooden bench to sit on. It is just like any other changing cubicle, except that I have to sit there for an unknown length of time with a curtain depriving me of sight. I am autistic; I can’t do this. You should not have put me here.
I try to pace, but the cubicle is too small. I curl up on a corner of the bench seat, but it’s uncomfortable and so I attempt to pace again. I wish that somebody had told me what was going to happen prior to x-ray, as I would have brought my Kindle to the cubicle. But I didn’t know, and so I have to sit here in a tiny area, anxious and on the edge of an autistic meltdown. I want to go home!
I am about to get redressed and ask D to take me home when my name is called and I can leave my little prison. A kindly, silver haired gentleman has come to x-ray my shoulder.
My x-ray and my visit to the fracture clinic is over and I am home now; and yet I can still see your perfectly painted toenails peeping out from your foot cast.