Staring Without Seeing, And Other Stories


BroomfieldThat’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.

 

 

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About The Hairy Housewife

Media volunteer for Epilepsy Action (UK) and advocate for both epilepsy and autism awareness. Seamstress, cross-stitcher, sci-fi lover, ukulele player and Chelmsford's own Pickling Pagan who wants to inherit a TARDIS when she grows up. In the process of writing an as yet unnamed book, with anecdotes and information about being epileptic and autistic - and seeing the funny side! Also an entertainment journalist for What Culture, where I write about Doctor Who.
This entry was posted in "Mutants", 2013, Adapting, Anxiety, Autism, Autism Awareness, Autistic Behaviours, Autistic Meltdown, Body Image, Boobs, Born This Way, Disability, Doctor Who, English Hospitals, Epilepsy, Epilepsy Awareness, Health, Heightened Awareness, Injuries, Kindle. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Staring Without Seeing, And Other Stories

  1. I hate the waiting part of appointments. I really don’t like waiting in the GP’s surgery in Whitby because the carpet they have in there is not good for someone with Irlen syndrome (especially when I’m trying to knit or crochet something in my lap and the grey of the habit contrasts with the navy of the floor which makes it worse).

    And you do have a gift with words, my dear Mrs Tribble.

  2. Nicole says:

    That was beautifully written, especially the comparison to rain. I feel as though I was sitting in the room next to you.

  3. Hi there. I hope your arm is better since this post and that your health is holding out. I just wanted to say happy Christmas or Nadolig Llawen to you and have a great Christmas. X

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