Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Waiting Room

I've been staring at my hands all day. Examining and touching every scratch, every line. Tracing over the deep grooves in my palm and following the river of the dark blue veins down my wrist. Keeping my eyes focused on the patterns, and my mind away from the obvious.

It’s warm outside but I’m cold in my gown, a faded white sheet with blue and purple diamond patterns. My feet hang limply off the metal table and drum lightly against its sides. I watch the shadows gliding underneath the door, where the smallest inch of light is visible. My heart stops when a shadow lingers for a moment, I breath again as it moves on.

This was always the worst part. Waiting for anything else whether your mail, or your phone to ring is bearable. But waiting in that room, waiting for your name to be called, waiting for the door to open and for the doctor to come in, waiting for some information, even if it’s just on whether or not you’ve caught the flu, is different. It’s Purgatory. This visit has been just like every other six-month check up; only the wait’s been too long so I know that something must be wrong.

My eyes wander down to my feet. I think back to when I used to write poems about talking to my shoes. They were always with me in those poems, walking on the concrete, the sand, the millions of pieces of gum beaten hard into the pavement. Now it was just my feet. They haven’t been to the kinds of places my shoes have, and so they don’t have much to say. My eyes focus past my feet to the cold linoleum floor, and the patterns of blue and purple tiles. I begin to concentrate on the many different ways to look at them.

The door opens; it’s him, the doctor along with four or five students taking notes on clipboards. This does not look good. He tells me they are here to observe the “process”, whatever that is. He begins speaking almost like he’s teaching a class. The students nod their heads and write notes down. I imagine they say something like “the girl looks scared”, “patient does not seem responsive”, “I wonder what Bob is doing this weekend..”. I feel like a lab rat trapped in a maze looking for the cheese. I avoid eye contact and immediately find my salvation with the floor. He talks to me through my mother.

“We've been reviewing your x-rays carefully” he begins.

Blue and purple.

“Looking at past x-rays and today’s, it’s clear that the degree of the curvature has increased.”

The purple squares make a diamond.

“Judging by how rapidly it’s moving-“

Now the blue makes another diamond.

“I’d like to have you wear the brace.”

There it was. What I had been waiting for, what I had been fearing most while sitting on the uncomfortable table, the wax paper crumpling beneath me. A sad violin begins echoing in my head, and I try to digest what is being said. I fear that I will begin to cry. After a few last words (something about wearing it 24 hours for 6 months) he’s gone, wishes me good luck as his sheep follow him out the door. After that everything begins to move fast. The nurse comes to say I can get dressed, and adds she’ll bring in a model of what the brace will look like. My mother assures me the brace is a lot different than the one they show you in that movie in fifth grade, the ugly beige one from the seventies. For instance, it’s not as noticeable; you can wear it underneath clothes, etc.

 I’m dressed, and waiting again. Thoughts begin racing through my head. The nurse is back and hands me what I first think is some kind of medieval torture device, then I realize it’s the 'improved model'. The brace is white and made out of a painfully hard looking plastic, complete with panels that extend above the hips. It looks like an evil corset with three Velcro straps on the back. Clanging noises erupt from the tiny metal pieces when it's moved and it reeks of spray paint and hospital. I decide the only improvement is the color.

I follow my mom out the door and down to the basement to get fitted for my very own torture device. This waiting room is smaller. Tweety Bird is hanging on the wall with a brace on his leg. Maybe this won’t be so bad, even Tweety Bird has a brace. Children are waiting with their braces on their laps, tattooed with stickers of flowers and animals. The brace shop man comes out to collect me. His bald shiny head reflects the fading fluorescent lights. He slaps a brace on my back and pulls the Velcro straps. This isn’t too bad. Then he pulls harder. My ribs feel like they are all breaking at once, like a window shattered by a rock. For a moment I think that I can’t breathe, then I realize that I am. It’s a shortened breath, and every time I inhale the plastic shifts uncomfortably on my skin. I’m suddenly aware of the smell of spray paint mixed with a musty basement odor. I’m aware that this is going to be bad.

I have to sleep on my back tonight. I feel bored and uncomfortable. I stare at my ceiling wishing I could roll over. How can anyone sleep on their back? I think about school, about how I have to wear pants that are too big for me, and how they will also be too short. I’ll have to wear my coat all the time, and find some bag big enough to stash the brace when I have basketball practice. I wait for my eyelids to get heavy, but realize I’m really only waiting for the clock to pass minutes and hours. I feel like I’m in the waiting room again. Another purgatory to decide if I will be able to survive with this change, and how much it will end up affecting my life. I don’t remember when I fell asleep, what I dreamed about, or if the next day was really a school day. I only remember the tiny hardened rivers that had flowed down my cheeks while I waited for the change to take shape.


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