The Waiting Room
by Meghan Schuler
I’m sitting in the waiting room. I’m sitting in the waiting room, staring at the boring green paint on the wall. I think that color is supposed to keep you calm as you wait, but don’t they know that overexposure to any color that dull and muted has the opposite effect? I don’t think they know because all the walls are the same insane color. Perhaps they do it for the same reason it’s always so cold in these places, because they are cruel and they really don’t care how you feel about being locked in a cage with nothing but waiting, freezing to death because you’ve forgotten your coat. The plastic chairs are hard and uncomfortable. There is only one light in the exact middle of the ceiling, and I am not willing to wait much longer. It’s been so long now I don’t remember why.
There are two other girls, one on my left and one on my right. They look like they’re twins. I’m an only child, so I’m interested to see the two of them interact. I always wished I had a sister. The one girl, Charlotte, is blonde. Her sister, Caroline, is brunette. The three of us are alone in the room, waiting and waiting. They don’t say much, but that’s possibly because they’re afraid to break the silence. I’m afraid, too, but I don’t remember why.
“It’s because he’ll hear us,” Charlotte whispers, leaning in as if she’s telling me a great secret. “And if he hears us, he’ll come to get us.”
“And if he gets us,” Caroline continues, “he’ll try to separate us.”
“And if he separates us, you’ll die.”
How would they know? Will I die because someone heard them? Now that they’ve spoken, I guess I expect him to arrive at any moment. Maybe he didn’t hear them. Maybe it was only me. They were whispering. I look around the room and I’m not surprised to see that nothing has changed. We’re still waiting. Charlotte and Caroline are looking at me. I think they want me to say something, but I don’t know what to say. I don’t want to say anything. I’m afraid to break the silence, and I’m afraid of the man in the white coat, the one I know is lurking just outside the door, but I can’t remember why.
“I can’t remember why,” I whisper, shocked at the sound of my own voice. It seems too loud, even though I’m sure I barely said anything. Charlotte looks concerned. Charlotte is always concerned. Caroline is smiling, as if she knows something I don’t. Maybe she does. Her smile fades as the sound of footsteps get closer to the door. The man in the coat is standing there. I know we’re in trouble; I know that he was listening. He looks at me, brow furrowed, and I shrink into my chair.
He takes a seat in the chair across from me. I wish I were sitting in it. It’s leather, plush, probably warmer than the cold plastic chair. The waiting room is getting crowded.
Caroline is glaring, and Charlotte is biting her lip. I can almost taste the blood as her teeth dig in. Why is she standing in the corner now? The man is still sitting, watching us, clipboard in hand. He’s saying something about psychotics or lithium and I think about what a pretty pink those little pills are. What a fun word to say. Lithium.
“Did you take your medication this morning?” Who is he talking to? He sees me looking at Charlotte and glances over. He doesn’t acknowledge her.
A distant humming fills my ears. It stops whenever I take a breath.
“You were saying you couldn’t remember something. Do you remember now?” he asks, still staring. I knew he was spying on me.
I don’t answer him, but study the door frame instead. It looks like a
Caroline is laughing.
“You find coffins humorous?” he asks, brow creasing further and makes a note on his clipboard. His white coat is glaringly bright, searing and burning and far too white.
“No, she doesn’t, no.” That’s Charlotte, trying to slow everything down.
“Then why is… she laughing?”
Why did he hesitate? It was barely there, but it was there. I heard him. We all did. And he’s sitting in that chair, eyes fixed on me and the walls are minty green and now the silence is broken and he’s come to get us because he heard us talking and we were just waiting, and for what I can’t remember, and I don’t remember why.
“Christine, why are you laughing?” he asks.
Caroline is laughing. She’s not hiding it. Her fist is practically stuffed into her mouth. The man getting up, coming closer. He crouches down in front of me and puts his hand on my shoulder. His nails are far too clean.
“Christine, I’m here to help you. You don’t have to be afraid of me. Tell me what you’re experiencing. Why are you laughing?”
Tears are rolling down my cheeks and my ribs hurt. I can hardly breathe. Caroline is laughing, rocking back and forth violently in her chair. She’s laughing hysterically now, but I’ve missed the joke. Charlotte is staring, biting her lip.
Caroline wears a look like death and lashes out. I tried to grab her hands too late. I feel the scratch of stubble against my fingertips. Why does my hand ache?
The man—the doctor—calls for someone, and a woman appears, a thin object in her hand. So that’s what we’ve been waiting for, and she sits down beside me, where Caroline is sitting, and something stings my arm, and the man is watching me and talking to the woman, and Caroline is laughing, the room is spinning in a minty haze and Charlotte closes her eyes and Caroline isn’t laughing and I’m drifting. Where are we and why am I here? I forgot to… and Charlotte’s beside me… and
I’m sitting the waiting room. Staring at the boring green paint on the wall. I think that color is supposed to keep you calm as you wait, but don’t they know that overexposure to any color that dull and muted has the opposite effect? I don’t think they know because all the walls are the same insane color. It’s cold, and I’m not willing to wait much longer.