From your perch in the coffee shop you watch a woman exit the big grey church across the street from the hospital. She’s young, probably not even 40, but she’s dressed like an elderly woman. She’s wearing a shapeless blue raincoat, heavy stockings and wide, steady shoes. Her rosary is looped around her fingers. Across from the church door there is a statue of the Virgin Mary against the fence. The woman locks her eyes on it, walks to the statue, kisses her rosary beads and then leans over and kisses the feet of the statue.
You’re sleepy, it’s been a long day already and it isn’t even noon yet. It’s better sitting here than up in the family lounge. You left when it started filling up with people, lots of them crying and hugging each other, and the cop came in. You figured that they were about to hear bad news so you decided to give them some privacy and to give yourself a break and come down here. After all, it’s going to be hours before the surgery is finished and he’s back in the unit.
There’s not much to do but wait. Outside there’s a black guy sitting in a wheelchair with “Hospital Property” stencilled across the back. He’s got a yellow hospital gown on over his clothes and he’s wearing a paper mask that he pulls down when he takes a drag of his cigarette. You can’t get over how thin he is. You could count the ladder of his ribs if you were closer. A cab deposits two women by the door. They are resplendent in bright silk – one has a yellow sari and the other is dressed in turquoise. The older one leans heavily on the younger one. You notice that they are each wearing delicate sandals and the younger woman has her toenails painted red.
Another cab arrives. Paul Simon’s “Graceland” comes on the radio and you watch a young woman lift her sleeping baby out of the car seat and strap him into a stroller. It isn’t easy for the young woman to manoeuver the stroller through the revolving door and she smiles at an elderly tall man who is coming out. He ignores her and she struggles in on her own.
You tip back your coffee cup as if there might actually be a drop left inside it. You wipe your mouth with the crumpled napkin. On your way out you drop your trash into the bin. You pop a piece of gum into your mouth – your dad never could stand the smell of coffee on anyone’s breath – and head to the washroom before making your way back upstairs. It’s almost time for your brother to arrive and you want to be sure to be there to meet him. You don’t want him to think that no one has been here all day and that he’s the only hero.
Linda E. Clarke is a writer and performance storyteller. She has worked for more than 25 years in health care humanities.