The Waiting Room

The TV drones on in the background. Requiem mass for the former first lady going on. What eyes aren’t glued on it are glued on phones. What did man do before there were screens to affix ones eyes on? Heavens forbid we have to look each other in the eye and talk. I am in a hospital waiting room. Well, kinda. An out-patient facility is more like it.

This one girl though, sitting directly in-front of me, is completely oblivious to screens. She’s dozing in and out of sleep. The slight glimpse I catch of her eyeballs as her eyelids flutter reveals that they are bloodshot. She must not have had much sleep last night. The brown bag in her lap keeps slipping off. The movement wakes her. She adjusts it, moves it higher on her lap, and then dozes off again.

Every so often, a nurse will walk out of the ‘beyond’ and call out a name, once, twice, then watch for movement. If there is none, a third time before disappearing into the ‘beyond’ and appearing again with another name on her lips. That was rare though, that someone does not respond…more often than not, there will be a response at the first call. Someone hastily reaching out for their belongings, getting to their feet and heading after the nurse. Mentally prepared for a reckoning. A reckoning, because THE reckoning still lay ahead.

When my name is called, a variation of it anyway, the nurse leads me into an ante-chamber and the first thing I spot is a weighing scale. On its platform are the words, ‘PLEASE TAKE OFF YOUR SHOES’, capitalised and in bold.

I bend and start teaching for my laces…

“No, that isn’t necessary,” says the nurse.

So why is there a big, bold and capitalised sign that says otherwise, I think to myself, as I step onto the scale and wonder if perhaps I should have had one less sausage for breakfast. Or…those two cups of tea…surely the scale is reflecting water weight!

The nurse then takes my blood pressure. Even though I expect it, the numbing of my arm still surprises me. When the band on my arm constricts, I always try move my fingers, knowing they will not be responsive, but fascinated by the fact that for those few seconds my brain has little to no control over my fingers. Equally scared that perhaps subservience may never return.

Th screen displaying my vital signs beeps and beeps and I watch the numbers rise and fall and change colours and attempt to decipher what they mean but I cannot even feign comprehension. The nurse let’s me know that everything seems normal, which is enough for me, then ushers me back to the reception, where I wait for my second reckoning. THE reckoning.

I like that the service here is good. Prompt. The reception is well towards being packed by now, but the out-patient facility staff is operating at full capacity. They must have an amazing turn-around time. Periods unheard of by the staff and patients at other national hospitals.

I spot the doctor who attended to me yesterday. I was hoping I’d get her again. Such an undeniable beauty! Proof that beauty and brains are not mutually exclusive. I wonder if any male patients conjure up subsequent symptoms after being examined by her, to hopefully prompt follow-up visits. I wouldn’t rule it out, given that I am here crossing my fingers and toes, hoping to get her again.

I have however noticed that the male patients get examined exclusively by male doctors and the female ones by female doctors. What are the chances she spurred this policy into being? I know, I know, very slim. It’s probably just good practice. Given that I walked in yesterday and asked to see a female doctor, I reckon we are all just more comfortable being examined by medical practitioners of our own gender.

The drowsy girl in-front of me, she stands up, walks towards the wall where the water dispenser is. Her walk, slow and laborious. She gets to the wall, immediately turns 180 degrees and goes in the other direction. Her movement reminds me of that game where there’s a ball bouncing off walls and a plate at the bottom that the player uses to try ensure the ball never touches the ground. For an instant, it seems as though she will head towards the ‘beyond’, where all the consultation and examination rooms are, where the doctors and nurses disappear to. She doesn’t. At the last instant, her lazy gait is redirected and she walks out. I wonder if she is fine. If I should follow her and check up on her. Ask her if she feels okay. If someone is here to pick her. If she knows where she is going. I don’t. I sit watching the door. Hoping she will wander back in and get back to her sit in-front of me. Get back to dozing in and out of sleep, in my line of vision, so I at least know she is okay even though she doesn’t look okay. She doesn’t come back.

On TV, the requiem mass continues. They are at the offertory. I do a double take when I notice this. The offertory? Really? An hour and a half have gone by and they’re only at the offertory? I do not envy the congregation in attendance. One and a half hours in, the Sunday mass I am used to would be over, if not approaching the end.

I see a procession walking towards the altar with gifts. Whoever is speaking mentions that one of the gifts is ARVs, in honour of one of the causes the former first lady championed for, all this as the former president looks on. The camera zooming in on his face.

What must it be like? To have to mourn so publicly? Or rather, to not have the option of mourning privately. Every single tear he sheds or doesn’t shed, the nation is watching. What will they think if there are none? What will they say if they are profuse? What if he thinks of something funny and smiles? What if someone tells a joke and he laughs? I pity him. It must be difficult to have to mourn under the live scrutiny of a nation.

I keep waiting. Wondering when the doctor will call my name. Hoping it is soon. My bladder has started hinting that it might need a release shortly.

A pre-adolescent boy and his mother come in. They finish up with the cashier and take a seat where the drowsy girl was. Right in my line of vision. Their side profiles are near identical. I wonder what the father’s contribution to that genetic cocktail is. They haven’t been seated 15 seconds when the boy asks his mother for her phone. Soon enough, in addition to the TV proceedings in the background, is the soundtrack of a racing game. He has the game at full volume. Really, FULL VOLUME! I grit my teeth in annoyance. This in addition to his already very loud chewing of gum. I want to smack the back of his head and ask him to be considerate enough to turn down the volume and throw away that chewing gum. Instead I avert my eyes and consider moving to another seat.

Now I’m tired of waiting. I’m tired of watching people. I’m tired of writing about waiting. I want to finish and go home and get on with the rest of my day.

The doctor I’m waiting for steps out of her examination room. I try make eye contact with her, hopeful that my name shall be the utterance from her lips. It is not.

“Frank Oketch,” she says.

Turns out there really isn’t a rule about male to male and female to female then. I rush to the bathroom, seeing this as a window of opportunity. Even if that consultation is very short, surely it shall be long enough for me to rush to the bathroom and back.

I am impressed that the toilets are clean. Relieved. They are spotless.

When I get back, someone on the TV screen is reading out the former first lady’s eulogy. The mass is still going on. Seems I might be waiting for just as long as they will be at mass. So much for pitying them, at least they are better positioned to receive blessings.

The boy playing games on his mother’s phone is now playing football. I can hear the crowd cheering. His mother snaps out of whatever trance she has been in and asks him to lower the volume on that thing. He does. The TV is now dominating.

On TV I spot a familiar face. A really good-looking guy. Speaking at the requiem mass.

“Cucu…” he says. Among other things of course. Hmmmm, so the deceased was his grandmother. Interesting. I know this young man because I have severely stalked him on Instagram. Severally. I spend quite a bit of time on the explore tab on Instagram *confessions* and trust me, his is a face that when you spot, you’ll want to see a lottle more of. Yes, a lottle. A little but a lot. I always go to his profile…catch up on what he has been up to. I want to say small world…but it really does not apply, does it? Virtual-stalking of someone does not count as knowing them. Neither does knowledge of a prominent personality. I only sorta know both, but really know neither.

A uniformed lady comes in and empties the two trash cans at opposing ends of the reception area. When she disappears, ‘my’ doctor appears.

“Kathleen Simiyu,” she says. I get up and walk towards her, smile and say, “It’s Siminyu.”


By the time I get back to the reception area, the little boy and his mother are gone. On TV, the current president is now addressing the congregation at mass. I pick up my prescription and head out. In the least, my wait ended before the mass did.

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      Imagine gum is illegal in Singapore!
      Heh heh!
      The government didn’t like how people would dispose of it irresponsibly. Under chairs and desks and what not, so it was banned!


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