Waiting was written by Ted Phillips in 2005.

The Text

The receptionist's window is situated behind a bulletproof pane in a little pseudopod to the right of the main waiting area. Yellow and red stains spatter the aluminum walls. The floor is cold and gritty. The tin chairs closest to the receptionist are bolted to the floor and lack padding. The waiting room with the padded couches is full, the emergency room past the legal capacity. And no one seems to be moving.

The room is illuminated by a blinding dim sunset ambience from the few shorting fluorescent panels in the ceiling. The flicker surges above the incessant shrill clamor, unheard by those engrossed in their reason, whom silence encircles. The setting provides no kind repose to troubled parents.

The receptionist's face is apathetic. Beneath her sits a man, out of tissues, sputtering blood onto his flannel shirtfront. His face is pale white except where it had been discolored by his regurgitations, and his diaphragm is eternally oscillating. Maybe he had taken a roller coaster ride too subsequent to major surgery, the extreme forces unfastening what the surgery had fixed. Or maybe he has pneumonia, or a severe case of bronchitis.

To the left of the man against the wall perpendicular sits a young blond-haired boy staring at his right hand. He bends his index finger and blood runs down his wrist, his expression wavering as the bones and flesh in his hand shift in disorder. His hand is crying out to him, and he can't take his eyes off of it although it disgusts him. His endorphins are getting tired. There is a bullet hole clear through his hand, bone shattered and tendons snapped. The boy's violently energetic best friend had thought the saying "there's always one bullet in the chamber" was mere superstition.

And I sit across from the window in our cramped asylum, the whole atmosphere poisoning me, churning around me and through me, the clock making no progress, the batteries dead. Every fiber of my body is burning and bruising, and the unpadded chairs are only adding to my madness. No one is moving, and I want to sleep.

Occasionally a doctor comes out from the back but never takes anyone in. It has to have been five hours -- but I can't ask; I have no control -- since my temperature was last read. 105.2 Fahrenheit and rising. My head is exploding, I need something to drink, but there are no vending machines, no water fountains; my dad comes back after an unsuccessful search for something for me to drink. The staff will provide nothing. I have to wait. My vision somersaults as I look across and to my right at my new friends in torment.

They don't care; we don't care. Our eyes are red and watery. We each want to go first. We each want to survive, but we are all going to die because some people don't believe that the emergency room should only be used in emergencies.

Maybe we should have taken an ambulance.

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