Third Thursdays find us in this room
With its faded, butt-sunken chairs
Besmirched with the detritus
Of the unwell and their unruly family members
Who come along to wait.
Walkers, canes and wheelchairs
Ding and chip away at dull-hued walls
And faux scents waft from candles
In an attempt to mask the musty smell of the sick and unwashed
With contrary odors, treacly and headachy.
So different this waiting room
From the popular, pristine Chinese restaurant where we lunch,
Agog with cheerful, dapper-clothed business folk chattering,
Anticipating the salty, gingery, meaty, sesame-laced feast
That will leave them sated, socialized and food-drowsy.
In this other room, this Thursday place,
Intense anticipation also stirs the air,
Not with the promise of gracious service and exotic flavors
But the dread of deterioration, of stubborn bladders
That fail, shrinking one’s corporeal sway.
Here we seek healing along with strangers of all stripes,
Mostly older, and we avoid eye contact
Because we know the mysteries lurking behind ordinary faces
As evidenced by bulging bags beneath (and sometimes atop) pants legs
And discernable shapes nestled against ribs and bellies.
A name is called and an elderly man accompanied by his scowling caregiver
Toddles to the bespeckled nurse with clipboard in hand
While the rest of us flip magazine pages, listen to iPods,
Check e-mail and play games on our phones or snooze,
Waiting for the omniscient physician’s pronouncement.
Jan Schubert is a freelance writer and editor. For more than 40 years, her stories, essays and other published works have raised awareness of non-profit organizations that serve the marginalized, the voiceless, the impoverished and the elderly.