“I’m going to have to speak to the mailman”, he said, breaking the stiff silence.
The woman sitting at the very far end of the waiting room looked up, slightly startled and unsure if she should respond. I sat watching, scrolling through my Facebook feed on my phone.
“We’ve suspected he’s been delaying our mail for awhile now, and here’s proof”. He picked up the flyer that had fallen onto the floor, reading, “Expires May 27, 2016. And I pick up the mail daily! This just arrived today.”
We nodded our heads, the woman and I, and he continued, “I always give the stylist an extra big tip when I get a coupon like this. . . too bad it’s expired, I need a haircut, too.”
“Are you nervous?” he asked me directly.
I squeaked out a small, “Yes”.
“I am, too” he said.
He’d had a couple other MRIs in the last few years, on his liver. I said I’d had one on my liver last year, too.
“I have hemochromatosis. And I hate the MRI machines. Do you get scared inside there? It’s so loud.”
I told him I had only had them a few times in my life, and I wasn’t sure if I was more scared of the machine’s sounds and strangling claustrophobic coffin feel, or the potential test results.
“True, true” he said.
“My husband is in there. He didn’t even take the pills they gave him to calm down. He was out here talking like an idiot. . . that’s the nerves,” said the other woman.
“I didn’t take the pills this time,” said the man.
“Pills? Nobody told me I could take something for the fear. I wish they’d given me something,” I said. Mental note: ask for the freaking pills next time.
Appointments were running late, and another patient had arrived, concerned that the caregiver she’d hired to stay with her elderly mother would be left too long if her appointment was very late. She was agitated, and the receptionist couldn’t help. You just never know how long these things will take.
We welcomed her into the waiting room and the guy I was chatting with was called in. Mike. See ya later, Mike.
“I hate these things,” she confided, looking down at her hands playing with her purse strap.
We all do.
“Are you wearing makeup? You’re not supposed to wear makeup,” she looked over at me.
“No, I’m not wearing any,” I replied, hoping nobody would notice the midlife hormone breakout I’m in the midst of. My cheeks were hot, my stomach in knots from the stress.
“Lucky! You look beautiful,” she said kindly.
“Well, I mean. . . I am wearing lash extensions. . .” I said sheepishly, trying to explain away why I may look half decent without makeup, simultaneously a little embarrassed about what I do out of sheer vanity.
“Tell me more about them!” she exclaimed, eagerly popping out of her seat and asking for a closer look. She leaned in close, and I wasn’t even bothered one bit. “They’re perfect!” We chatted a little about them.
I was called in, and handed a gown to wear for the MRI. There was my waiting room buddy, Mike.
“My daughter just texted me to say good luck!” he smiled.
Hoping the gown and pants fit properly, I hastily changed into them, stored my clothes in a locker and sat down next to Mike who told me all about how he discovered he has hemochromatosis, and what it could mean for him.
“I thought I was just really lazy,” he said.
“Ha! I KNOW I am really lazy, ” I replied.
“We got this, right?”
“Yup. We got this,” I said.
A elderly man finishing his appointment came back to the change room, laughing about the too-small pants they’d given him.
“They have given me pants for a child!” he giggled in a thick German accent.
“I’ll look away”, I laughed back as he bent to gather his belongings.
The tiny puncture hole in his arm started to bleed while he changed and suddenly there were splatters of blood on the floor. His head appeared out of the door, eyes worried.
“Can you call someone for me?”
I told the receptionist and she came and gathered him, squirrelling him behind a locked door to help bandage the crook of his arm.
“Thank you so much” he smiled with warm eyes at me. “But don’t look at my bottom! Oh, these pants.”
“Come on in”, said the technician.
The process wasn’t bad — far better to just have a leg in a machine than my whole body. MRIs are louder than you’d think. I always wonder why I have never asked more questions about how these machines work, and what exactly they’re doing to my body. But then I figure that’s what Google’s for, and focus on my breathing, trying to calm my pounding heart.
When it was finished, I scuffled back to the change room, eager to shed the gown and ascend from this depressing basement.
“How long was it?” Asked the patient who was running late.
“Maybe 20-25 minutes,” I said. “Not long, you’ll be in soon, don’t worry! And it wasn’t so bad.” I said.
“Tell me more about your lash extensions!” she said.
I happily told her how I look forward to the days I get them done, and how ridiculous I feel about having these fake lashes attached to my face.
“But they make me SO happy!” I said.
I chatted with her through the change room doors, thinking about all the times I’ve been in a bathroom with a friend, chatting through stalls. It felt nice talking to this stranger, comforting in a place that was certainly not naturally comfortable.
“I hope everything goes ok with your test”, I said.
She smiled and we parted ways, surely to never cross paths again.
As I walked away from the hospital, I considered all the lives that had intermingled for such a brief time, and how much happiness I had gained from each interaction there today.
It’s amazing how we can touch one another’s lives in the most unexpected places, isn’t it? I hope that what I left them of myself was found to be comforting and happy-making, too.