There are two of them in the waiting room. They don’t acknowledge each other. The wait is endless.
She studies the other woman fidgeting on the uncomfortable plastic chair. She is biting at her thumb nail and studying her phone, even though there are signs prohibiting their use. She notes that the woman’s nails are painted in gaudy colours with the lacquer chipped off. Her hair is scraped back in a ponytail and her hoop earrings graze the faux fur of her grubby pink coat. She watches the woman pull a packet of cigarettes and a lighter from her pocket and leave the room, presumably to find somewhere to smoke outside.
She feels a welling up of animosity towards the departed stranger. ‘Was it your son that caused the fight?’ The thought takes hold. ‘Him and his drunken friends? Did he stab my son who was there to help, for chrissake?’ Her son, the paramedic attending a man injured in a night fight, is now in resus.
The smoker returns to her chair. She can smell the smoke on her and her nose wrinkles in distaste. She feels this woman represents everything that’s wrong in her world.
A doctor comes to speak to her. ‘He’s stable. You may see him now. He’ll be transferred to the ward…’ She doesn’t take in any more. Just the understanding that her son is alive. Safe. The other woman stands staring out of the window.
‘Good news, then,’ says the woman.
‘Yes,’ she replies her voice cracking into heaving sobs of relief. She stands, unable to move.
The woman comes over and puts her arm round her. ‘It’ll be OK.’
‘I’m sorry…’ She lets herself be comforted by this stranger, surprised to find she feels better for this unexpected kind gesture.
‘Natural. It’s the shock,’ the woman soothes. ‘I’m glad your boy’s alright. Good luck.’
She gathers her belongings then, half out of the door in desperation to see her son, she asks ‘Have you had any news yet?’
‘My boy didn’t make it.’ The words are whispered.
She turns back. Her son is safe; he can wait a few moments longer.