Sat there in the overly warm blue and white room, she wondered how she ended up in this place. At first, it was just a trip to her doctor. Tired she was. Tired of life and tired of the living. “We do some tests,” he said. And so she was dispatched with notes of paper to have blood taken. Not painful. Referred to have parts of her body scanned. Partially painful. Returning back to the doctor, who said something like “The tests were not conclusive, we need to do a biopsy.” So painful.
Later when she got home, she looked the word up. The online dictionary stated that a biopsy is “an examination of tissue removed from a living body to discover the presence, cause, or extent of a disease.” She thought that the Oxford comma was really pleasing in this definition. She approved of those that used it. Correctly. She liked that it was used to describe something that would happen to her. And that it confirmed that she had a living body. Alive still.
She had taken her blue and white plate and placed it on the counter wondering what she should eat. Something healthy. Something comforting. Not the same thing. She settled on cheese and an apple, but when she put it on the plate, it covered the beautiful plate. She could no longer see the complete blue and white pattern. She thought that she was no longer hungry.
The doctor said, she would have to wait for another referral letter for the biopsy. It may be a week or two weeks for the letter to come. Possibly a month for the appointment. He told her not to worry. This made her worry. People only ever told you not to worry when there was something to worry about.
Yet, it turned out that waiting was easy. She had gone about her days. Getting up for work. Shower. Breakfast and then bus. The city traffic edged its way slowly through the suburbs of council houses. Mostly gray but with a dash of colour now and then. A blue garden gate here, a red door, green hedges, yellow flowers. People got on and off the bus. She often wondered who they were. Mothers and fathers, sisters, children, brothers. And what did they do? Work, school, nothing. She left the bus at the bus stop on a corner of two intersecting roads. One road crossing the town centre, the other leading to a car park. She followed the one leading to the car park. She entered the office building, her place of work through a gray door. A gray door in a gray concrete building. 5 stories. She only knew her floor. 3rd floor. 48 steps. Another gray door. Administration was what she did and she was good at it. She sometimes thought that she worked for hundreds of people. Making sure they got paid at the end of the month. Such power. One mistake by her and a wage not paid would cause chaos in someone’s life. Despair. Rage. Broken marriages. At least missed mortgage payments. She sometimes imagined what the people did with their wages. Yes, they had to pay their bills. That mortgage. But then what. What did they spend their money on? Books, holidays, eating out, hobbies? She often wondered. She did not know any of the people she sorted the wages out. Never met any of them. They were just names and yet at times at the bus, she wondered if any of the people queuing with her had the names she printed on payslips every month.
Yet the waiting also lead to questions. Did she like her life? Or her job? This was something you did not think about unless you had to wait. Waiting created space for questions. Questions, you would rather not think about. Rather not answer. What did she do with the money that was left over after she paid her bills. Her sister had accused her once of having no interests. “Susan,” she said, “you need to get out more, you need a hobby.” She had shook her head. Her sister had these kind of notions, felt that she had to rescue her from something. Something that was her, Susan’s life. Her sister did not like Susan’s life. Too boring, too predictable, too lonely.
Susan was just too tired. She said so to her sister. “I am too tired to do anything.” Her sister had made her go to the doctor and now she had appointments to keep. Time to take off from work. Did her sister not understand that she had to do the payroll? It was important that this was done on time. People depended on her to do that. Marriages were saved by her doing her job. Mortgages were paid. Food got onto the table behind those doors she saw from the bus, because she did her job. No, her sister did not see that. Her sister did not see her at all. She looked at Susan and saw things reflected that she did not want to look at.
When the appointment letter came, it came with instructions. Where to present yourself. At what time. Please bring this letter. You can bring a dressing gown or we issue you a hospital gown. Please let us know if you cannot make this appointment.
She did not want to go the appointment. So easy to ring and say, that she was sorry but she had to do the payslips. Her sister was insistent. Calling her. Texting her. Knocking on her door on a Saturday morning. Susan let her in. “Yes, yes, I will go to the appointment.”
So here she was. In a waiting room. A hot room. Someone said “Why is it always so hot in these hospitals.” And the reply came: “So the viruses spread better.” A low chuckle. She thought that it was quite witty. She wondered what virus she would bring home. She had been sitting here for a long time. Enough time for a virus to enter her blood stream. Was that were the viruses went? She had arrived early. Presented her letter. Was asked to sit down and wait. So much waiting. She felt that she had been waiting all her life. Not for this, for sure not for this. But waiting for something. When you have waited for so long, you forget that you are actually waiting. And then you cannot really say what you are waiting for. Not for this blue and white waiting room. Did they try to emulate the sky? Blue and white. A sunny day but some clouds as a warning that the weather may change at any moment.
People were called in one after the other. Most people had someone with them. Her sister had wanted to come. She had not want her sister to come. She had not wanted to wait with her. Her chattering, her knowing everything, her sister talking to strangers as if she knew them. Her sister looking at everyone as if they were a friend. Yet she did not see her, her own sister. No, Susan thought, this was better. Waiting was best done alone. She watched the couples. The Moms brought by their children. The children brought by their moms. She wondered what was wrong with them. Wasn’t this why they were here, because something was wrong. One never ended up in waiting rooms if everything was going right.
“Susan Peters?” Her turn. She got up, carefully picking up her bag and coat. Both gray. Her sister joked that she was trying to blend into the concrete of the apartment building. The concrete of the town. Susan walked to the woman in her blue uniform. With white trimming. Blue sky with white clouds.
She would not remember what had been said. There was no time to tell anyone and who would she tell anyway. Yes, she could have told her sister. Her sister would have demanded it. She remembered a vague pain as a needle was inserted into her left breast. A feeling of heat more than pain. Or pain that is heat? It was hard to be exact. Yet, she was here for an exact diagnosis, so should she not make the effort to be more exact herself? After all the waiting, first weeks, then days, then long minutes in the blue and white waiting room, she was done so quickly. Needle in, needle out, pain, heat, get dressed and good bye. Results with your doctor soon.
She took the bus to work. She was three hours late. She took no notice of the gray houses with their dashes of colour. All those names waiting for the payroll. The printing. The folding. The putting into an envelope. A text pinged. Her sister. I will call her later, she thought. She stepped out behind the bus thinking of the names. All those names waiting for her because she had been made to wait. She could not think of anything other than those names. All the waiting made her rush, there was no time now to look left and right, left and right. Just cross the street and get to the door behind which all those names are waiting.
She saw a blue thing coming towards her and stopped. Was this the sky descending on her. Impact was swift, like the needle in her breast. A sharp pain, then gone. She turned and fell, landing on her back, not on the breast that had already suffered some pain. All the heat left her body as she looked up at the blue sky, white clouds indicating a change of weather.