The office was cold. Normally, the heat was on full blast. It felt like summer despite the artic chill outside, and wardrobe required layers especially for these occasions. A soft breeze trickled along magazines scattered across small tables, and empty seats waited patiently to be filled. The glass doors would soon swing back and forth more vividly as the day came to a close, but right now, it was quiet, peaceful. And not a soul stirred but one.
There were only a few patients admitted so far. One of them was having insurance issues. The other was still waiting to be called by the nurse. The waiting room was a ghost town save two, and to the passing eye, they seemed like statues. But then a name was called, and a young woman jumped to her feet, answering the call. The other remained seated with his legs crossed and his hands folded in his lap. He seemed like he had all the time in the world, and he returned the wandering gaze with a twinkle in his eye, a smile pulling at his lips. And then he looked away.
“Must be his wife that’s in with the doctor.” Becky turned toward the other receptionist. “She’s been in there for awhile.” The young girl glanced at her in response. Her gaze shifted up to the waiting room, drifting over the seats that stretched before her. She returned to her work, typing quickly on the keyboard. “What time did Mrs. Henderson come in?”
“Ten a.m.” She didn’t look at Becky this time. “Hasn’t been that long.”
“It’s been two hours. Are you breaking for lunch?”
“No, Becky. You can go first.”
Becky pushed herself away from her desk. She stretched her legs out, and a soft moan escaped her lips. She turned sideways cracking her back, and then she stepped out of her seat. Her eyes moved toward the clock in the waiting room. All the time in the world. It was a funny thought, one that came out of nowhere, but then her gaze returned to the man still sitting against the wall in the waiting room. How long has he been waiting for her?
He appeared to be in his fifties. A moustache tickled his lip. His eyes were a soft blue. His sneakers were dirty, and the laces were double knotted. He wiped his hands against his leg and then resumed folding them in his lap. His gaze drifted out before him, but then Becky came into view. He merely smiled in response.
“She’s been in there for awhile. Mrs. Henderson.” He nodded. “I’m sure she will be out soon.” He smiled. “Do you need anything? We have water.”
“I’m fine.” His words echoed across the room. “Thank you.”
An hour later, Becky found him sitting exactly where he was. She looked at her coworker in confusion, but her coworker merely said nothing and left for lunch. Time crawled by. She pulled over the sign-in sheet, but there were no new patients to check in. She checked the records, seeing if any information needed to be updated. Before she knew it, her coworker was back in her seat, typing away loudly. “Did Mrs. Henderson leave?”
“Yeah. About ten minutes after you left.”
“So, why is he still there?” Her coworker stared at her. “Any patients left seeing the doctor?”
“No. Nobody’s here.” She shook her head. “It should be quiet for the rest of the afternoon.” She checked her watch. “Four more hours to go.” She stretched her arms over her head. “Then, I go home.”
“So, why is he still here?” Becky wondered if she should ask him. Maybe she should ask the doctor. Maybe he had just come in, and because he wasn’t originally scheduled for an appointment, they would make him wait to be seen. But this was ridiculous. The guy had been sitting there for hours. When was the doctor going to see him?
The nurse opened the door. She took a long look into the waiting room. She stepped back inside. A moment later, she reemerged with her coat and pocketbook. She was leaving early and merely gave the receptionists a quick good-bye. The glass doors flashed open, and she was gone, leaving behind a cool breeze that ran goose bumps down Becky’s arm.
“What do you mean?” Becky turned toward her coworker. “What happened to her?”
“She hit some guy with her car.” Her coworker held her gaze. “Don’t you remember? Last week. She was a mess. I’m surprised she came back to work.” She turned away. “She tried to save him, but it was too late. He just stepped right in front of her car, and she didn’t see him. And it was too late.”
Becky looked into the waiting room. The guy was gone. Strange. She didn’t remember him being called in or him leaving. He was just no longer there. “What happened to the guy that was sitting over there?”
“What guy? The guy that was sitting in the waiting room all morning. Where did he go?”
“Becky, there was no guy in the waiting room.”
“Yes. There was. There was a guy sitting in that chair, waiting.”
“Waiting? Waiting for what? There was no guy that came in today.” She rose from her seat. “I’m going to get a glass of water. Do you want one?”
Becky didn’t answer. Instead, she moved out of her seat and into the waiting room. She checked the bathroom, but it was dark, cold. The waiting room seemed warmer, but a cool breeze trickled across the magazines near where he was sitting. But he was no longer there, and more goose bumps raced across her skin. She could ask the doctor. Maybe he did call the man in, and she just didn’t hear him. But she was sure that she would’ve, if they called him. Her eyes drifted over to the clock on the wall. All the time in the world. It was a strange thought, a thought that left her cold, but her time was nearly over. And soon the glass doors would lock in place behind her, and she would drift out to where she called home.