The pastel colored walls seemed mocking to me, such bright happy colors in such a dark dismal place. I was led past a couple putrid paisley colored rooms and dropped off in a light yellow one with daisies all over the walls. The chairs were bright green and plastic, like those in a kindergarten classroom. I sat down and stared at the floor because the fluorescent lights were burning my eyeballs. I tried to remember why I was here, why I came. But I couldn't remember anything, all I knew was I was waiting for something. Something big. It all made me want to puke. I suddenly regretted my big breakfast this morning as the nerves fluttered through me. Wave after wave of pure panic crashed into me and I had to remind myself to breath. In and out, in and out. There was a clock directly in front of me in the waiting room. It ticked down the seconds unnecessarily loud, so along with my shaky breathing there was a TIK TIK TIK pounding in my head. Making the wait even more excruciating. There was a screen in the corner of the room and I craned my head to look at it, using my hand to shield my eyes like a visor from the glaring lights. On the screen was an image of me, when I was a young girl playing tag with my friends. The screen flashed and another image appeared, this time of me as a young teen eating icecream at a mall with my parents. More and more images flashed by faster and faster, moving so fast my brain spun. I got older and older until it suddenly stopped, on a picture of me today. I was walking my dog Chloe and I looked scared. A car was coming at me, fast. I didn't remember this part, I just remembered taking my dog out. My brain had a pounding headache as I tried to recall what happened earlier that day but before I could figure it out a video began to play. There was no sound, but my head provided the sounds for me. I watched in absolute horror as the car made no attempt to stop. I opened my mouth to scream and Chloe took off pulling me down. Right in front of the car. Only then did the driver notice me but it was too late. Too late. I tried to force my eyes away but all I could do was look at my broken body laying on the ground. The video stopped and I tore my eyes away, I was shaking now crying uncontrollably. A man came into the room, wearing a maroon sweater and jeans. He looked nice, he smiled sweetly and came over to hug me. I embraced him as he smoothed out my hair and told me that it was okay.
"What happened?" I gulped out sounding like a fish gasping for air.
The man let go and cocked his head at me. He gestured toward the screen, "Isn't it obvious my dear? You died." He smiled and suddenly it didn't seem so friendly it seemed almost sinister as the walls around him lost their bright color and faded to black. Or maybe that was my vision fading. The last thing I remember was him saying, "Welcome to Purgatory."
I chew my nails.
Pull my hair. Check my phone. Nothing. I look at the time. The clock ticks and tocks. Its hands come together and grow apart; still, nothing. There has to be something. My head is light. Why? Breath? Breath! I inhale...1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8 and exhale...1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8. Inhale and exhale. The doors open. I clutch my seat. I see you. Only you.
My hands dance across the laptop. They scratch the keys with a sound like rustling paper. The sound makes my ears twitch. Incessant. Annoying. I yank the abused headphones over my head and plug them in. The ear-itch sound is gone, replaced by the heavy flow of drums and synths and vocals that rip your heart out through your ears. Half of it going one way, half the other. Letters string themselves into words on the screen in front of me, but I'm not entirely sure of the story they will play out yet. The music flows together until my playlist, rock, EDM, dubstep, even some pop, all blends into one song. The soundtrack of my life. A heavy drop is like a roller coaster, and I fall into an abyss, then land on rough steps, taken on a journey with heavy guitar riffs.
The words come together now. Even if they tell no story, they still tell all of it that needs to be told. Read aloud, the characters flow together just like the songs do, all interconnected, all spun into a web of the writerverse.
I sink into the chair, my heart pounding. I play with the bottle of water the receptionist offered me when I arrived. I pull the skirt of my new suit down and cross my legs. A quick glance at the time on my phone tells me I have ten more minutes. The portfolio rests heavily on my legs. I open it and study my resume, scanning for last minute grammar and spelling errors though it is too late to change it now. The time on my phone flashes, 1:55, five more minutes. This is my dream job, a shorter commute, excellent benefits, we can finally get off my husband’s crappy HMO his work offers, interesting work. It will be devastating if they turn me down. I know I have all the right skills and experience, but who else does? I smooth down my curly locks and wonder if I should have made a last minute appointment to get it blown out straight. My knees lock, this is agonizing, I just want it to be over. The door opens and a tall man with blond hair, dressed in a dark suit walks into the room. My stomach jumps, I sip from the bottle of water, and take a deep breath. He extends his hand, “Bethany? We are ready for you now.”
I was in the waiting room. I was nervous.
A woman in a white uniform came out of a doorway. She made eye contact with me and smiled warmly.
“We’re ready for you, Mr. E.”
I followed her down a dark hallway with a series of closed doors. At the very end of the hallway was a brightly lit room. We entered the room and the woman motioned to an examining table covered with white paper.
“Lie flat on your stomach and try to relax.”
I heard footsteps as three large men entered the room. Two hands pressed tightly down on my ankles. A man on each side of my head clamped my arms down. One of the men had a beard and I could feel his whiskers tickle through my t-shirt. I could feel his warm breath.
“We have to take off his pants.”
I felt rough, calloused hands pull my sweatpants and underwear down to my knees. Cold air blew directly on me from above. I heard the snap of rubber gloves, felt a cold slippery liquid. One cold finger entered me, then two, then three. I tensed and the hand popped out.
“Try to relax,” the man with the beard and hot breath said.
The fingers entered me again. I felt some pain but tried to ignore it.
“He’s ready,” the woman said softly.
Then one of the men pressed the tip of a long tube into me and kept feeding it in, inch by inch, until it disappeared. There was a muffled beep and I sighed with great relief when the tube slid back out.
Everyone moved away and I was told to pull up my pants and stand, feeling sore but relieved.
The woman opened a door and bright lights shown through.
“All the way to the end, gate B-8. Enjoy your flight,” the woman said sweetly, discarding the gloves in the trash.
Show love, and let it speak for itself.
I’ll tell you but you wouldn’t believe me.
I’d kiss you but it wouldn’t describe
what I am feeling.
So I take you to your favorite restaurant and get down one knee. I ask you to marry me.
Because in the end I’m sure of one thing, that would be that you are the love of my life sweetie.
So I’ll show this with a Neo round-cut
You always used to tell me to Show my love and let it speak for itself.
Well here I am darling, waiting for an answer.
Show, don’t tell
but put this ring on your finger, and I’ll know.
Our love is real, and the bond is strong
till death do us part.
Jessie's eyes flashed around the room. She crossed her legs, then uncrossed them. The noise of her shuffling earned her a stern look from the lady across from her, a grey head and thick glasses over a newspaper. Jessie put her hands on the armrests of her chair, preparing to stand up and ask the receptionist what on earth the holdup was, but then changed her mind. Why hadn't they called her yet? Her results should be back. It should be a quick appointment. The labwork was complicated, and she had been wating weeks for this moment. She was due back at work in fifteen minutes when they finally called her name.
"Jessica Brighton, the doctor will see you now."
Jessie stared at the nurse standing in the doorway for a moment before she recognized her own name. The doctor and another nurse were waiting for her in examination room 2. Negative lab results shouldn't require an examination, should they? Would they? Picking at the seam of her pants, Jessie stood rigid in examination room 2 and listened to her life change forever.
The Best News
It does not inspire confidence in the medical system that the best gown they can devise for you to wear when you go in for your mammogram has three arm holes. It takes me several minutes to figure out how it's supposed to go on. The last thing I need is a wardrobe malfunction in the waiting room in front of everyone. I sit down on the hard plastic chair and rummage through the magazines on the side table. There is a three month old copy of People, a nine month old fly fishing magazine and a booklet with daily Bible readings. I should look for divine inspiration but head for the scandal in People instead. I can truthfully say I never buy magazines like that, but I don't see the need to add that I'll read them whenever I get the chance. Of course, it never fails that they call my name just as I'm getting to the good bit about the latest Kardashian gossip. Sighing, I drop the magazine and follow the radiology tech into the room. She's very pleasant and chatty, but it's hard to respond politely when you're half naked, trying to hold your breath on command while a boob is being squeezed in a freezing cold vise. My social skills only extend to a clenched teeth grin. I exhale with relief as she releases me and resume battle with the three arm holes so that I can decently return to the waiting room. Of course, someone else is now reading my copy of People, so I'll never know what happened in the Kardashian universe. After ten minutes, I am almost desperate enough to resort to fly fishing, but hear my name being called. The chatty tech beams in my direction and tells me that the radiologist has given the all clear. I jump to my feet, remembering just in time to clutch the gown before I flash the room, though giddy with relief, I really don't care. I dart into the changing room, divest myself of the three arm hole monstrosity with the skill of a stripper, fling on my clothes and walk on air down the corridor to the exit.
I tear my gaze from my watch to the florescent lights flickering overhead. The man slouching in the corner hacks out a loud wet cough, peering over the folds of his coat as he scrolls through his phone. He glances up at me. I immediately look away. The chatter from the TV mounted on the wall does nothing to distract me from the sound of my own breathing. I swear I'm breathing oddly now, but I'm too conscious of the act to correct it. The brief ring of a telephone is cut short as the receptionist answers a call from behind her desk. I hear her voice, but can't find the interest to listen in. The only other noise is the tick of the analog clock on the wall ahead of me. I look from the clock to my watch. The one on the wall is a bit slow. Or maybe the one on my wrist is too fast. I wonder which is more accurate. I wonder if it matters. I try to tap my foot to the tick of the clock, but can't help restlessly bouncing my leg faster. It doesn't make the seconds pass any faster.