In the doctor's waiting room, she passes the time by going to the restroom. It's hard to walk, so getting there is exercise. The problem is: once she's in, she only has herself to talk to in the mirror. Running warm water over her cold hands and then using a paper towel to dry her fingers evenly, one by one, is strangely comforting.
When she comes out her husband, Will, has disappeared into a sports magazine. Though it could be her imagination, he looks older than last time they were here. He has less hair, and his laugh lines have disappeared. There hasn't been a lot to laugh about. He has been aging from the stress they are living with, and though it's not her fault, it feels like it is.
The doctor is fifty minutes behind, and she's his last appointment of the day. He's the top Podiatric Surgeon in the city and he doesn't understand what is happening to the nerves in her foot, and that alone makes her so anxious she wants to scream. He says it's due to her autonomic nervous system, similar to Phantom Limb Disease. Only she's not lost a limb, and she isn't an amputee. During every visit, he shakes his head and says, "This is not making sense." He always ends with a half-smile and tells her to come back in four weeks. Before walking out, he shakes Will's hand hard.
Sitting in the waiting room, looking at the clock and listening to Barbara Streisand singing "Silent Night," she recalls Christmas Eve morning at the airport waiting to travel to New York to be with Will. That would have been their first Christmas together. Her heart was pounding because she was so nervous just like this. She remembers that first Christmas Eve well but she can't touch it—Will's breath, her freezing nose, the warmth inside their bed despite the inadequate heater.
She turns to him and says, "Let's leave."
She can see the thought of it blooming in him, bringing blood back to his face. She feels a gigantic sigh escaping her diaphragm like the pop of cork.
There are no stairs to climb down, just an elevator to the main lobby with the plastic tree and more Christmas tunes to listen to. Will parked the car on a slight hill so he runs to get it. It's evening. White lights blink on and off in the windows of St. Mary's hospital across the street, offering their standard but fragile cheer.
Meg Pokrass lives in San Francisco. Her poetry and stories have appeared in The Emry's Foundation Journal, Two Twenty Four Poetry Quarterly, Black Buzzard Review, March Street Press, Flutter Magazine, and are forthcoming in The Orange Room, and Halfway Down the Stairs. She has performed with theatre companies throughout the United States, and considers writing a natural extension of Sensory work developed as an actor.