I sit in the waiting room of the ER, my husband next to me, holding my hand. I need to get a hold of myself, so I glance around the room in search of distraction. There is a man sitting across from us, bent over in pain, looking very much like he will either vomit or tumble out of his chair. He is alone, looks disheveled, and I wonder if he is homeless. To the right a girl is curled up, holding a small bag to her mouth. She heaves, her mother turns to her, and I turn away. To the left of us, two men stand while eating fries. My stomach rumbles because it’s been hours since I’ve eaten, but I wonder how anyone can eat in this place. How anyone can do anything but worry. In the far corner, two children stare at their phones, and I think of my son who is probably doing the same thing at home.
I look out the window and see a toddler waddling around her mother who is on the phone. A man in dirty motorcycle gear paces while smoking a cigarette. A trio of young nurses walk by, smiling and chatting. I guess they must be starting their shifts. I turn my attention back to the room and notice the two children are talking to each other and laughing.
I look up at the television. An episode of “Law & Order SVU” is on. A boy misses what would have been the winning goal for his hockey team. He is then sexually assaulted with a hockey stick in the locker room. I remember reading something similar in the news and I think I’m going to be sick. I pray that my son will never experience such pain. That I’ll never be in this room because someone has hurt him in a way that would destroy him. Tears are threatening, and I wish my son was with us.
I look at my husband and offer a weak smile. Every part of me is filled with anxiety, and the waiting makes it worse. I don’t want to be there. I don’t want to know what the doctors might find. I don’t want to think about how fragile life is, how fleeting. I want to chase away that shadow lurking in the corner of my mind, making me think about dark possibilities.
Why is there so much pain and suffering in this world? My throat squeezes and my husband squeezes my hand. I turn to him, look into his blue eyes.
“I love you,” I whisper to him.
“I love you, too.” he replies with a smile.
I rest my head on his shoulder, feel his warmth, inhale his scent.
There is so much pain and suffering in this world. But there is so much beauty and joy, too. To know one is to know the other.
Lisa Lerma Weber is a writer living in San Diego. Her work has appeared in Black Bough Poetry, Bonnie’s Crew, Marias at Sampaguitas, Mookychick, Royal Rose, The Blue Pages Journal, Vamp Cat, and others. Follow her on Twitter @LisaLermaWeber
Photo by Alvin Leopold.