Short story: The Wait

The metal arm of the chair wasn’t so cold anymore. My body heat transferred itself to the chair and both have reached equilibrium. I sat there waiting. It has been more than fifteen minutes, I guess. I shouldn’t have come early. I have a bad habit of being the early one. I even keep my watch ten minutes ahead. I know it’s a paradox – You are aware that the watch is ten minutes ahead, so you know the right time, so you will plan accordingly. Hence setting the watch ahead of its time is a nonsensical thing to do. But I still do it. And now here I am, waiting.

It is a small corridor. Chairs are placed along one side. There is a door behind me, towards my left. The walls are painted with vibrant colours. It was too colourful for a doctor’s clinic. I have always seen them painted white. Here it was blue, yellow, a little red and even pink. The carpet had colourful patterns too. There are paintings hung on the wall. Some sort of twisted, incomplete human like figures with lots of straight lines drawn across the painting. The colours used were shades of brown with a little hint of white. It did not make any sense to me.

There is a TV mounted on the opposite wall. It was playing a video about heart attacks due to high cholesterol. A small animated heart was pumping. Gradually one part of the heart goes dark due to lack of oxygenated blood. Then a lady appears and tells what we can do to stop it. I noticed that it had audio too. I had never heard it during my previous visits, because of the ambient noise. It was dead silent now.

Somewhere I heard a phone ringing and the receptionist answering it. She was the only one in the clinic yet. Then I hear footsteps. Some people passed, starring at me. They disappeared round the corner. They came back wearing a blue top. They were nurses.

The woman on the phone, the receptionist I believe, had told me that the reports of my health check-up have come and doctor wanted to speak to me as soon as possible. Her tone suggested it was urgent. I wonder why. Did they find something interesting in my report, some anomaly or a shocking discovery? There was a sinking feeling in my stomach. I felt sick. I slowly started to panic. May be there was a hole in my heart, or may be a tumor. I might have cancer. What if I had cancer. What if I am dying. Have I led a good life? Would I be happy to die now? I think my life was pretty ok. But I have lot of things to do. I have lots of dreams. How do I tell my parents? They would be devastated, shattered.

May be it’s not that bad. The cancer might be in the initial stages. I could recover. But I might have to go through a lot medication and chemotherapy. And a lot of pain. I would lose all my hair. It might be a good thing in a way. After all the suffering and pain, I might start to love life more. I might live the rest of the days with more vigour, enthusiasm and zeal. It might be a life changing experience. My writing would have matured. And one day I would be cured. I would write a book about my experiences. The book might be a bestseller. Then a director would want to make a film out of it. Since I have had a firsthand experience, he might ask me to write the screenplay. He might event cast me in the film. The film would then go on to become a big hit. And then I win an Oscar for it. On the award night I would go to the stage wearing stunning black Tuxedo, fully cured. All the cameras are flashing. The world is watching. I take the award. I thank my family, friends and the film crew for the extraordinary support. The other members of film in the audience shout out loud at that moment. May be I might say a line or two, in my mother tongue, to impress some people back at home. Then at the end, I thank my beautiful wife. She is sitting in the audience wearing a blue saree, looking gorgeous. Her diamond necklace is glittering under the lights. I thank her for being with me through everything. She is smiling. Her eyes begin to well up with tears. A little drop escapes her eyes and slides down her cheek. She whisks it away with a quick gesture of her hand. Everyone is happy and smiling. Then there is a standing ovation.

As I was immersed in my morbid fantasy, which was oddly and disturbingly satisfying, I heard a voice – “Please come in, Raj.” The doctor was calling me through the half opened door. I did not get up immediately. I sat there for a few more seconds, took a deep breath and went in. It was a small room with a small table. Chairs were placed along the adjacent sides of the table. We sat. The doctor had my report in his hand. He opened it slowly. Took a quick glance. Then closed it suddenly. Kept it on the table. Looked at me and said, “I read your report. You are perfectly normal. The report is clean. You are as healthy as any person can possibly be. Congratulations!” I just sat there, looking at him indifferently. He continued, “I wanted to speak to you, since I will be out of town for the next whole week. So I just wanted to complete my post check-up consultation. If you have any doubts, please ask.” I did not have any questions. In fact, I was totally blank.

“That’s it?” I asked.

“That’s pretty much it”, he said.

I am supposed to be happy. But I was neither happy nor sad. The doctor was looking at me curiously. May be he expected me to jump out of the chair, kiss him on the cheek, say “Thank you, doctor”, throw open the door, fling the report in the air, go dancing down the corridor, do a little jig with the receptionist, all while singing a Bollywood song. But I did not do any of these.

“So, can I leave?” I asked.

“Yes, you can”, he said, with a little smile. “You know, I would give anything to have a report like that. Now your job is to maintain it. Hope you keep that in mind.”

“I do hope the same.”

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