Life had become a huge act of persistent waiting in the waiting rooms of hospitals and clinics now. Some or the other body part was refusing to participate in keeping the body functional in its entirety and this time it was the heart. The waiting room had a soothing fragrance of some disinfectant and this was the most familiar smell lately. The spotlessly white room with plastic figurines of the blood vessels and the heart was the weekend retreat. I glanced through at the charts that educated people about how to keep a healthy heart every time I visited; murmuring each instruction in my head before I even read it. “At least the memory is intact,” I thought to myself proudly.
I followed all these instructions by now but I guess age didn’t really care about leading a healthy life. After seventy, your body did not adhere to any kind of rules or regulations. It would just randomly one day tell your hips to give you trouble and then it’s your head’s turn the very next day.
The waiting felt nice. There was always some other human in the room as well, unlike back at home, and it was comforting. The silence of the house since the death of Sunita was piercing and haunting and the murmur of people talking on phone calls and complaining about the waiting was a fresh change.
Maybe I liked the place because the disinfectant reminded me of Sunita a lot. It reminded me of the endless fights we got into because of her love for cleaning and my total neglect of that love. Or maybe we fought because of my total neglect of her. But now, when I sit in clean clinics that are totally unlike the hole for a house I live in now, I miss her.
The place on the whole reminded me of her. It promised endless care; the care that I had not cared about because it seemed natural and certain until I lost it. I was never a great husband. I wasn’t even a good one. I was hardly a husband at all actually. I was a visitor who realized the value of the home when there was no host to open the door. And now sitting in a cardiologist’s clinic, I was searching for a familiar home and a functional heart.
I came here to regret. Even if I could not love or appreciate the woman I had, I resolved to miss her right.
The relatively quiet room that was especially designed to comfort the ailing didn’t really help to calm my anxiety as I sat there on the edge of the milky white sofa with my legs shaking a little. I constantly looked at the no smoking sign on the corner of a white wall to remind myself that for a while I could not use infamous roll of nicotine in my pocket.
The little plaster of Paris structure of the heart on the reception desk was sort-of creepy. It made me realize that heart wasn’t as beautiful a thing as portrayed in art and poetry. It was an ugly lump of flesh that could dismantle your entire life if it wasn’t taken care of. Quite a drama queen in my opinion. Since Ma’s heart started to create problems making her bed ridden for long durations, heart breaks started to seem miniscule in comparison to heart diseases.
The receptionist sitting in the room constantly taking calls and notes simultaneously made me want to consider becoming a receptionist myself. Studying further wouldn’t pay the bills anymore, I thought. It just gave me more debt. Plus, she looked busy enough to not have time to think about life; I needed that. Attend calls, say the same practiced thing, note down appointments, repeat.
I was never a very patient person and the green wall clock that had ‘HIMALAYA’ printed on it was painfully testing me. Waiting rooms were not a place for me. I got up to walk a little around the room.
I was here to take the doctor’s opinion on Ma’s angiography reports and whenever it came to Ma’s health my anxiety went berserk more than usual. The report paper was as crumpled as my cotton top now because I kept fidgeting with it during this unending waiting period.
Waiting gave me a lot of time to think and I did not like that. A lot of unanswered questions and worries clouded my thoughts as the room I was walking in became a little blurred. Would I have to leave my studies and take up a job now? How would I earn enough to pay for Shweta’s education, the house and take care of Ma alongside?
I knew Ma was not in a good state. Anyone could tell that by just looking at her but the reports would tell the extent of her illness and that scared the shit out of me. I had a very hazy memory of a bearded man who Ma told me was my father. I remember him coming home every evening and taking me in a bear hug till the age of four until one day only a crumpled car came back. Shweta was just a few months old then. I remembered Ma crying a lot for months since then and I guess that’s when her heart started to become weak. But Ma was always there. She was the only one there and now the fear of losing her crippled my mind.
The loud ringing of the receptionist’s phone brought me back to the waiting room and she signalled me to go inside the doctor’s office. I took a deep breath in order to appear prepared for whatever was coming and walked towards the office.
As I entered the waiting room, a slender girl of twenty six or twenty seven was moving towards the doctor’s office. I went to receptionist to confirm my appointment and then took a seat on a green chair in the corner of the room while my little boy climbed on my lap.
I checked the money in my pocket for the fiftieth time. It had taken a lot of night shifts at work to gather money for this appointment. Looking at the waiting room made me understand why the consulting cost so much. He was one of the best cardiologists in the city and he made sure that the appearance of his office conveyed that.
The office was shiny. My six year old’s eyes sparkled seeing the little toy area in the waiting room. He jumped off my lap to play a little. A deep sadness gripped my already dysfunctional heart because I knew I would never be able to give him such toys at home.
The receptionist looked aristocratic and intimidating. The entire room looked intimidating and I slouched my shoulders a little like that would make me invisible. My appearance was the most out of place thing in the perfectly synchronized room. The old brown pants and dusty cream shirt were a total mismatch with the sparkling white room with green stationery, accessories and bonsai plants.
I watched my little one play with the toys ecstatically. Had I ever seen him happier? I glanced at the clock in the room. It was about time to go into the doctor’s office so I called out to Ayush to stop playing and come to me.
He clung to a metallic blue electronic car as he came to me obediently.
“You have to keep that back you know right?” I told him and watched his face change colour. His eyes instantly became sad with a hint of tears in them. He loosened his grip on the metal toy reluctantly but didn’t let go completely for a while and looked at me expectantly for the first time in his six years of life.
I felt the money kept in my pocket once again and gave a defeated sigh.
“Let’s get out of here and get you one of those,” I said with a weak smile on my face and Ayush’s face lit up like the streets on Diwali. He threw his arms around me in immense excitement and I guess my heart healed a little as we walked out of the waiting room.