It was a lot of waiting. I sat, choice made, ready to take the next step. I wanted to move forward. Be done with it. Move on to the next phase. But I couldn’t. It wasn’t my turn.
I looked around, wondering if they were all here for the same reason I was. That couple over there. She looks upset. I guess she’s not as at peace with her decision as I am. Maybe this isn’t the path she wanted.
The guy under the TV looks bored. Is he waiting for his turn or waiting for someone? How long has he been here, I wonder. How long will I be here? I’m ready. I shift in my chair.
The door in the middle opens. The sad girl disappears behind it. Her boyfriend/friend/brother gets left behind. It seems kind of cruel when I know she’s here to leave something bigger behind—A future. A past. A mistake. A defect. I’m not sure if she’s leaving the same thing behind as I am. But I do know she shouldn’t have to do it alone if she doesn’t want to.
Another door opens. I look up, hopeful it will be my turn. A girl comes out with a brown paper bag in her hand. A parting gift, perhaps. Like the favor bags you used to take home after a birthday party when you were a kid.
She looks happy anyway. Or is that relief?
Which door is mine? Which will take me down the path I chose? The path to my future? What is waiting on the other side?
I do not know. I’m just sure that I can’t wait any longer to find out.
The third door opens. A name is called. It isn’t mine. Another girl disappears and I catch a glimpse of the look on her face. A slight smile. Or is it a grimace? Does she feel joy or shame? I can’t tell.
I sigh and look to my left. My boyfriend is typing away on his Blackberry. This is his natural state, so I know he’s not seeking a distraction. He’s attempting to work while we wait. I resume my people watching. Another girl distractedly flips through a copy of People magazine across the room.
A tall white woman with dreadlocks piled on her head and wrapped in a scarf like Eryka Badu appears out of the middle door. She calls my name. Finally. It’s my turn. I jump up and bid my boyfriend goodbye for the moment. I follow her down the hallway. She escorts me into a darkened room.
She asks me several questions. I know this is part of the routine. I was asked these questions before I arrived. I answer them with confidence, my voice unwavering. She checks one more thing and then asks if I want to see what she’s looking at. I politely decline.
Satisfied with my answers, she escorts me down the hall to another area where two other women are waiting. One is sobbing. One is curled up in her chair, hugging her knees and staring at the floor. Neither looks my way when we approach. I am left to wait again.
I take a seat in the row of chairs that is facing the window. The cold winter day emits just enough light to match the mood in the room. The sobbing girl stops for a moment. I want to look back at her. I want to tell her that it’s all going to be ok. I want to hug her. I’m not sure what the appropriate etiquette is in this situation.
Instead I text my boyfriend. He wants to know how much longer I’ll be. I tell him I don’t know. He says he’s going to go to back to the office instead of wasting his time sitting around waiting for me. He asks me to call when I’m done so he can pick me up. It is this attitude that reminds me why the decision was easy. He never was good at being inconvenienced.
The girl who was curled into a ball is called and she disappears down the hall to the left. The sobbing girl starts crying harder. I gaze out the window at a brick wall. I am tired of waiting.
A new woman takes me down the hall to the right. I glance back at the sobbing girl one last time. I hope she’s ok. I wonder if she’ll change her mind. I wonder if that is why there is so much waiting.
The new woman has an Obama pin on her lanyard. He just won the election a month ago. I want to make small talk and ask her about it. She seems nice. I want to say something just to break the cloud of silence that permeates the building. Instead, I let her take my blood and I answer the same questions the dread-head lady asked me. I wonder how many more times I have to answer these questions.
She brings me back to the waiting area. The sobbing girl is gone when I return. I wonder if she left or if she disappeared because it was her turn. I wonder which hallway she went down. I wonder how much longer I have to wait. I glance down at my phone. I’ve been here for three hours. I wish I had thought to bring a book. I didn’t expect to be here this long. I have to work at 5. I hope I won’t be late.
I pick up a magazine and flip through it until a third woman calls my name and takes me into a small room. There are two chairs and a small desk. The walls are bare, but the lighting is bright and warm. She asks me the same questions I’ve answered twice now–three times if you count when I called to make my appointment. She can read my assuredness and reflects it back in the way she engages me. I appreciate that.
She pulls out some paperwork. It’s time to get to the business part of this transaction. She jots down our credit card information and leaves the room for a few minutes. I stare at the empty walls until she returns. I wonder how many women have sat in this very chair before me. I think about how many women will have the privilege to sit in the chair after me.
The door opens, jarring me out of my musing and the woman sits back down on her side of the desk. She has a brown bag, a paper cup and a glass of water. She asks me the set of questions one last time and then gives me a set of instructions. She asks if I understand and I nod. Then she watches as I swallow the past away.
As we both stand to exit, I smile and say thank you. I want to hug her in gratitude, but I simply turn and leave.
The waiting is nearly over.