Waiting Room

A work of fiction submitted for the prompt: Longing

The room looks old-fashioned: two plants on each side of the door, red-carpeted floor, polished wood pillars at the four corners, four doors divided equally at two sides of the room, and chairs at the other side. He saw a girl fiddling with her fingers, emitting a bored look which is expected for anyone who entered the room. She also had her earphones, an effort to occupy herself that doesn’t seem to work as much. There is only two other chairs available placed conveniently next to the girl’s left. Not wanting to bother her, he took the one on the far right corner.

Five minutes in the clock, he can sense the tedium filling the room already. If not, then at least it undoubtedly has tickled his nostrils. And just as the girl was putting away her earphones, his old, rather unwelcome habit whenever he gets bored strikes back: he started a conversation.

“Uh, hello.”

She looked up to him and disinterestedly said, “Hi.”

“Erm, I’m just wondering,” he carefully worded, “perhaps you know how long people usually wait here.”

“Depends on what you’re expecting,” she answered nonchalantly, “I’m now actually just contemplating if I should just give up entirely.”

“Oh,” he was taken aback, “do you, uh, mind if I ask you what you waited for, and how long have you waited? There doesn’t seem to be other people around, so…”

“That door over there to open and call my name, if you can see it,” she pointed to a door with a placard in front of it saying ‘The Old Times’, “I’ve been waiting for a couple of months. Finished my paperwork in 2 weeks, thought it’s a good enough sign. Now I can say I was wrong.”

“That’s what I’m waiting for too! I even finished submitting all the documents in one week,” he was aghast, “now I’ll be lying if I said I’m not worried.”

“Well, I’m not here to give you advice or persuade you with anything,” she remarked, “I am personally just exhausted already. I just thought I was not as a daydreamer as a guy who was waiting for ‘Certainty’ to open. Turns out this one hardly opens just as much. Don’t worry to much, though. I was probably just impatient. And if at the end of the day it won over me, you’re next in line.”

He wasn’t sure if that was a joke, so he just flashed her an awkward smile. He shares her opinion about the chance for ‘Certainty’ to open for anyone though. As much as people can hope, that door is just off limits. He even wondered why it’s still kept there, and why a lot still sign up and made it to the waiting list. But then again, most of them don’t even show up knowing that it took a while before the first on the list is admitted. He is suspicious that it’s simply still there because it keeps people’s hopes high up, which is kind of fucked-up if anyone gave it some more time to think about.

“Excuse me,” the girl’s voice interrupted his thoughts, “feel free not to answer my question, but… what brings you here to the waiting room?”

Weirdly, he rather welcomed the gesture and felt like a burden is going to be lifted from his shoulders, so he said, “No, not at all. Probably just to reminisce the short period of time I spent with a loved one. It was my brother. He passed away when he was four. I was eight. I noticed how it’s getting harder for me to keep the already vague memories I had with him, and our parents weren’t affluent enough to have even the cheapest camcorders back then. So I was hoping this will help.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that,” she sounded genuinely unbroken, no longer bounded by her previously indifferent tone of speaking.”

“No, it’s okay,” he replied as genuinely, “I actually missed talking about him. Mentioning him to my parents can be difficult, you know? Even though they might be the only ones left that truly cares about him.”

Silence and awkwardness consumed the room once more, until he was brave enough to ask her to return the favor.

“Uh, so, if I may,” he began, “why are you also waiting for ‘The Old Times’ to open?”

“I guess I owe you that one,” she smiled a small one as she folded her hands and told him, “to be brief, I am overwhelmed with certain dynamics I have in my close friendship with someone I probably have known my whole life. I am here to just… have a moment or two, reliving how it would be like had things not changed for the worse.

“Part of me realizes that this might be just another hurdle to overcome, and that probably a stronger bond awaits us, to be poetic about it, “she chuckles sadly, “but another part of me also felt like I might lose this person seeing how we have not managed to even agree to disagree. At one point, I felt pressured, and constantly frustrated even after trying my hardest to make my point clear that this friend can still respect me without understanding my choice. So, I decided to give this room a go when I saw it in the newspaper one day.

“At first I honestly considered trying ‘Certainty’, but not only the officers, even I can still smell the tendency of me never coming out of the room, so I thought maybe not. After giving it much thought, the next month I almost applied to ‘Consistency’, which I thought would probably give me an insight of what it would be if nothing had changed, but then I have learnt from my previous experience and some other applicants that, it’s as wishful thinking as applying for ‘Certainty’. I then thought I should just go to ‘The Old Times’ and see if the relationship is still worth the trouble, to refresh my mind of what we have been through together, and what the past hurdles are… just to give me some time to think clearly rather than just beating myself up because I feel guilty for ignoring all conversations whenever I sense it’s about to go downhill, which I thought is better than having an argument that will further destroy it, but then does it just the same.”

She let out a deep breath, “Well, whaddaya know? It does make you feel a little better talking about it. Your strategy kinda works.”

Now he dares enough to let a real chuckle because she did just the same. Suddenly, she got up from her seat and stretched.

“Are you leaving?” he asked.

“Yeah. I’ve waited all morning here, and I feel like it’s time for me to take a little walk because my backache is nagging at me again just now.”

“Oh, I thought you–uh…,” he hesitated to indicate she mentioned about giving up. She caught on.

“Well, who knows? Maybe I would. Even for a different reason, like me being clumsy and leaving my jacket again like last time. Anyways, the day hasn’t ended yet. And I suggest you keep yourself occupied or give yourself small breaks. Nobody asked you to constantly stay in the waiting room, especially on lunch time.”

And with that, she took her jacket and waved him goodbye. As the door closed, he saw her earphone and music player were left on the chair. He hold the thought for a moment, then shrugged and put the earphones on, thinking she most likely wouldn’t mind at all. After all, he is only following her suggestion.

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