Nobody has moved for 25 long stale minutes and the “surgery” waiting room smells of patient misery. Or piss, there is a distinct possibility it might just be piss. A mother in the corner is smothering her screaming child against her pink duffle coat, the child has just suffered it’s first ever injection. Which must hurt when you’ve only ever known kindness and the needle is the length of your chubby little leg. They don’t even bother to hide the violence of it, it’s a “jab”. People shake their head as if the crying is the mother’s fault, they’re wondering why she doesn’t just leave? But the rules say they have to stay here, one screaming and the other silently screaming, for a whole 15 minutes in case the infant has an “adverse reaction” to the injection. Looking at the child’s shaking purple head I wonder how you’d tell. The mother hunts the room with a defiant squint, eager for an outlet for the frustration within. Her pink duffel coat is badly thought out, one of those double breasted ones, it has 2 coloumns of 3 red buttons, arranged like pig’s nipples. And it’s pink. The baby suddenly looks like a squealing human piglet. I think I’m going mad.
“Do not touch anything!” I hiss at my son, he’s started rummaging through the toy box in the corner of the room. The toys are all damaged and broken, like the people around us, they’re all covered in invisible germs. I am breathing through my teeth. Confused, he looks at me and asks why? But I can’t answer him because everybody is listening. I can’t explain to him it’s “because the things in that box have the toy equivalent of AIDS”. My buttocks hover above the only available plastic chair – a chair the colour of sadness. The chairs all have an oval hole in the back and I can see a fat man’s backfat oozing through like playdough. Opposite me an old woman starts to cough again. With a silverback’s haughty dignity between phlegmy bouts, her challenging glare sweeps the room. I assume it’s because she has embraced the modern age and is coughing “hands free”. Worryingly I have little flecks of rain on my jeans and it’s not rained yet today. On her lap is a Woman’s Realm or a Bella or a Family Circle, I can’t tell because the front cover is gone, has been gone for a decade probably. The table in the corner groans under other ancient magazines, the patients ignore them, know them all by heart. Anne Diamond is on the cover of one of them, she looks younger than I am now. I feel like I’m drowning. The red LED tickertape of despair scrolls above our heads, warning us that if we miss an appointment we risk delaying “others”. Given that I am sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, the message is somewhat redundant. Given that the “appointment” was for 45 minutes ago, I have to conclude that somebody who couldn’t read this helpful reminder (principally because they failed to turn up for their appointment) is currently scratching their flaps in front of the telly at home and couldn’t give a shit about “others”.
Heads are moving at different speeds and in different directions, avoiding everyone’s gaze becomes very important, like dodging prison floodlights. A Double Denim walks in and the room tries to guess what he’s in for. There’s nothing else to do. There’s a cockiness to him which is at odds with his appearance, an intriguing swagger we all doubt he’s earned. When he turns to the reception we see a thin ponytail and everyone silently concludes the same thing: he’s got a sexually transmitted disease. A mexican sneer travels round the room and legs clamp tight.
For reasons unfathomable my son has perked up so much in the hour we’ve been here that I know our visit will be futile, the Doctor has better things to spend his time on than youth and vitality, he has a never-ending parade of misery, aches and unspeakable discharge between him and his cuppa soup lunch. I gather up my boy and go over to reception, avoiding the roadie with herpes who quickly slips in to my seat and wonders why it isn’t as warm as he’d hoped.
“I think we are going to go home” I say to the receptionist, a severe looking woman, her only distinguishing feature is a pair of glittering cherries dangling from each lobe. She is aiming for glamour and missing. When she talks they jiggle alarmingly and bring to mind the testicles of a small dog bouncing jauntily along.
“I’ll take you off the list” she says slowly.
I push the heavy doors open and we go out into the fresh air and quivering puddles.
My son says “Thanks Dad I feel better now”
And so do I.