I’m sitting on a slightly not big enough chair and Bob stands between my legs facing me. His hands are flapping and I try to still them in mine. They flutter inside my fists. Little birds. He looks at me and I am triumphant. See, I think, eye contact. So he’s not… you know. He’s not. We’re in a waiting room. There are plastic toys in primary colours scattered throughout. More traditional ones too. An abacus. Books. There’s even a slide. It’s a room carefully designed to appeal to children. In the corner two kids are pretend cooking wooden biscuits in the toy oven. Expensive biscuits; I’ve seen them for sale. Designer toys for designer mums. Not for… well…me, us. I let go of his hands, tug my top down, check my phone, glance at a couple flicking through magazines.
“Do you want to play, Bobby? There’s a brmm brmm down there.”
I pick the car up and run it along the arm of my chair. Bob takes it from me and puts it in his mouth.
“No. Dirty. Yucky,” I say, pulling it away.
He squats down by a table puzzle, moves beads along coils, click, click. The doctor is late. There have been tests. Bob has been observed at play, at pre-school. Blood has been taken. I’ve been asked, many times, if I smoked during pregnancy, breast fed, vaccinated. How many times a week I bath him. I lied about that one. He has eventually met age appropriate milestones, but… well, yes, I can see there is cause for concern. It’s best to check.
He is moving all the beads back the way they came now and he’s absolutely focussed on this task. He’s beautiful. Thank God! I couldn’t cope with an ugly child. There’s a boy in pre-school who dribbles and his chin is red and sore. He has these wishy washy pale blue eyes and too much forehead. Bob’s eyes are conker brown and shiny, his face a perfect round. He does not dribble. This matters. It’s not everything, but it’s something. Bob is humming. At least… it’s sort of a hum. It comes from his throat, a deep guttural mm mm mm. The kids in the corner have given pretend biscuits to their parents who are exclaiming over how delicious they are.
A nurse says that Dr Hameed will see me.
“I’m sorry, Bob just needs the loo,” I say, and we leave the stuffy room, walk through the overheated corridors and exit into an outside where the air feels clean, perfectly chilled, full of oxygen, and I breathe deep.
Sara Crowley feels awkward writing the obligatory third person accompanying blurb. She spends a lot of time not writing her first novel. She wishes her fingers were more elegant. She blogs at saracrowley.com and appreciates you taking the time to read this.
Brings back the agony of these sessions, thanks to which my daughter contracted chickenpox aged about 9 months. 'fraid I pulled her out after that, too ;) This story really packs a punch, and in such a tiny space.
This is so quietly powerful, Sara. And such a feeling of character in so few words.
I was really struck by this piece. The writing is so precise and measured, and yet so expressive. It's truly pitch perfect. As the parent of two chronically ill children, it seems like I have spent half my life in doctor's waiting rooms. This story captures the rarefied atmosphere and the kind of mental conversation one has in that situation in an absolutely perfect way.
Thank you so much, Lane, Sarah and Charles. I really appreciate you reading and taking the time to post your comments.
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