The air in doctor’s waiting rooms is green.
You can see it, if you look around properly.
The air is shamrock green and hangs heavy with plague.
You feel it on your skin, the bacteria, crawling. You breathe in disease.
The door handles, the plastic seats, the anti-bacterial hand gel dispenser: riddled.
A man’s cough makes you wince. Even the receptionist is sniffling.
Look at all these people whose bodies don’t work properly.
We are so far from perfection. Old age is catching. Dying is contagious.
You sit, silently judging the young mothers who seemingly bring their children here to play, watching the tiny hands of tiny humans pushing beads around on the old wooden abacus that stands in the centre of the room, wondering if any of these people even have an appointment or if they’re just here to gossip in their native tongue, in the warm, in the green air.
You tut when a baby begins to cry and shake your head when somebody speaks loudly on their mobile phone and sigh because the doctor is running 55 minutes behind schedule and you realise how much you hate everything and everyone, and remember that that’s why you’re in the waiting room in the first place, because your brain is unwell and it’s making your body unwell and you are sick of being sick. There is no cure for you, only more bad news, which you wait for in the room with the green air.
Trying not to inhale others’ disgustingness, you read the posters on the wall.
Propaganda breeds paranoia. You begin to worry about ailments that will never affect you.
You don’t (and won’t ever) have the money to visit far-flung tropical destinations
but now you are convinced that you have malaria.
You will never make it to be 60 years of age
but decide that the rash you found yesterday is certainly shingles.
You will never have children and are militant about contraception
but you place a hand on your belly and fear that you are pregnant.
You are waiting to see the man who killed your father. You avoid seeing him as much as possible, but you’ve come off lithium after five years and your blood test results aren’t good and he keeps leaving you voicemails and sending you letters so you sort of have to see him if only to get him to leave you alone.
Our family GP: the unemotional Egyptian man who drinks too much coffee, the man who does and says nothing while you cry and tell him that you want to die, the man who always tells you that, “You can’t drink anymore,” to which you always reply, “I know. But I won’t drink any less, either”, the man who accidentally, unknowingly, unwittingly killed your father.
You want to kill him. The GP. You want to kill him because he killed your dad but you know it’s not his fault. Of course it’s not his fault. Even though it was his one unnecessary decision that set in motion the horrific chain of events that led to your darling father’s demise. If he didn’t send your dad for that needless scan, your dad would still be alive. Of this you are certain, although nothing is certain in life, apart from death. It’s not his fault but it is. Does he know that it’s fault? Does he regret what he did? Of course he doesn’t. He has so many lives in his hands, he can’t possibly notice every time one of those lives slips through his fingers. But everyone would notice if his life were to slip through mine.
When you sit in that tiny side room with him
the air turns from green
you can’t see and you can’t breathe
you run out of the surgery
to the street where the air runs clear.
Why are some lives worth more than others? Who decides? We are so very far from perfection.
The image is titled ‘How Alice Hides’ by Lissy Elle, an amazing Canadian photographer,
HLR is a 20-something writer of creative non-fiction, mainly short prose and poetry. She writes about challenging subjects such as mental illness, addiction, suicide and grief with brutal honesty and sardonic British droll. Her gritty confessional style has been acquired through years of mental angst and too much time spent in the pub. HLR was born and raised in north London, and is yet to escape. A list of previous publications can be found here. Read more at Treacle Heart.