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The Waiting Room

by RandomTalks


There was something about the walls in the hospital.

If you stared at them long enough, they seemed to stare right back at you. To the outside world, it was just those typical grey walls you see in every other hospital you have the misfortune of visiting, but there was something very poignant about the grey of these walls. It was a clouded color, like a heavy sky that does not know how to shed it's tears. And you just know that if these walls had eyes, they would cry with you in sadness, and beam at you in your happiness. There was only one word for it - uncanny. She did not know how those people could stare at these walls for hours, as if whatever they were searching for could be found if they just stared long or hard enough.

But then again, she supposed there were not many places to look around in a hospital. Every corner you turned there was either grief or celebration. And it all seemed to culminate here, in this room - the waiting room.

She shifted in her chair and checked her watch. Her shift started in ten minutes. In her profession, she had gotten used to seeing those faces bearing the same haunted expression. Her friends often questioned her why she did not look for some other job that wouldn't drain her physically and emotionally every day. She had never had an answer to give them or herself for that matter. But the truth is, she was too accustomed to it. The hospital was a part of her world, and sometimes it was the only world she had.

It was a strange place to make your own. 

Especially, because as much as she strained to give more of her everyday, to make a difference in the world that just doesn't give a damn about it's people, it never gave anything back. It took and it took, in every patient they lost, every family member they failed to save, and every person they couldn't get to in time. It took so much that sometimes she could feel the loss in her bones when she would have to look a mother, a brother or a husband in the eye and tell them that it was over.

It's all part of the job, they say. Don't get involved, don't get attached. They say it like a mantra sometimes, like some verse they have been memorizing and reciting through centuries without really understanding or realizing the implication. Still, those words were written in her bones, and most days she could get past crying families with a squeeze of the shoulders and a sympathetic edge to her smile.

But in moments like these, when she wasn't in her uniform, when she didn't have a stethoscope around her neck, she was just one of them, she realized, with everything to lose in a fraction of a second, in a slight of hands and a moment of fate. She eyed the family sitting across her - the mother sobbing into the shoulder of her husband as he stared ahead and rubbed her back, the son sitting to the side and staring outside the window, all the while holding her hand in his. Together they made a broken kind of picture and she wondered distantly what their story was, whose life was on the line behind those doors tonight and if she would get to play some role in their story once the clock ticked away and she put her uniform back on.

It was just them tonight, and a little boy sitting in the corner with his arm wrapped up in a caste. She could do something about that, she could fix that and make the concern on the mother's face go away with time. She could make it alright for them.

But she couldn't save them all. She couldn't make everything alright.

As she looked about her, she wondered how many people's lives had changed in that room, how many people had sat in those same plastic chairs, paced that same marble floor and stared at the same empty ceiling, waiting, simply waiting for their lives to change forever.

She wondered if it was going to happen right now as the light above the door switched to green and the doctor removing his gloves stepped into the hallway, preparing to play his role in the shaping of this family's history. She watched them stand up, she watched the mother's lips move in prayer, and she watched as the father and son stood on both sides of her, getting ready, waiting, simply waiting.

But she didn't need to be on the other side of the room to know that the battle was lost. She read it in the posture of her colleague, the stiffness of his brows and in the hand that he gently placed on the mother's arm. 

It was over.

She did not wait to watch them crumble down in tears, she did not wait to see the father and son exchange that look over her shoulder that uttered more words than they had ever said to each other in years. She did not wait anymore.

Getting up from her seat, she threw her coffee cup in the bin and prepared to slip back into her uniform for the night just as the first of the mother's sobs echoed loudly off those grey walls that seemed to join in the family's shared grief and loss.


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Random avatar

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Wed Sep 22, 2021 6:06 pm
EvaR14 wrote a review...



I think this was really well written and I enjoy the concept - I like reading/writing kind of abstract/vague, in the moment kind of short stories so I enjoyed reading this.

I think the concept's really interesting - writing a scene around a life-changing and tragic event, but framed in the context of an outside party who, despite not 'losing' anything herself, still suffers from it.
It's interesting to write about how someone deals with existing in a place where tragic events are so commonplace and seem so inevitable, and how worn down someone can become because of it.

Personally I would've preferred if more time was put into the feelings of control she does have - for example helping the little boy with the arm caste. I understand that the purpose of the story is to show how tragedy is so far out of her control but, and maybe this is just personal taste, I think it would've made for a better experience to read about someone really trying their hardest to do something good, and feeling satisfied and proud for doing that, while simultaneously having to recognise that they aren't always able to do something good. I think exploring the contradictions between these two situations, and trying to reconcile that, would've been a more interesting way to go.

Overall, I really liked the concept of this and I think you captured the right tone and feeling really well in the first two-to-three paragraphs and I think you've done what you set out to do effectively. Good luck for the future, thanks for sharing and i hope you continue to write :D

have a nice day :)




RandomTalks says...


Thank you for the review!



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Thu Sep 09, 2021 4:38 pm
BetsyJ wrote a review...



Hi,
This short story does present an interesting idea. You have introduced your main character, and presented their thoughts and perceptions (which is all great), but it is, however, cliched and unclear in many places.
But, I do think that if you developed this, it could evolve into a wonderfully insightful peek into the disillusioned and stressful lifestyle of those in the medical profession.

"If you stared at them long enough, they seemed to stare right back at you"

Firstly, I think the beginning is hackneyed. The idea about the walls is painfully overused, especially for places like hospitals, prisons, asylums, etc. So, even when you want to use "walls" to describe the way hospitals make you feel, I would suggest coming up with something original whether it is a comparison or any other way of describing the place.


"Every corner you turned there was either grief or celebration. "
I read the preceding line, and this just seems to contradict it. You have said there aren't many places to look at in a hospital, but this sentence says there is either grief or celebration in every corner. A hospital is not a place where you see much celebration...except maybe for births, or, few other reasons. But, overall it is an anxious place to be, so celebration does not really fit here.


The whole part with the people waiting is rather vague. The reader does not get to know anything about them, or their situation, to care and pay attention to this part. I think either some info about why they are here, or re-imagining this part would help this story. Maybe the main character overhears their conversation? Maybe she hears them say why they are here, and catches a bit of their pain?


About the pace of the story: it is slowed down by the long sentences, in my opinion. And the repetitive use of "she" tends to get tedious after a point.

"She did not wait to watch them crumble down in tears, she did not wait to see the father and son exchange that look over her shoulder that uttered more words than they had ever said to each other in years. She did not wait anymore."
i like this part and how it shows the character's familiarity with the routines of the place and the people.

This was a straightforward review from me about everything i felt worth mentioning about this piece. Do take what you think is relevant and fair, and discard the rest.
Happy Writing!




RandomTalks says...


Thank you for the review! I had mostly written this as an abstract piece, and that's why I hadn't included much information about anything really and kept it vague. Maybe, I should've mentioned it at them beginning! Thanks again for the review!



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Wed Sep 08, 2021 1:44 am
Broady771 wrote a review...



Hi RandomTalks, Broady here with a review!

Firstly, I just want to say that this is a really detailed and descriptive short story which really brings the essence of the story to light. Usually in other stories I've seen, writers usually use conversations to bring out the plot of the story, but this is really, really good. This story brings out the emotions and experience that a doctor would experience during work and I'd have to say, it's a job well done for a short story.

Secondly, I think most of the short story is about the doctor's thought process, and can be too descriptive at certain areas. Maybe it would be better to include more of a plot, like perhaps detailing what she had to go through in her line of work, and perhaps give readers some insight into what a doctor has to deal with (e.g. stress with having to work under pressure and under a limited time in order to save a patient).

Lastly, the ending was pretty smooth and that cliffhanger wants me to read more, to find out what will happen next.

Overall I think it's a pretty well-written short story, just that some extra details could be incorporated to make it even better. Hopefully my review helps in any way, even though it's really short! XD




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Tue Sep 07, 2021 12:47 pm
ForeverYoung299 wrote a review...



Hey RandomTalks!! Forever here with a review!

Characters:The main character is the doctor. She is a "human being". There are a thousand people out there to say doctors don't have emotions, they are like stones... Etc, etc. I really liked how this character of yours proved that they are fully wrong. A true doctor is a true human being with all the feelings a normal person has. I really liked how she went in the opposite direction of 'they' and her heart cried for all the patients waiting there.

Also we have the patients who should be considered here. The patients have the emotion they should have at the moment when they are in a critical condition of health. Moreover, something more which is to be noticdd is the emotion of the relatives of the patients. They are even more worried than the patient themself. After all, if the patient dies, they will be the one to suffer the most.

Setting:You put a lot of thoughts in choosing the setting, I reckon. The setting, I think is quite effective in developing the story. I get a bit of symbolism here in this "waiting room". The waiting room can be seen as the wait of people for what is to come in their fate. They wait for the worst and the best hoping for the latter. It's a waiting for their destiny. Also, the grey wall can be seen as the end to all the hopes of ppl.

Plot:There's not much plot in the story. It's just a thought process represented in the story. Something which I think has to do with the plot is the fact that she at last wakes up and goes to her duty. It represents the duty of a doctor(to save humanity amd lives) which is above all the emotions of a doctor. Also it showed the understanding between two doctors. I really liked how you used "she" to represent the doctor.

Pacing and tone:About the pacing, I think it was kind of perfect and the tone added to the story. The sad, melancholic and thoughtful tone was actually great for the story.

Overall, it left me thinking for a long time after I finished it.

Keep Writing!!

~Forever




RandomTalks says...


Thank you for the review!



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Mon Sep 06, 2021 6:22 am
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HarryHardy wrote a review...



Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening/Night(whichever one it is in your part of the world),

Hi! I'm here to leave a quick review!!

First Impression: This story had a very haunting feel to it as I read through here...and it was oddly beautiful and comforting here...I dunno, every story I read by you leaves me feeling far too many emotions than I know what to do with...which in case you're wondering is a good thing. :D

Anyway let's get right to it,

There was something about the walls in the hospital.

If you stared at them long enough, they seemed to stare right back at you. To the outside world, it was just those typical grey walls you see in every other hospital you have the misfortune of visiting, but there was something very poignant about the grey of these walls. It was a clouded color, like a heavy sky that does not know how to shed it's tears. And you just know that if these walls had eyes, they would cry with you in sadness, and beam at you in your happiness. There was only one word for it - uncanny. She did not know how those people could stare at these walls for hours, as if whatever they were searching for could be found if they just stared long or hard enough.


Hmm, a very interesting place to start, although judging by the name of this work, I think also rather appropriate. This is also the most interesting description I've ever seen of someone that's literally just staring at a wall.

But then again, she supposed there were not many places to look around in a hospital. Every corner you turned there was either grief or celebration. And it all seemed to culminate here, in this room - the waiting room.

She shifted in her chair and checked her watch. Her shift started in ten minutes. In her profession, she had gotten used to seeing those faces bearing the same haunted expression. Her friends often questioned her why she did not look for some other job that wouldn't drain her physically and emotionally every day. She had never had an answer to give them or herself for that matter. But the truth is, she was too accustomed to it. The hospital was a part of her world, and sometimes it was the only world she had.


Hmm, well, this is giving some really neat insights into this character here. I'm loving the descriptions here of how this person views this hospital and the hospital itself. This is one of those perspectives that we just never really see in our day to day life or think about, but really is quite interesting.

Especially, because as much as she strained to give more of her everyday, to make a difference in the world that just doesn't give a damn about it's people, it never gave anything back. It took and it took, in every patient they lost, every family member they failed to save, and every person they couldn't get to in time. It took so much that sometimes she could feel the loss in her bones when she would have to look a mother, a brother or a husband in the eye and tell them that it was over.

It's all part of the job, they say. Don't get involved, don't get attached. They say it like a mantra sometimes, like some verse they have been memorizing and reciting through centuries without really understanding or realizing the implication. Still, those words were written in her bones, and most days she could get past crying families with a squeeze of the shoulders and a sympathetic edge to her smile.


Hmm..well, I really like how you've described that there, you really manage to make this hospital almost a character in its own right...and some kind of evil machine that sucks up and destroys the hopes of as many lives as it saves...and to see how those that work there have to try and do something to make themselves desensitized to the constant suffering that's on view at a hospital.

But in moments like these, when she wasn't in her uniform, when she didn't have a stethoscope around her neck, she was just one of them, she realized, with everything to lose in a fraction of a second, in a slight of hands and a moment of fate. She eyed the family sitting across her - the mother sobbing into the shoulder of her husband as he stared ahead and rubbed her back, the son sitting to the side and staring outside the window, all the while holding her hand in his. Together they made a broken kind of picture and she wondered distantly what their story was, whose life was on the line behind those doors tonight and if she would get to play some role in their story once the clock ticked away and she put her uniform back on.


Well...that's definitely one of the worst places to be sitting at in a hospital, I've only ever been there once and I don't think I ever want to go back again, so to see this person who deals with it every single day certainly really hits me as a reader here.

It was just them tonight, and a little boy sitting in the corner with his arm wrapped up in a caste. She could do something about that, she could fix that and make the concern on the mother's face go away with time. She could make it alright for them.

But she couldn't save them all. She couldn't make everything alright.

As she looked about her, she wondered how many people's lives had changed in that room, how many people had sat in those same plastic chairs, paced that same marble floor and stared at the same empty ceiling, waiting, simply waiting for their lives to change forever.


Ahh now you're really cutting to the heart of a concept I love to see here. I have an odd fascination with the effects of the passing of time...so this really hits home, it sounds like something I can totally relate and it makes this story so much more powerful to read here. I've seen this quality of time in a lot of your short stories and I love it.

he wondered if it was going to happen right now as the light above the door switched to green and the doctor removing his gloves stepped into the hallway, preparing to play his role in the shaping of this family's history. She watched them stand up, she watched the mother's lips move in prayer, and she watched as the father and son stood on both sides of her, getting ready, waiting, simply waiting.

But she didn't need to be on the other side of the room to know that the battle was lost. She read it in the posture of her colleague, the stiffness of his brows and in the hand that he gently placed on the mother's arm.


Hmm, well, that ended badly, I was kind of holding out for a happy ending here, cause it was all gloominess at the start, and I was expecting a ending along the lines of "and so it was a happy moment and moments like these are what keep me going on this job" but I think I should realize by now that you never seem to be the type to change the tone there in an ending, happy stories are happy throughout, sad stories are sad throughout...xD

It was over.

She did not wait to watch them crumble down in tears, she did not wait to see the father and son exchange that look over her shoulder that uttered more words than they had ever said to each other in years. She did not wait anymore.

Getting up from her seat, she threw her coffee cup in the bin and prepared to slip back into her uniform for the night just as the first of the mother's sobs echoed loudly off those grey walls that seemed to join in the family's shared grief and loss.


Ahh, well that's about as good of an ending as you can get in a story with a situation like this to end on.

Aaaaand that's it for this one.

Overall: Overall, a solid story here....I love the simple but powerful message here...and its simultaneously but strangely comforting to read...I don't know how. Well, anyway, that's about all I've gotta say here. Catch you later in a review some other time..xD

As always remember to take what you think was helpful and forget the rest.

Stay Safe
Harry




RandomTalks says...


Thanks for the review! Glad you liked the story!



HarryHardy says...


You're Welcome!!



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Sat Sep 04, 2021 7:45 pm
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MissGangamash wrote a review...



Hello! Saw this in the Green Room and seeing as you're reading my work I thought I'd repay the favour!


Okay, I feel like this piece has a good foundation but it's missing something. Right from the start, 'If you stared at them long enough, they seemed to stare right back at you,' this is very cliche. It's been done a thousand times before. Now, things are cliche for a reason, they're used a lot for a reason - but I think the continuation of the metaphor isn't punchy enough and unique enough to give it that twist of 'you.'

The whole piece is a little lacking for me because its all very vague. Even the family in the waiting room with her - what's their story? Who are they waiting for? Just give us something to cling onto. When I was reading I thought it was about a nurse/doctor who was waiting for a family member to come out of surgery or something. Like she was now experiencing the waiting room like patient's loved one and it was a new perspective. I think that would be a much stronger piece.

As this is about a hospital and her job is incredibly difficult and emotionally exhausting, I think you really need to push that. How is she feeling right now? It's just the start of her shift, what time is it? How long is her shift? Has she been doing back-to-back shifts? Is she already exhausting, clinging onto the paper cup of coffee praying it will give her enough energy to make it through the next how many hours?

There's A LOT of potential with the idea and I think you've barely scratched the surface.

Hope this helps!

If you have any questions, feel free to ask :D




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Sat Sep 04, 2021 7:25 pm
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MailicedeNamedy wrote a review...



Hi RandomTalks,

Mailice here with a short review! :D

I would not have thought that a philosophical digression about a waiting room was possible. But you have managed to present it in a really interesting light and I am very pleased to see that you interject with many questions without asking them directly.

By creating a nameless narrator, you also have an identity possibility where the reader can empathise. I must also say that I had the impression that the story had two storylines - that of the wall and that of the narrator. They were connected by the family sitting there. It was a bit strange for me at the beginning to get away from the wall and hear more from the narrator, but I gradually realised that this person is supposed to be portrayed as the reader.

I thought the way you told it was expressive without going too much into descriptions. The brief interactions between the human characters were enough to give me that feeling you described at the beginning - of being a silent wall witnessing everything.

I also found the contrast with the wall interesting because it seemed like the continuation of other people's lives. Usually this is represented by nature, but you manage to put this stylistic device of "life goes on" into a hospital where - as already mentioned - you have two storylines. The wall, which goes on, and the narrator, where you realise more and more that it's just a job. A job, like any other, where it is directly a matter of life and death.

I was very curious to see what the conclusion of this could be, and I thought you did a good job of closing the story here by more or less tying the two storylines together at the end.

It was a very good short story. It had that mixture of your story "In the Whole Wide World" and "Blue Like Mine". It had this companionship that the reader could be part of the story and yet also this alienated feeling, like something was funny without realising it directly. I found it very refreshing to read.

Some points that caught my attention:

To the outside world, it was just those typical grey walls you see in every other hospital you have the misfortune of visiting, but there was something very poignant about the grey of these walls.

I would think that you could insert a full stop at "misfortune of visiting" and then start a new sentence. This gives the section a greater intensity.

She did not know how those people could stare at these walls for hours,

I was a little unclear at the beginning here who is meant by "she", because I thought it could be a personification of the wall, since you had spoken of eyes earlier. Probably with the thought that I am German and the wall in German is written with a feminine article, I was for a while reading "she" is "the wall”. It becomes clearer later, of course, who is meant, and if the sentence with the eyes had not been before it, it would also be a good start to introduce the character. But I don't think you have to change anything now. Maybe start a new paragraph there at the most.

job that wouldn't drain her physically and emotionally every day.

This one doesn't have to be, but to add a little rhetorical device, you can change physically and emotionally to physically and psychically. This would be an alliteration because you start with the same letter.

and stared at the same empty ceiling,

You are starting with the wall, but here it´s now the ceiling.

Have fun writing!

Mailice





The magic is only in what books say, how they stitched the patches of the universe together into one garment for us.
— Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451