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.