Waiting by the Clock

     Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

     The woman sits at her table. Outside, snow piles higher and higher. Inside, the room grows emptier and emptier as families leave for the common room.

     Still, the woman sits alone at her table.

     Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

     The woman picks up her cup. The liquid inside sloshes back and forth as she raises it to her lip with focused attention. She moves to set it back down, but her fingers slip.

     The cup falls to the ground, its contents spilling out. People gather around her.

     Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

     “Are you okay?”

     “Do you need to lie down?”

     The woman shakes her head.

     “I’m fine. Don’t worry.”

     The people clean up the mess. The woman watches as the orange tea is wiped away like a slate cluttered with chalk drawings.

     Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

     The woman looks at her hands, nails mutilated and patches of skin missing from her pale hands. Something is missing on her left hand. Something she won’t get back for a while.

     Outside, the snow piles higher and higher. A nurse with a long nose and narrowed eyes walks in front of the woman.

     “Visiting hours will be over in ten minutes and then you’ll have an hour to yourself. Do you want to go to your room and take a shower?”

     The woman can see it in the nurse’s eyes. She thinks he won’t come.
“No. I don’t have any doubts. Please leave me alone now.”

     The nurse with the long nose sighs, but obliges to the woman’s request.

     Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

     Where is the clock? Nowhere? That is impossible. The woman is not foolish enough to believe that lie among the other lies the nurses fed her. She makes no gesture to move from her spot even as people leave one by one.

     The woman turns around, staring outside the large window.

     “He will come.”

     The woman whispers to herself again and again as though she was trying to convince herself.

     Lightly placing her hand onto the table’s plastic surface, the woman pushes her seat back and stands. She sways on her feet, but with firm steps, she walks towards the window and peered out.

     “Can’t see anything in this weather.”

     Tick-tock. Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

     “Will he make it?”

     The woman sighs, running her pale fingers against the thin lines running across her arms.

     Buzz.

     Someone is at the door.

     “Sir, visiting hours are going to be over soon.”

     “I know, but please give me a few minutes with my wife.”

     The woman’s feet brings her closer and closer, her breath quickening.

     Tick-tock. Tick-tock.

     “Please let him in!”

     The nurse sighs. “Dear, you need your rest and your medicine…”

     “Please, ma’am. It’ll only take a few minutes.”

     The nurse bites her lip, debating.

     “…You have ten minutes.”

     She walks away and the woman walks up to the man.

     “I’ve been waiting for you.”

     “I know. You don’t have to wait any longer though.”

     He smiles. He holds out a box and opens it: a cake.

     “I know you don’t want to be here. I know you want to go home, but it’s okay to not be okay, dear. Come now, let’s celebrate your birthday.”

     Tick-tock…