Emily Carter Roiphe | Longreads | February 2018 | 14 minutes (3,466 words)
The Waiting Room
I was leaning on my husband’s shoulder one day as we were walking through a lobby that seemed a bit crowded for the part of New Mexico where we lived. On the soundtrack there was some desultory chatter and the hum of fluorescent lights.
“Where are we NOW?” I asked in exasperation.
“You had a brain aneurysm, sweetheart, you had brain surgery.”
“Is the surgery over?” I asked.
“Yes, for a whole day,” he said.
“So, we can go now?”
We’d been planning to go camping in Monument Valley, and I didn’t want to complicate our schedule. I’d had something wrong, but they fixed it, I felt fine, could we please get on with it? Then I saw his face. Usually, my husband is pretty cocky in public, thinking that he has me, and I am so wonderful, that he wants to make sure people notice, so he keeps up a performative patter of flirtatious banter about how brilliant, sexy, infuriating, and baffling I am. It’s his routine. There was something about his tone of voice now, that made me turn to look at his face; it was ashen. He looked terrified.
“What?” I said. “I feel fine. There’s nothing wrong with me anymore. I want to go camping like you promised.”
His eyes filled and he said, “Let’s go back to your room.”
First I thought, I have to do whatever, say whatever, be whatever it takes to get that look off his face, it’s making a bouquet of broken glass bloom in the dark place behind my ribs.
Then I thought, Room? What room? Are we in a hotel?
Then I realized I wasn’t walking, but perhaps, sitting and floating along. How was this possible, I wondered analytically. Am I walking or riding, standing up or sitting, falling down or getting to my feet? I wasn’t alarmed by these questions but I knew one thing instinctively: keep those questions to yourself, tell no one you have questions, or you can forget about that camping trip. I was very focused on the idea of going camping, a tent, all the stars in the wide open sky out there.