Jerry’s eyes dissect the old woman in the seat across him: furrowed white brows, puckered pink lips that ease into the black of the rest of her skin—her skin isn’t as loose as he thinks it should be; it doesn’t match the whiteness of her brows. Her beauty is quaint, the testimony of a face that fought hard against the abrasiveness of time. He imagines her younger, faced with the dilemma of choosing a sincere mate from the many options her beauty must have burdened her with. The woman is bordered on one side by a lady he assumes is her daughter and on the other, by two patients who, like him and the old woman, are waiting to be called in by a doctor in one of the consulting rooms.
He looks in the direction of the voice. There’s a young doctor at the entrance of one of the consulting rooms with a brown file in his hand which he uses to stroke his chin.
‘Yes, yes,’ a croaky voice responds.
He finds the owner of the voice, an elderly woman struggling to rise from her seat, aided by a middle-aged man. Jerry watches as she strenuously drags each foot towards the doctor. The sound of her feet is amplified by the silence in the hall. Impassive eyes follow her movements. He catches the man aiding her wince from her grip of his arm.
Jerry’s attention quickly leaves the woman and resettles on the white-browed one sitting opposite him. From the transparency of her orange veil, he sees her fingers slide steadily over each bead of her misbaha. Her eyes are closed and her lips occasionally part as she counts to herself. He imagines she expects to die any day from now and is constantly asking for the forgiveness of her sins or for the acceptance of her soul into paradise.
Earlier, he had watched her rolled in in a wheelchair. He only realised she wasn’t lame when he saw her lips purse and her eyes corrugate at the edges as she took the two steps between the wheelchair and her seat.
Jerry suspends his thought and looks around him. Most of those around him are old and had snailed their way upstairs, here, some were brought in wheelchairs and not so many had walked in with as much life as he had.
As his eyes find the woman’s white brows again, he wonders to himself if he should get a rosary too. Maybe it is wise to begin to prepare himself a nice bed in the afterlife now. He shifts in his seat. Most of the patients seated around him do not seem to have much time left before their expiry dates. He’s not sure the doctors can do much for them. Or him.
The woman’s lids twitch and her brows become more furrowed. He glances around him again, horrified anew at how dead many of the patients seem. ‘Living corpses,’ he mutters to himself. But he sits among them, he remembers, young as he is. He feels a darkness flush his heart. Maybe he too, like them, is a corpse, only more animated.
© Joseph Bravo 2018.