Copyright 2016 Sharon Rodgers
Published by Sharon Rodgers at Shakespir
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We walk these corridors once a month. More often if things aren’t going well. The loud whoosh of the electric doors as they open, and close, thrusting us into the chaotic corridors. For some reason I always walk slowly, as if in a dream. My shoes clack over the sea of torn blue linoleum, as his tiny sweaty hand grips mine tightly. He knows where we are. He knows why. I fight down the panic that threatens to choke me, and the urgent need to grab his warm little body and run from here screaming ‘We don’t belong!’
We walk on, slowly and painfully. The short distance from the car park has exhausted him. He limps beside me, silent. I tried to get parked close, I did! But even a disability permit doesn’t guarantee a spot and even though we have one, even though we have every right, a little boy climbing out of a car and walking while white vans circle like gulls, their loads mechanical chairs and children who can’t walk is something my conscience won’t let me live with. So we walk, up steep hills and even though I know this hurts him, I refuse to yield, and if he can walk he is winning, no matter what the cost.
Faces hurry past us – everyone is in a rush. White coats billow like sails, flapping against thighs, as small faces peer out of mountains of blankets, as they ride on their great steel barges, trailing tentacles of tubes and cables.
We arrive at our first stop, and he starts to pull away, tugging at my arm. For the second time today I am about to cause my son pain and it tears at me. I pick him up, as he protests, kicking and slapping at me. Sue the receptionist smiles knowingly, ‘Hey Champ! Has it been a month already?’
Ethan buries his face in my shoulder. I sign the consent form and sit and wait, while Ethan plays with the old battered toys, kindly donated by some anonymous family, probably in some rush of charitable guilt, thankful that their children will never grace these halls, but sharing a thought for those who do.
Idly I flick through year old magazines, and smile at the young family who join us. The little girl, younger than Ethan is wearing the most beautiful pink dress, her father proudly, gently stroking her naked head, oxygen tubes snake from her nose disappearing into that beautiful dress. My eyes lock with her mother; in the silence a waterfall of unsaid words fall between us.
Sally the pathologist has arrived, I take Ethan’s hand and with a final smile leave the young family with their beautiful little girl, silently thanking God that it’s not my son. The next 5 minutes are hell. He is brave as the needle goes in. ‘Mum!’ he exclaims, ‘I was sure my blood would be green!’ The nurse chuckles, tears dry as stickers are chosen and handed out as I rub the marks left on my arms from holding him down on the bed. I know from experience they will fade, my guilt wont.
We make our way to our appointment, he loves riding in the escalator, and as the doors open the chaos of the waiting area assaults your senses, it’s loud, hot, crowded with too many bodies in too small a place, staff navigate children lying on floors, climbing the cracked chairs and fighting over the toys in the corner, while parents sit heads down trying to disappear into IPads and mobile phones.
I wave to Rachel the receptionist who notes our arrival I catch a glimpse of Ethan’s thick folder, the yellow sticker on front glowing ominously. My son. A biological hazard.
Rachel points to the crowd indicating to take a chair, I manage to find one in the corner of the room, as Ethan jostles for prime position at the colouring in table. A cacophony of crayons, tears, bandages and defeat.
I nod at Doctor Kelly, Doctor Dean and Doctor Sam as they appear and disappear behind yellowing doors, like those little figures on town clocks, appearing on the hour only to swing away after the briefest of glimpses. I make small talk to the other mothers, dutifully asking how everyone’s kids are. Its always mothers, hardly ever the fathers, who sit for hours on the hard plastic chairs (I suspect the absence of a clock is deliberate), waiting their turn – five minutes with the doctor then out again, thrust back into normal lives until three weeks later there will be another summons in the mailbox and we will start this merry dance again.
There is commotion at the lifts – Doctor Bo and Doctor Bean have arrived. The kids abandon the colouring in, clamoring over one another, trying to push aside wheelchairs and crutches to reach their favourite clown doctors. Today they are singing a silly song, handing out balloon animals, stickers and bubbles. Laughter fills the room and I give Ethan thumbs up as my heart cracks a little. Like their flaking makeup and the colourful posters that are peeling from the walls around us, it’s a merry façade, hiding the crumbling, faltering truth of why we are here.
Debbie comes and sits with me, I lent her a book last visit and she returns it.
Phyllis has baked her caramel fudge and we all slip pieces of the sweet treat in our mouths, like guilty children. Miriam tells us of the latest incident at Matthew’s school. We could be any mother’s group in any park or coffee shop, trading titbits about our days our weeks, but we sit in a small, crowded, noisy room. A tiny island, set adrift, on a tumultuous sea of chaos and uncertainty.
We exchange Christmas cards, recipes, phone numbers, diagnoses, medication notes, side effects, operation dates. We celebrate every small victory and weep with every setback.
We greet each other with arms wide-open, guides through the treacherous waters of diagnosis, complications, medications and physiotherapy. We are as intimate as lovers, whispering dark thoughts we dare not ponder alone.
A long blue ribbon unfurls and wraps around us, our children, binding us together; our oneness gives us strength, courage, and hope. These women know me like no one else. For they know how words can shatter bones.
About the Author
Sharon Rodgers is a West Australian author and blogger. Her work has been published in Womankind Magazine, Smash words, and UniPoll Watch. In 2015 Sharon won the Edith Cowan University Talus Award for Poetry. A Post Graduate student, Sharon has a Bachelor of Arts in Creative Writing and Children’s Literature and is currently working on her debut novel, “Boy Lost.”
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