In the Waiting Room

In the Waiting Room

The burgundy plastic snake is warm,
hotter than I remember, as it hurries
into its cylindrical home. “California
is number one!” the lab technician chides.
“Your name is a street in New Jersey.”
It is more than in New Jersey, I think,
it is my name. I cannot look at what
I lose. Thyroid and liver tests as just
a precaution. Glucose to be sure.

The doctor asks me why I cannot rest
except on weekends. Work is
a one-word answer with books behind.
Then I tell her of how he wears me out,
wears me down with wine and words,
with kisses that cannot wait until morning.
I leave out the part about my breasts against
his back, his left arm that traps mine,
and how I match breaths with him
to sleep.

“It sounds like whatever you are doing
on the weekends is healing you,”
she says, and we smile; we share
that secret that two strangers can.

Strangers all in crooked lines
with names like Dimeling, Cabrillo,
Mush. Green letters on the black board
refresh, hold, refresh. We all pause
and watch how time passes more slowly
in the company of invalids. I eye
a woman’s hipbone as it breaks the line
of her long black dress, unbroken by breasts.
She asks for Diflucan and I know what that is.

We all know more about each other than we should.
Now you know I have trouble sleeping,
how I watch the screen saver on my computer
and its endless iterations of beauty, and think:
I do not want to let go of this life, not yet,
but let me gently go into that good night’s sleep.

— Halsted M. Bernard

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