g a t h e r i n g s

The Waiting Room: A Parable

I realize (again) that the time will never be right, that there are no guarantees, that there can never be certainty. I look around the waiting room every time an announcement is made. Destinations rattled off in no particular order. Sometimes someone rises from her seat but just as quickly plops back down as though having misheard, perhaps adjusts her suitcase and brushes off invisible crumbs. Every so often, though, one of us actually leaves. When the door closes, we collectively, silently, without looking at each other, take in a quick shallow breath of the stale air. I watched as a man inches forward, tiny, hardly discernible increments, until he is right there at the threshold, can practically touch the outside. Then another man suddenly jumps up and crosses the floor in long impossible strides, passes the man, moves through and out and gone. The first man turns to us, such sadness in his eyes. I smile, perhaps kindly, as he lets himself give up.

The announcements are incessant. Still, how can one be sure? What if it’s not what we expect? What if we don’t fit in? Can’t keep up? Embarrass ourselves? Get lost? Miss the bus? the train? the flight? the chance?

Why are you all looking at me? Have I stood up? I think I am standing. My legs are making statements my mind doesn’t quite comprehend. You’ll be fine. There’s nothing to worry about. Passivity is not protection. The first step is the first step. It’s not about trusting the world — the world has nothing to prove to you — it’s about trusting yourself in the world.

I look around at the others. Waiting for them who are waiting for me. Destinations being announced, one after the other, options and more options. We are waiting. Here’s the truth about the waiting room, my place on the grimy bench. I am waiting to be lifted by angels, my throat coated with a magic potion, all clarity and sweetness; waiting to be blessed with a magic wand of good fortune and love; waiting to be carried off on gossamer wings. You see, my specialness has registered with those in charge of this sort of thing. What are gossamer wings, by the way?

I can feel someone near me now, hear the faint breath. If I keep going, will it (he or she) move with me? The person taps my shoulder.

“Excuse me, are you leaving?” he asks.
“Yes, I think I am.”
“I haven’t seen anyone return, have you?” he continues.
“Are you frightened?”
“A little,” I hear myself say, “but less so now that I am on my feet.”
He whispers, “What’s in your bag?”
“A warm coat, my toothbrush, and a pencil. Oh, and gossamer wings.”
“I see now, that’s why I can’t leave.”
“I don’t have those wings.”
“Yes, you do,” again, I am aware of my own voice, “we all do.”
“I don’t think so,” he sighs.
“Okay. It’s okay. I am going to keep going.” I pick up my bag.
“You’re leaving me?”
I smile, “Perhaps by staying, it is you who are leaving me?” But he has already returned to his seat.

I feel the well-worn doorknob in my hand. It feels good. The door opens with very little effort. I look back one more time. They are all so beautiful — all kinds of beautiful. The announcements are a soundtrack for the waiting room. I see myself there too, a part of me, looking expectantly.

“C’mon, Little One, it’s time.” I step out.