The Waiting Room
Martin Hooijmans | Lars de Ruyter
He felt like he had been there for ages. Countless other people had swarmed in and out of the place, some passing through directly, others staying to wait. Most of them lost their patience sooner or later and would leave, always bearing that same disillusioned expression. Not him, though. Some days were harder than others, but he held faith. Faith that would never fade.
It had been clear for a long time that the waiting room was not meant to linger in. The walls and floor were a spotless white that amazed at first, took your breath away, but after a while felt like a deep nothingness. Some occupants of the room had been so affected by this, that they kept their feet up, afraid of tumbling into the vastness of limbo.
Next there were the seats, old, creaking wooden chairs that had long forgotten the comfort for which they had been created. Some were still bearable, but most gave you either splinters or a very sore back.
In one of the corners a cheap television constantly showed news broadcasts, alternating between channels like CNN, BBC and Fox. Interesting about it was that according to the little black box, the world was filled with nothing but despair. It took a while to figure this out, but then you would notice that every time the news on CNN tended to shift towards something more positive, you were again confronted by bombings in Afghanistan on BBC. It had punched the good faith out of a great many people, some who had been around for years already.
The most interesting aspect of the room was the exit, though. While people entered through plain-looking revolving doors, the exit was a stunning marble gate, enveloped in a brilliant light that drew in anyone who laid their eyes upon it. Some never even noticed the chairs, the television or even the people occupying the room. They merely drifted towards the light.
The waiting room allowed a person to stay attached to mortal life, even if only as an observer. Truly passing over to the other side most likely meant saying goodbye to life forever, and with that perhaps to the memories attached to it. One day the man would take the leap, venture into the unknown, but he would not do it without his wife. On his deathbed she had asked him to wait for her on the other side, and by God he would. He would have waited for her in a place much more terrible than this one, where simply indulging in good memories was enough to hang on to your sanity. And forever. Many promised it, few actually did. He would.
The entrance doors started moving, and out came the next stream of people. His trained eyes scanned the crowd. They scanned the drifters, focused on the confused faces, traveled over the ones already moving towards a chair and then he saw her, standing alone at the door, unsure of what to do. He knew. He had imagined the moment for years, and so it was that a few seconds later his wife clung onto him, tears streaming, laughter echoing throughout the chamber.
He stared into her eyes. She stared back. He took her hand and started moving towards the light. She pulled him back. He turned in surprise. Her lips mouthed the words he had come to dread after spending so much time in this place. Words he had hoped never to hear again. Words that would once more trap him in this ‘godforsaken’ place.
“What about the children?”