Using my backpack for a pillow, I stretched out on the padded bench and closed my eyes. I was too wired from free coffee and weeks of accumulated worry to sleep, but I had run out of diversions. I’d arrived too late for art therapy in the lobby. I’d eaten the turkey sandwich I’d packed. I couldn’t concentrate on my book. I had a list of people to call, but nothing to report. I’d paced the family lounge as if logging steps on a pedometer. I had at least three more hours to kill plus the drive home, so a nap seemed prudent.
Fluorescent lights penetrated my eyelids. I heard the murmur of multilingual conversations accompanied by the fervent yet indistinct pitch of a television ad. A disembodied voice demanded, “Would the family of Mr. Smith please report to desk A20 for a doctor visit?” My head throbbed with each insistent beep beep beep, beep beep beep of a pager announcing a patient update.
I gave up. My aching head protested as I sat up. I felt the weight of the silent pager hanging around my neck. I pushed the button to read the last message:
11:39 A.M. Surgery has begun.
I slung my backpack over my shoulder and began another circuit. On this lap, I spied a therapy room. My husband’s patient binder had mentioned this service was offered to waiting families. I read the sign:
Sign up here for free Reiki therapy
Reiki – isn’t that some New-Agey thing? I avoid massage in general since I don’t like people touching me. Yuppie shit. That’s what Peter would call this. Yet, I had a headache that wouldn’t quit and hours I couldn’t fill. I signed up.
Fifteen minutes later the therapist summoned me. She wore a badge that identified her as a volunteer. She led me to a dimly corner of the room partitioned off by a screen.
“Put your belongings on this table. Set your pager here so I can hand it to you,” she instructed.
She pointed to a table and I climbed up. At least I get to keep my clothes on, I thought. She gave me a triangular pad to put under my knees. I laid down but twisted my head up to see what she was doing. She rubbed lotion on her hands. A not unpleasant scent I could not identify drifted to me. Aromatherapy, too? Yuppie shit for sure.
“Close your eyes,” she said.
I stopped staring at the ceiling. The quiet woman placed her hands on top of my skull. I could feel warmth from their proximity, but it didn’t quell my awkwardness. Am I supposed to make small talk? What the hell do you say to someone touching your head? Despite the comfort being offered, I was uncomfortable. I had been on the prowl for hours. Without motion to distract my mind, my anxieties had my full attention. Mocking this seemed a better alternative.
The therapist shifted her hands over my eyes. I took a deep breath and noticed that my headache was gone. Minutes passed. I let my weight sink into the table. It no longer seemed weird to be still and quiet.
Beep beep beep, beep beep beep.
“Sorry,” the therapist said, and handed me the pager. I leaned on my elbow to read the display:
1:49 P.M. Surgery progressing as expected.
“Everything okay?” she asked. “Should I continue?”
Despite the interruption, I felt refreshed and ready to face the wait ahead. Maybe I would read. Maybe I’d call a friend. Maybe I would just sit still.
“Yes, please do.”