Last fall I sat in a hospital waiting room late in the day drinking a cup of black coffee from a vending machine. I had pressed the code for a cup of comforting hot chocolate, but out came black coffee, so black coffee it was. It tasted good because I was so tired.
I was waiting to see how my friend’s mother was faring after a traumatic accident on my street. When her text came through asking me to come, I went, and remained throughout the day until returning late.
We belong to each other. All of us.
Sitting alone in the waiting room of the trauma center, I plugged my earbuds in to play music while journaling. I wanted to disappear into my own world, oblivious to those around me.
An older woman wrapped in hospital blankets was wheeled out from the treatment area and left beside me. Alone. Unable to stay isolated in my bubble, I felt compelled to demonstrate presence as she dozed.
A local man recognized her and walked up to say hello, startling her awake. He introduced himself as a friend of her son, and while she did not remember him, he knew her. She began to explain her plight, how she fell the day before while riding on public transit, because her scooter was not secure.
He asked if Ray knew she was here. I sensed that Ray was a mutual hospital connection who would know her and could help. He looked over at me and asked, Are you here with her?
We had never met before, but I was with her.
The man tried to call Ray’s number, but did not get an answer. I’ll keep trying. Maybe he is in a meeting. He turned to leave.
I looked at the woman and she at me. She began to talk. I listened. She had been there since 5:00 that evening. It was 7:30.
A text came through from my friend asking to get some food for her mom who would be discharged soon and had not eaten. I took the order and stood up to go. Turning to my new friend, I asked if I could get her food, as well. She said yes.
I returned with her requested ham sandwich and Dr. Pepper as a nurse was preparing to take her back to receive further care. I was grateful for the handled bag I had taken at checkout as I hung it on the arm of her wheelchair.
She said, Thank you. I answered, Of course. Enjoy! We smiled knowing goodbyes having shared the sacred space of a hospital waiting room together. I took food back to the tiny trauma room that housed my friend and her mom.
The hospital is an hour from my home. We may never meet again in this life. But for an hour in the ER, the woman in the wheelchair and I belonged to each other.
Just like we all do.