By Sofia Haines
The waiting room was not clean. Someone held the child in his lap, rocked quietly, refused water when it was offered to him. Rushed French swam from the television set. A man held his arm tight, wrist purple, face grey, his skin as pale as the creamy, chipped stucco behind his head. There were magazines, old and crumpled with water and dirt and careless fingers; only one woman flipped through a copy of whichever sat next to her chair. Her husband sat beside her, cried quietly, held his abdomen, whispered to his wife pleadingly. She stroked his hair. The nurse told me, her English spoken in fat, wet smacks: fifteen more minutes, maybe twenty, it is Saturday, we are busy, we will see you soon. The nurse was not trim. In the corner sat a stack of broken chairs, their cushions torn enough that more white showed than the dead purple polyester that had stretched across it. Some of the metal legs were dented into tight, strange angles, black paint scratched away, unable to support the seats above them. These chairs rested on their sides.
The child was a drained eggshell. She could not breathe.
Two receptionists sat behind the desk. They watched their computer screens and typed. A phone rang, and one receptionist picked it up. From the other side of the room, the screams were muffled, and the receptionist held the phone to her ear and shook her head.