Posted by: pendrops | April 5, 2007

waiting room


“Number 38, Window 5.”

A girl in a pastel blue sweatsuit – the slicky kind – two rows in front of me stares blankly through her coke-bottle glasses and devours a sandwich, but eats her bag of M&Ms first.

A man – older, maybe 60ish, looking as though he dyes his hair deep black – looks down at his newspaper through glasses perched on his pointy nose, then looks up, shifting in his seat every few minutes.

It stinks of BO and stale cigarette smoke and soiled clothes that have needed a good washing for weeks possibly.

A baby wimpers and then gurgles happily across the room while a couple behind me talk of their cars being empounded and loaning money to family as candidly (and loudly) as if they were in their own living room.

“Number 45, Window 2.”

I look down at my ticket. 59. They are only on 45 and the girl in slicky blue is on to her second sandwich.

An invisible woman behind a window calls “Billy” and a man who can hardly walk stands and limps with his left foot, dragging his right behind him up to the window.

“God, please let me have all the right paperwork,” I whisper as I look down at my passport, my license, my marriage certificate, and my official birth certificate.

The guy next to me – on my right – wears a brown hoodie and red flip-flops, and reads a thick book. He sniffles, too – allergies.

“Number 51, Window 1.”

Only eight more to go. The girl in slicky blue just belched louder than any man I’ve ever heard – the entire room turning to look at her. I could almost smell the burped-up sandwich and M&Ms from my seat. “Excu-u-u-use me,” she says, patting her large chest.

“She think I need…I don’t need…because she mad at the…they come to the house…it behind closed door…she act like we the most lovin’ family in the world…I’m the kinda person, I just say to myself…I’m anti-social anyway…”

“Number 49, Window 4.”

They’ve started going backwards with the numbers. “Oh, God…”

The guy reading next to me sets his book down. He can’t concentrate either.

A Muslim man and woman stand next to me, filling out forms, her burqa and long brown dress covering all but a small opening for her soft brown face.

“And the po-leese, they came…I assault that girl…because they in my house…I didn’t have no witnesses…they at the front doe…one girl had 40 stitches in her back…I tried to kill that other girl…but I was a juvenile…”

The Muslim woman walks behind her husband, slow, quiet, sedate, not speaking any English.

A man across the room – thank God, he’s across the room – just hauked a loogy.

“Number 57, Window 3.”

Two more to go. “Thank you. And please don’t let me look at gangsta girl behind me the wrong way.”

“Number 59, Window 4.”

As I left with my piece of paper, confirming that I would receive my new Social Security card in the mail within two weeks, I caught a blurry glimpse of the dim and dingy room where I’d just spent an hour, breathing air with people I’d never see again. And an old song came to mind…

Red and yellow, black and white
They are precious in His sight…



  1. I love the way you wrote this. Very stream-of-consciousness. It put me in the room right next to you, which made your conclusion that much more powerful. Thanks for putting that song in my head… now if I can just move it closer to my heart.

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