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The Waiting Room

On the way home

By Suzy Jacobson CherryPublished 3 months ago 6 min read
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Image created by author in Midjourney and edited using MS Photo

They had already completed their nightly travels and tasks. Now it was simply a matter of waiting for the time to transition. Sandra stood at the back of the room, leaning against a back wall where she could watch the others. A consummate people-watcher, Sandra always found it interesting to imagine who the others were and what they had been doing all night. It was rare for her to encounter someone she knew in the Waiting Room, though she often stumbled upon friends or family members in the execution of her own nightly adventures. Now, though, as she passed her eyes over the room, she felt there was someone she knew somewhere nearby.

Soon her glance landed on a tall young man standing on the right, closer to the front of the room. He faced a young boy and was speaking to him quietly as they waited. The man’s long chestnut hair and the timbre of his voice confirmed her sensation that this was her friend and coworker, Ira. The young boy he was speaking to was one of his clients, Ricky. How odd, Sandra thought to herself, I don’t think I’ve ever met one of the clients here before at all. Not here, and not back there, where the nightly work was done.

Noticing a shift in the temperature, Sandra looked toward the exit elevators. The doors were closing. Someone had left. On the floor near the elevator sat a small white grain of sand. Good, she thought, I’m ready to go home. She watched as the room slowly emptied. As each person stepped between the open elevator doors, they dropped their grain onto the growing pile of sand.

Ira’s voice had been a soft drone at a level Sandra was unable to decipher. Now that the room was emptying, she could hear his words. “You’ll be okay,” he was saying. “You’re safe.”

“I’m safe,” came a reply from Ricky. “Ricky’s safe.”

“Yes, Ricky’s safe,” said Ira in his soothing voice, holding steady at the natural middle-bass timbre that gave him an advantage in his field. “It’s almost Ricky’s turn. Time to go home.”

“I don’t want to.”

Ira moved closer to Ricky’s chair and crouched down so he was face-to-face with the child. Ricky kept his face down, avoiding looking at Ira’s face.

“Ricky, you can’t stay here. Your mom would be sad. Dad would be sad.”

“Mom is sad.” Replied Ricky, his voice cracking a little. “I make her sad.”

“It’s okay, Ricky. Sometimes Mom is sad, but she loves you.”

“Mom loves me. Ricky loves Mom.” Sandra watched as Ricky turned up his face to look full-on at Ira. Ira looked at Ricky. Eye contact. Unusual, she thought.

“Ricky can’t talk to Mom at home.” The boy sadly explained.

“You’re learning,” replied Ira. “I’ve heard you say hello to Mom when she picks you up.”

“That’s true. Dad too. I like it here better, though. I can talk. But I don’t ever see Mom and Dad here. I don’t know where they go at night.”

Ira took a breath and patted Ricky on the head gently. “I understand, Ricky. But that’s why you go home, so you can see Mom and Dad and the people you love most. The people who love you.”

The elevator doors slid open, echoing in the now almost empty room. Ira looked around. He didn’t see Sandra behind him. It was the room in front of him that mattered. They were next.

“Time to go.” He said to Ricky, matter-of-factly as he stood up. “Stand up.”

Ricky hesitated.

“Stand up, Ricky.” Ira made a gesture with his hands. It was the American Sign Language gesture for stand up.

Ricky stood, his lanky body unfolding. He was almost as tall as his mentor. Ira stepped forward, nodding at Ricky.

“Ricky is safe.” Ira reminded the boy.

“Ricky is safe. I am safe.” Ricky held his hand out to Ira.

Ira dropped his grain of sand onto the pile and took Ricky’s hand. He would never instigate hand-holding with a client, but if the child needed it for reassurance, he always complied. As the two stepped into the elevator, Ricky dropped his sand.

Sandra watched the two as the doors slipped closed. They were looking at each other. Making eye contact as they slowly descended to the ground floor. Making eye contact. Sandra smiled. I hope I remember that. Ira was the first one on the job who was able to connect with Ricky one-on-one. It made Sandra’s heart happy to know that the connection was more like a friendship than a client and mentor relationship.

Clients almost always respected their mentors, but it wasn’t always reciprocated. Mentors often build walls of their preconceived ideas about the clients and never found a personal connection. Ira clearly respected Ricky as a unique person in his own right. The boy wasn’t just “an autistic;” he was a child with the same needs as any other children.

This is why they work so well together. Sandra surmised. Ricky has come a long way since Ira came into his life. He was speaking in small bits, and he clearly wanted to. Some children didn’t want to learn to speak, but the parents insisted they wanted to hear their “baby’s voice,” as if it made a difference in how much they loved their child. Ricky’s progression was driven by his own desire to connect. He was becoming less frustrated, less violent when he went into what they clinically called “behavior.”

It was time for Sandra to go home. She pulled the grain of sand from her pocket as she strode toward the elevator doors. The doors slid apart. Stepping through, she dropped the sand on the pile. It no longer looked like a pile of sand.

Inside the elevator, Sandra turned around to face the doors as they closed. Manna, she thought. That’s what it looks like. That’s what it is. They call it manna when it’s on earth. When it’s in our pockets, our eyes, or the floor of the Waiting Room, it’s sand. Sand is delivered, manna falls from the sky. Either way, it sustains us. Takes us where we need to go. Feeds our stomachs and our souls. Our imaginations.

At home, Sandra stretched long and deep, making a noise that frightened her cat for a moment. She opened her eyes and rubbed the remaining sand from the corners. As she sat up, Rocko pushed his face into her chin. She ran a finger over the thin, heart-shaped black line around his white nose. “Sweet kitty,” she murmured, hanging her legs over the side of the bed as the cat jumped into her lap.

She sat for a few minutes, petting Rocko and pondering those last moments in the Waiting Room. She knew the memory would dissipate, as her recall of the night’s inner work already had. She wanted to savor the vision so the feeling of hope and power would linger. She wanted to remember Ricky as he bravely stood to return to a life that was a constant challenge for him.

As she dressed for work, she wished she could tell Ira how inspirational his interaction with the child had been in the Waiting Room. Sadly, she knew that by the time she got to work, the memory would be gone, for both she and Ira.

Oh, well, she thought as she put down her hairbrush and headed for her purse and keys. Sandra left her house and entered the day determined to find a moment to observe Ira and Ricky together.

She couldn’t remember why.

~~~

This story was first published in Petits Fours Magazine on Medium.

Short Story
1

About the Creator

Suzy Jacobson Cherry

Writer. Artist. Educator. Interspiritual Priestess. I write poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and thoughts on stuff I love.

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  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarran3 months ago

    Please forgive me for not understanding but did Sandra just wake up from a dream? I mean that whole waiting room, the grain of sand being dropped in a pile before getting into the elevator, the whole thing between Ira and Ricky, was it all just a dream?

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