It’s easy to sit in hospitals
When no one you know is lying
Inside a ward on an adjustable bed.
It’s easier still to sit there still
When no one you know is sitting
Outside a ward, leaning against despair.
You look at the slip in your hand,
The seven-segment display above,
And wait for the numbers to match.
You thank God this isn’t a casino.
Your number does come up.
You do get to get up and go
Towards that plexiglass counter
Shielding a bored face from you
And your Sunday-morning gloom.
Case number, he asks. You slip him
An orange sticky note under the glass.
He doesn’t thank your thoughtfulness.
He feels snubbed, robbed of power.
No fun reading details from paper
When he can ask you the numbers,
Stop typing midway to crack a joke
For the female colleague beside him,
Laugh alone, look at you with regret
And say, Sorry, could you repeat that?
And you sigh and repeat the numbers
And he repeats his jokes and laughs.
Sorry, sorry. Very sorry. Nine, you said?
You wonder, if surrounded by grief,
This is his way to carpe diem.
You sigh at your c’est la vie
And wait while he complains
About slow Wifi and fast food.
He still does all this with the note,
But at least you don’t keep repeating.
Onions are eighty again, he says.
You blink. Potatoes, fifty too.
Family to feed, you know? You blink.
He nods, sticks the note to his table,
Drums his fingers next to it, frowns,
Looks at you with regret. Sorry, sorry.
Wifi’s down. System can’t process.
Maybe you should come after lunch?
No chai-breakfast for me anyway.
With such prices. You understand, no?
I mean, if insurance doesn’t process,
You also have to deal with the reality.
Even without. Even without. Sorry.
He presses a button on his table.
The number above doesn’t match
The number on your slip anymore.
You sigh and fish out your wallet.
He raises a warning hand to stop
The next person filing behind you.
You pull a blue one-hundred note.
He looks at you with regret. Sorry.
You pull an orange two-hundred.
He looks at you and nods. Laughs.
You look at that laughter,
Look at all the people around,
Look at them leaning against despair,
Look at your wallet’s inner lining,
Look at your sticky note on his table,
Look at the ink of an idea growing on it,
Look at the two-hundred in your hand,
Lower your mask, and lick the paper, full.
You slip the new orange sticky note,
Under the old transparent plexiglass,
And offer your mobile’s 4G hotspot.