Short Story: The Waiting Room

By Thaut, Pamela | Family Therapy Networker, July/August 1995 | Go to article overview

Short Story: The Waiting Room


Thaut, Pamela, Family Therapy Networker


I STAND UP STRAIGHTER, TAKE A COUPLE OF DEEP BREATHS and try to ignore the knot in my stomach as I push open the door and step into the waiting room.

Good, I think. No one else is here. The empty room promises a moment's respite from the unanticipated, unfamiliar and unwelcomed feelings that overtake me with as much subtlety as the first Midwest snowstorm announcing the arrival of winter.

I look around and see a small sign on the wall asking clients to take a seat "Your therapist will be with you shortly." I flinch at the word "client" I'm not ready for this new role. It is as if the word itself undresses me, strips me of my protective covering and leaves me utterly and completely raw. The sign says it all I am a client; I am here to see a therapist. I am exposed to anyone who might walk through that door, and I find absolutely no consolation in the feet that they, too, are exposed to me.

I give the room a quick once-over. It is small, well-lit and pleasant, with a door leading to the outside and another, across the room, presumably leading to offices I wonder what goes on in those offices, but the question is still too obscure, too unformed in the back of my mind to entertain it more fully, so I let it slip away as meekly as it arrived.

The carpet is a deep rose, the walls a very pale pink. Soothing colors I remember reading several years ago that some prisons were now using this color scheme in cells, hoping to calm the inmates. I grab onto the words "soothing colors" they become my mantra. I repeat them to myself over and over. "Soothing colors . . soothing colors . . . soothing colors. I wait for their calming effects to take hold. Perhaps they have more success in the prisons.

On one wall hangs a bulletin board with flyers announcing upcoming workshops and groups designed to help one overcome all possible childhood afflictions. There is a group for Adult Children of Alcoholics, another for Survivors of Sexual Abuse, another for Recovering Sex Addicts, grief and loss groups, women's support groups, codependency groups for both men and women, recovery groups for people with eating disorders and even one for spirituality and recovery. You'd think with all those offerings I would find one that would help me with whatever it is I am suffering from.

The other walls are adorned with Georgia O'Keefe posters, framed in coordinating hues. They are attractive, but, quite frankly, I have never really understood the allure of O'Keefe's work. Her flowers are a bit too subliminally vaginal for me. I much prefer the honest elegance of a Monet.

The music is barely audible. New Age, I think. The song playing is one I have heard on a T.V. commercial. The one with the hot air balloons gliding through the sky. What was that commercial for? I can't recall, which reminds me of how much I don't seem to remember these days.

Two rows of chairs stand unceremoniously at attention along the wall with a plant separating them and a coffee table in front of each row I sit at the end of one row and place my purse on the chair next to me, giving an unmistakable message to anyone who might come in.

I noticed the typical array of waiting room magazines People, Time, Good Housekeeping. The most recent one is more than two months old. With some digging, however, I unearth a copy of Architectural Digest, a periodical I enjoy because of its complete lack of demand on the part of the reader I pick it up, begin thumbing through it, and shortly find myself completely absorbed, staring at the brightly painted room and Renaissance paintings hanging from the walls on the page in front of me.

I remember when I first decided to call a therapist for an appointment I had put it off for weeks, telling myself that I was acting too impulsively, that I really didn't need to see anyone. After all, I reminded myself, I am someone who has always been able to handle any crisis that came my way. …

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