The Waiting Place

by Leah Mueller

I sat in the lobby,

numb as a frozen vegetable,

     surrounded by piles

    of glossy magazines

meant to distract everybody

    from the task at hand-

“How to Lose Ten Pounds

While Eating More Than Ever”

and “Sixteen Makeup Tricks

   That Will Drive Him Wild in Bed!”

 

A sallow-cheeked teenage girl

   crouched next to me,

       thumbing eagerly

through one of the magazines,

jerking her head and laughing

    while she waited for her name

to be called over the intercom.

      Her darkened eyes

burrowed into the pages

like a furtive cupboard rodent,

     and her chubby fingers

caressed the images

       tenderly, as a lover would.

 

     Finally she tossed

 the magazine haphazardly

onto a table, went outside

    to smoke a cigarette in the cold.

I watched her exhalations closely

      and tried to decide

   where her breath ended

   and the smoke began,

     but then the doctor

called my own name

over the crackling speakers-

 

     so I left her there,

       pacing hard and smoking

while she talked to her boyfriend

    on her cheap cell phone.

I wandered through the open door,

     took my place on the metal table,

      and placed both of my bare feet

     carefully in the stirrups.

 

Staring hard at the ceiling bulb,

I listened to the relentless drone

               of hospital machinery,

    and patiently waited for it to end-

     while remembering his eager,

    slippery hands, and his too-hot breath,

 

escaping from his mouth like a prisoner.

Leah Mueller is an independent writer from Tacoma, Washington. She is the author of one chapbook, “Queen of Dorksville” (Crisis Chronicles Press, 2012), and two full-length books, “Allergic to Everything” (Writing Knights Press, 2015) and “The Underside of the Snake” (Red Ferret Press, 2015). Her work has been published in Blunderbuss, Sadie Girl Press, Origins Journal, Talking Soup, Silver Birch Press, Yellow Chair Review, Cultured Vultures, and many other publications. She is a regular contributor to Quail Bell magazine, and was a featured poet at the 2015 New York Poetry Festival. She was a runner-up in the 2012 Wergle Flomp Humor Poetry contest.