television

Feb 04 2015

Sometimes two people being seated behind the window, but usually only one. The second being perhaps superfluous to the task. And every now and then, maybe several times a day or maybe once a week, regardless of the number of those waiting, someone or something talking to the person behind the window (maybe sharing a little chuckle), and then opening the door beside the window and emerging from it into the waiting room. And calling one of our winning Lottery numbers. The waiting one who was called to being always a human, but the caller not always being recognisably human. Most of the time the caller being a robot, or maybe just a person in a robot costume. Very rarely, the caller being a very handsome man or very beautiful woman, but more often than that being an ordinary or even an ugly looking man or woman, either young or old; on other, even stranger occasions, being (for example) a North American black bear, or a hall stand, or a towering golden ionic column (or person dressed in such a costume as to appear to be these things). But regardless, the one who was called never hesitating to rise and meet their caller.

For some time I wondered what kind of someone or something would call my number, and I drifted through a sort of semi-consciousness of speculation on the possibilities, in which I did not notice the other people in the room. And while I waited their numbers were called, and they sprung from their seats and followed their caller through the door next to the window, so that their faces seemed to pass and pass before me again in a sort of blur of changing faces. I drifted further and further, for a great while, and slept, and when I awoke I barely moved, and I slept again and awoke again in this way, and relaxation ran through me like an enchantment. But then it seemed that there was another woman who was waiting as long as I was, and I think we noticed each other at about the same time. Or else, it is possible that she noticed me before I noticed her, and she was just waiting for me to notice her so that she might approach me and strike up a conversation. I waved to her and she sat down next to me. “Do you mind if I wait with you?” she asked. “It might help pass the time to have some company.”

“I don’t mind at all,” I said, “Bring your luggage.” She wriggled around getting as comfortable as it is possible to get in those sorts of plastic waiting room chairs and introduced herself as Jane. “That’s strange,” I said, “I’m Jane too.” She didn’t believe me at first but we showed each other our driving licenses. In our photographs we looked similar, and I realised that there was a resemblance between us. “We look a little alike,” she remarked, and I said, “Yeah, like we could be long-lost sisters or something.” We both laughed, and after that we sort of became friends. It was more convenient that way, because it just felt easier to have someone watch your stuff while you went to shower or shit in the bathrooms rather than taking it all with you and trying to keep it out of the wet.

The waiting room being very pleasant really, all white, and kept clean, with cheap blue industrial carpet that rubbish being not allowed to rest on. On the wall, one of those calendars with the plastic flags that flip down to reveal the new date, and next to it a clock, to watch the hands sliding around as the time goes by. All to keep track of the wait I suppose, but somehow soothing in a way that those devices and those processes usually are not. With tall leafy green house plants possibly made of plastic, and some televisions hanging from the ceilings here and there gently humming the national free broadcasts. Recent news and gossip publications strewn on little tables. And some generic pictures on the walls, some better than others, with some really very interesting to look at again and again. All pretty quiet, with that polite hush that most people observe in waiting places, and basically everything being what you might expect. And at regular intervals a trolley coming past, pushed by a friendly robot (or robot-suited human), offering some good things to eat and drink.

But one of the best things about the waiting room being the water coolers, with those very small white paper cups that make you drink and refill and drink again, for the coffee too, but with the water in them so much more pure, because you can pour the water for yourself without having to be served and you can use the cup again and again without it ever getting stained until it finally gets too crumpled or falls apart. Jane and I of course discussing at length these cups and the water as a ritual of love. “There is something holy about it,” she said, “I think, something holy, what does it take to be holy?” I said, “Maybe it’s the paper of the cups, it’s like a communion wafer, but you don’t eat it,” and she said “And the water passes across it like as though it has something to do with it, but it isn’t blood,” and I said “Like it’s divine perspiration, and we are licking the beads of perspiration, but none of this is harming the divine body,” (and by this point we were both stifling grim laughter), and she said “And then the cups are recycled, and they pass through the recycling again, and then they come back to us in the same form as though they were never hurt, so it’s more holy really.” And then we sobered up a bit. “And yes, nothing ever happens,” I said, “But it isn’t actually holy at all,” and she said “No, that’s blasphemous,” and we turned back to the television that we were watching. For some reason television had become more interesting than it had ever been before the waiting room. I had always found it nauseating and painful to watch, like I was embarrassed for the people who made it, because of its quality. But now I began to enjoy the things about it that I had previously found repellent, Jane also enjoying it just as much as me, and us watching it together, and chatting about it.

And one day, a team of the robot people emerged from the door next to the window, pulling big cushy recliners with them, and dragged them towards us. “For the ladies who wait,” said one of the robots, and they moved some of the regular chairs away, and put the recliners there for us, in front of one of the televisions. The others who were waiting glared, but soon they took their turn to pass through the door, so it didn’t matter. And with the recliners were some packages, with some pajamas and blankets, and we settled into our recliners and were much more comfortable. We could really sleep after that, and never any trouble to ask the robots for fresh pajamas either, and so all very comfortable.

One day Jane asked me what my life had been like before winning the Dream Lottery and coming to the waiting room. I cast my mind back over how it had been. I had not thought of it for some time, I realised. Deep inside my chest, as I breathed in now, there was a little pain. And I could not tell what the pain might be, some little muscle or valve had gotten overworked perhaps, or maybe it was just some tightening of the muscles in my lungs, or for some other meaningless biological reason I should not be breathing in deeply at that particular time. “Oh, I can’t really remember,” I said. “But who were you, what did you do,” she asked, and I said, “I don’t really know what I was, I can’t really think about that now.” She looked at me for a moment. “But what will you do after all of this,” she said, “Sure it’s magic to get your Dream, but maybe not everything will be that different to how it was, and you will need to go back to where you were from,” and I said “Then I don’t know what I’ll do, I guess I’ll have to make it up.” And then she said “Isn’t it funny, I can’t really remember anything from before this either.” But straight away I thought she was lying about that, but immediately I decided to forget about worrying whether or not it was important ever again. Because I realised that it wasn’t important. And anyway, she may not have been lying.

Some games too in the waiting room, like board games for children but without children to play them, because only adults being eligible to win the Lottery. Connect 4 being our favourite, because of being so fast, and then regardless whether you win or lose it being all over afterwards without any consequences, and you wipe it off, clean away, nothing left, and you can start again, as many times as you like, and always it seems that the goal is reaching the point that it is allowed that it be all wiped away again. “What do you think is back there behind the door,” I asked at some time as we wiped it away once again, “How do you think of it, and what do you call it in your head?” She said, “I call it the flight deck,” and I said “Why a flight deck?” and she said “Oh I don’t know, I guess it isn’t important, but it reminds me of waiting for a plane in here, an airline lounge, or even waiting for a rocket, and you can go and have a shower and freshen up before your flight.” And then she said “And what is it for you, behind there, that you won the Lottery for?” And I said, “It’s the operating theaters in there,” and she said “And they’re going to cut you up and put you back together?” and I said “Well, I don’t know about that.” And she said “Well they must be getting something really good ready for each of us behind that door, because it’s taking forever.”

And then I said “But you know Jane, they called my number a long time ago, and I pretended I didn’t hear it, and I missed it. And then they called it again, and I pretended I didn’t hear it again, and I missed it. And after a while they stopped calling it.” And Jane said, “Me too. And what was your caller? A person, or a robot, or something else?” And I said, “I don’t remember.” And Jane said, “I don’t remember mine either.” And we clasped hands and settled down for some television.

One response so far

  1. ionic

    i found this on ebay. it is a vintage enamel brooch made by ACME that measures an inch across including the outstretched arm. the seller claimed it was designed by Dali, or maybe just that it was designed by someone as a tribute to Dali. when i saw it i was reminded of one of the ushers in my story.

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