An Inexperienced Encounter with Death
AS I sat timorously, legs crossed in the waiting room, my worried eyes were drawn to the clock. How much time did I have left? Should I be out there enjoying my last days on earth? I gulped and took a lengthy, nervous breath, adjusting my burgundy tie that was worn loosely around my neck. I sat up in the cushioned yet uncomfortable chair, and scoured the room for other people like me: victims to the unfortunate fate that is demise. One man, a chubby gentleman across the room, seemed to have plunged face-first into a chasm filled with venomous snakes. His face bulged a red-pink colour and oozed a slimy liquid. My focus then switched briskly to the face of a woman with a pale complexion and sickly visage. She was staring straight ahead at the olive-coloured walls, her eyes unblinking. The globular man struggled to get up as his name was called. He waddled, slowly towards the Doctor’s office before squeezing in the doorway. I imagined the Doctor’s shocked look. After all these years of doctoring surely he had never seen such a plump man, or such a glowing face.
To distract myself from the eerie reminder that this was a place of illness and death, I looked upon the glass coffee table in front of me. Resting precariously on the edge was a colourful magazine, the only somewhat chromatic thing in the entire room (that, and my burgundy tie, of course.) I reached over and took the magazine, placing it on my lap to first receive my pen before continuing. I stuck my fingers into my breast pocket, plucking out my blue pen and I opened the magazine, skipping the initial swimsuit section. Perhaps glancing at only the beautiful floral patterns as I went, as I am a married man. Flicking to the crossword puzzle at the back, hesitant not to graze my bandaged finger, I readied my biro.
‘Four letters, a group of otters.’ I knew this, as I had an undying love for the little river creatures. ‘R – O – M – P.’ Quite a weird word, that! I wrote the letters into the boxes, careful not to write outside of the lines. ‘Six letters, astrological sign of one born on June the first.’ I looked up from the magazine, eyes widened by what I just read. This was an omen, wasn’t it? An indication that I would die of Cancer. That, or I will be mutilated by a giant crab. Unanticipatedly, an ancient face peered over from my right. Was this Death himself ? Coming to take me to the afterlife? I closed my eyes, bracing for the worst.
“It’s Gemini,” the elderly gentleman stated softly in my ear.
I turned to face him, my eyes still enlarged by my previous thoughts. Nodding awkwardly, I jotted down the correct answer into the crossword. I’m overthinking things. That’s all. Of course, it’s Gemini. I was just being silly. At this point, I thought it would be a good idea to put down the magazine and relax, and that I did. My pen was returned safely into my pocket and my head tilted back, resting off of the waiting room wall. In that moment, I felt at peace. I was ready for the worst.
I must have dozed off as I awoke to the sound of my name being called out by the receptionist. I rose off the hard seat and retrieved my coat jacket from the back of the chair. I walked slowly -in time with my anxious breathing- towards the door to the doctor’s office. Turning the cold, brass knob, I entered. I had never thought about death, until then. It had always seemed like a distant thing. I imagined only experiencing it once I had reached my elderly years. I could see me, bedridden, surrounded by my immediate family. I didn’t expect ‘Sir Snake Bites’ and ‘Mrs Malnourishment’ to be my last human contact. That is, of course, before I meet the doctor.
“Good afternoon, Mister- “The doctor briefly checked his clipboard, held loosely within his grasp. “-Edwards,” I smiled, and walked towards the doctor, who was gesturing in the direction an empty seat. “Sit down, please.”
It must be terrible news.
“So, what is it, doc?” I asked, with a quivering voice. “Well,” he exhaled, “You’ll need maybe, say, five stitches.”
I laughed in relief. A great weight, in that moment, disappeared from my shoulders. “You know,” the doctor chuckled, “what did you expect from a small cut like that? Death?”
Teacher Kara Cahill’s LC1 class with Billy Roche (from left), back– Kiera Bates Crosbie, Caoimhe McGuire, Aisling Ryan, Conor Kehoe, Leon Cleary, Eoin Wright, Erik Molyneux, Kevin Breen, Cormac Doyle, Megan Doyle, Jamie Walsh and Conor Smyth; seated – Fionnuala Greene (principal), Suzanna Neumann (joint 1st), Billy Roche, teacher Kara Cahill, Shane Waters (joint runner-up) and Anna Richardson.