AND ON THE SAME DAY!
They sat on the bench at the bus stop under a cloudless azure sky, each staring straight ahead at the small, neat little building across the road which looked like a Methodist church that had been converted to some other purpose, possibly a private home. The bulletin board in the front announcing the topic of the next sermon was blank, and looked as if it had been that way for a long time, surrounded as it was with Queen Anne’s lace and tall grass. Apart from the church-house, there was nothing to distinguish this particular stretch of country road. No ambient sounds. As if a stern librarian had put her finger to her lips and whispered, “Quiet!”
“I hope it comes soon. I get kind of antsy just waiting,” she said, stealing a quick glance at her fellow traveler and looking back across the street.
He glanced at her. She was a familiar looking blonde with beautiful waves of cascading hair nearly overpowering her delicate, petite frame. He tried to peg her. “I’ve seen you before, but I just can’t seem to figure out. . . .” he trailed off.
Now she searched her memory. A shy, childlike quality came through his voice, with just the slightest rasp. Warm. Endearing.
“I, I used to be an actress.” She hesitated. “Maybe you’ve seen me?”
“Oh! So you’re . . .”
“And you’re . . .”
Now they frankly stared at each other. The recognition pulled them up short.
“So we’re. . .” he fumbled for the right words. “So we’re home, now”.
“I was sick, so sick. So tired. The paramedics came”.
“Yes. My doctor was there. And then – I was looking down. Seeing myself. Too tired to come back”.
“Exactly”. Her voice trembled. She shuddered.
“It’s a hospital”, she whispered. “It’s going to be okay, now. I feel it”.
“Wanna know a secret? I hated it! Hated all of it. Didn’t know how to stop. Couldn’t stop. Didn’t know what I would do if I stopped.” He willed her to look into his eyes.
She looked. Beyond the ashen skin, the painfully thin nose, the drawn look of his entire being. She looked into his dark eyes. Now there was a recognition that transcended the image she had seen again and again in the tabloids, in the videos, on the news. Something sweetly conspiratorial passed between them.
“And on the same day!” She laughed in spite of herself, and he understood.
“They must be having a field day down there!”
Now they both laughed, deep belly laughs until, uncontrollably, tears sprang to their eyes. They hugged carefully. Hesitant..
Now, a solitary man dressed in white scrubs and immaculate white sneakers emerged from the church house across the street. As he approached the bus stop, he smiled, as if sharing their private joke.
He stopped in front of them, holding out his hands and helped them to their feet.
“The Doctor will see you now”.