Jeff Tracy: One hour

It’s a bland room, with walls in an indefinable hue of palest mauve, or perhaps it’s taupe. I was never very good at colours. Either way it fades into the distance, one of those shades that seems to draw back the more you stare at it. They probably paid some psychologist to tell them what colour to use, something restful they would have said; we want something calming and soothing. And this is the result. No doubt it has some fancy name like Violet Shimmer or Peach Blossom. Whatever. It’s paint. Not the colour I would choose though.

I like pink myself. Not sharp acidic pink no, soft baby pink. Pink Sorbet That’s my preferred shade. A delicate colour that fills a room with warmth and welcomes you. I have a pink room in my house. I go in there and look around and it fills me with joy.

This room isn’t welcoming. It’s a room with one purpose. That’s why the walls are this colour.

I’ve been staring at the walls for a long while now. There isn’t much else to do apart from wait. There’s a pile of magazines on the table, tatty and out of date. The sort of things that you buy occasionally and flick through because the picture on the front looks interesting. It hangs around for a few weeks cluttering up the lounge until you stick it in your bag and drop it into the ‘used magazine’ collection when you next visit the doctors or dentists or whatever.

They are lying there, dog-eared and dilapidated, their pages thick around the edges where countless hands have thumbed through them. I haven’t read any. Haven’t even picked one up. I don’t want to read about redesigning your kitchen, or how to make your own Christmas decorations. Last year’s car magazine is looking rather tattered as if it has been rifled through by men desperate for something to distract them, to help the time pass. But it doesn’t interest me. I stand up and pace again.

Waiting is hard.

They sent me in here when things started to get difficult and they wanted me out of the way. I feel useless, redundant, a spare part put aside and forgotten. Perhaps they have forgotten me. Six paces across the room and six back. It would be more but for the dilapidated sofa that takes up so much room.

What person actually thought of putting a sofa in here? I don’t want to slouch on grubby cushions, I want to sit on a plastic chair with hard edges digging into my thighs, keeping me alert. My worst fear is that I will fall asleep and not hear them. And every time there are footsteps outside, or a silhouette darkens the frosted glass panel in the door, my heart clenches as if a fist has tightened around it. There is a pause, a peculiar sensation of emptiness in my breast then … the double thump as it realises that it needs to keep working, to keep beating.

Six paces again. I seem to have been here for hours, but the clock on the mauve/taupe/pale violet wall tells me that its less than forty minutes. It just feels like an eternity. The window looks out onto the main carpark . A depressing sight at the best of times, but standing here now, watching ambulances come in, their lights flashing, I wonder what kind of person designed this room with its bland paint, its dismal view, its grungy furniture.

Certainly not someone who has ever needed to wait in here.

I fold my arms to try to stop the trembling, and watch as the cars queue up to fight for spaces, as drivers fumble for change for the parking meters, as people walk towards the entrance with hesitant and reluctant steps.

Time passes, but for once I don’t notice as my envious eyes follow a couple walking across the tarmac, heading away from this place, one of his arms around her, the other carrying a precious burden. I smile to myself at the joy that suffuses them and that is an almost visible aura as they walk slowly to the car that is waiting to take them away from here.

There is a noise behind me and startled, I turn aware that I have been daydreaming, that time has passed, that the pallid walls have retreat into the distance.

She smiles at me and beckons me to follow her, and my heart now pounding and my footsteps loud on the hard floor, I obey her, my hands sweating, my mouth dry.

‘Congratulations, Mr Tracy,’ she says as we walk (though my body screams at me to rush/run/race) to the room at the end of the corridor, ‘a beautiful baby boy. Mother and baby both well. It was a bit hairy at one point but they are fine.’ She smiles at me again; the smile of a woman who has seen this so many times before, but who knows just how unique this moment is for everyone involved.

I have nothing to say really. A beautiful baby boy. Damn. I so liked pink as well.

LtCdr. April 2011