For the third week in a row, my Sunday Scribblings is a look at the world in the eyes of my fictional character, whose husband Bob has just been taken in for bypass surgery.
I went to the patient lounge seeking solace. But even the lounge was cold--both in terms of the air temperature and the general feel of the place. The couches and chairs were upholstered in the thick plaster of diner seats. Probably easier to keep clean, but certainly not cozy. One wall had large windows, but they overlooked a parking lot, and a large building sat about 20 feet away, blocking any farther off view.
I sank into the plastic couch and put my head back. I planned to just rest my eyes, but I must've fallen asleep. I woke to the sound of hushed voices, voices that, I assumed, were trying not to wake me.
A man with a slight accent--Indian? Middle Eastern?--said something about this being the best space to talk in, despite the lack of privacy. A pipe had frozen overnight and flooded his administrative office.
The other voice, a woman's said, "Fine, fine." She sounded annoyed. Like Bob sounded with me a lot.
"I just wanted to apologize again. I can explain to you exactly how the mistake happened if you like." His voice sounded a bit warmer than it had when he was talking about his office flooding.
I heard one of the people shift in their seats, and imagined the woman shifting in reaction to the doctor's apology.
The doctor continued talking, faster now, obviously nervous. "Now none of these are excuses, I know that. There are a number of things I did wrong in the situation. But anyway, it was the end of a 14 hour shift. My twin babies had cried throughout all of the night before, and even though my wife does night duty on the days before my hospital shifts, it's amazing the wails these little bodies can expel. They wake me sometimes even when she's brought them downstairs to protect my sleep. Anyway, I was tired. And the nursing staff who was supposed to assist me got held up in another operation. So the people in the OR weren't familiar with your case.
Again, I'm sorry. None of this excuses what happened. But I hope you can understand. It wasn't just blatant uncaring, or recklessness. It was a series of mistakes, but the responsibility for the end result resides with me. And I am sorry." On these last words, his voice sounded so soft, like he was talking to one of his babies, not an adult.
Of course I was dying to know what this doctor had done. I opened my eyes a little in hopes of getting a glimpse of the patient. Maybe she would be misshapen in some obvious way. But I barely saw her. My eyes stopped on the face of the doctor, a slight man with dark hair and dark--almost black--eyes. It wasn't his looks that were so striking. It was his look. His face looked the same way I knew mine did when I talked to Bob. When I pleaded with him to forgive me, to try to understand that my hitting the dog was an accident, that he was in my blind spot, and that I felt terrible. He had the look of true remorse on his face.
The woman--a chubby , 40-something year old with black, curly hair-- unfolded her arms and sighed. She, too, seemed caught by his gaze. "It's...Well, it's not OK. What happened is not OK. But, I forgive you." She smiled at him. "These things happen."
The man sighed, and then took her hands in his. "Thank you. Thank you." The words seemed to flow out of his mouth on his breath. "I haven't slept since... Haven't eaten. You don't know how much this means to me."
But I did. I knew just how much being forgiving meant. And then it hit me--Bob would never forgive me. It'd been months now. And it wasn't that what I'd done was so unforgivable--"these things happen" after all. It was that he didn't want to forgive me. And that--that--is unforgivable.