The Waiting Room

Arthur Grey stared at the bland, white walls on the other side of the room with weary, soulless muddy brown eyes, long-since having lost their youthful spark. Curls of deep inky black framed his angular features, frown lines marring the waxen skin around his down-tugged mouth and creases prominent in his sun-deprived face. A book he had gotten for Christmas over a decade ago lay unopened in his lap, on top of his worn, brown jacket that no longer served any purpose in the world he lived in. The book was yet to be read, its pages untouched, clean. Cheap magazines were strewn around on the simple table next to him, and he heaved anther long suffering sigh. The chair next to him was empty, as it always was on sunny afternoons, and it only served to remind him of what was missing.

Johanna – just thinking about her made him feel that odd, weightless feeling of open voids consuming his mind, chasing away his thoughts like snow in the blazing, scorching, desert sun. Deserts were so empty, so lonely, just like him. People who went there didn’t come back. Just like Johanna.

The room was far from empty. It never was, Sunday or not. The raven was certain he had lived this day before. Sitting in the waiting room and awaiting an appointment that the psychiatrist may or may not have forgotten. Or perhaps he had been the one to forget his real time. It mattered little. Nothing ever did, when getting right down to the point.

The door was opened and a young woman stepped inside. Platinum tresses spilled down her back in luscious curls – obviously fake, Arthur noted, why bother? - and she donned an expensive red dress that might’ve been fashionable in the early 30s. She managed to make it look good, however, just like Johanna - shallow. How incredibly shallow. In the end, how many hours were wasted when applying cosmetics, reapplying it when not perfect, finding the right clothes to wear that day, attempting to impress other, judging eyes? Hours and hours wasted, when it could be spent on something productive.

But what was productive, really? Was it achievements, prizes won, and fame? Was it something you did, something one created? Was it teaching others, learning and absorbing information like starving, dehydrated sponges?
’For the Greater Good,’ someone had once said. But what if there was no greater good? Greater Good was only a human opinion, and as it was, humans were not high on Arthur’s list. There was no such thing as Greater Good, he decided with a forlorn tug on his thin, chapped lips.

The door was opened and an elder man with greying hair stepped out. The tip of his nose was red, and so were his ears, and it was painfully obvious agianst his ashen hair. Watery, bloodshot eyes swept across the room and the man licked his lips in a nervous habit, some sort of spasm making him sneer for a brief moment as his right cheek made some odd, contracting movement. His clothes were worn and fraying, and after an air of beer tickled his senses, Arthur detachedly decided that the man dragging his way out of the room with dead eyes had alcohol issues.
Perhaps the love of his life had gone and left him, then a child died in an accident and his mother drowned herself in the sea to join her many shed tears? Yes, and then on old friend had tricked him into trying smoking, resulting in some shady substances inhaled. Realisation of the deceit must’ve been hard on him, and when finally managing to stop his unhealthy addiction, clouds of swirling, dark depression had consumed him and worn him down. However, he must’ve promised never to touch his drugs again, and so turned to alcohol. Yes, Arthur idly concluded that his guess was an accurate one. It wouldn’t be outside the vast realms and wide spectrums of possibility.  It was a rather average story for this place, after all.

Silence hung thick in the air after the door was slammed shut, the blonde stiffly sitting in the chair at the other end of the room. She was barely breathing, silver-moon eyes blankly staring ahead with an unseeing expression. Her dainty hands were clasped in her lap, and Arthur absentmindedly assumed she must’ve smothered her skirt when sitting down. A nimble sweep of her docile, well-manicured hand, most likely. Her skirts were too perfect to have sat down like that.
Arthur turned his uncaring gaze away from the statue-like beauty, resting his blank, muddy pools on the last person in the waiting room. It was a young girl, perhaps twenty, with curtains of copper-tan hair framing her softer face. The headphones blasting music into her ears were black, just like the punk clothing she wore, and ridiculously large with spikes on them. Arthur Grey had seen her before. Odd girl. The type to die young. Like Johanna.
Her combat boots had mismatched laces, and her leather jacket had seen better days. She snapped her morose, dark eyes to his when feeling the chills of observation on her, and shot him a warm, charming smile that could’ve fooled him at some point of his wasted life. Then she returned back to her animated book. Mango, mange, manga - something like that. It didn’t matter, it would be forgotten soon enough. Just like everything else.
Her mouthed the words of her song, ’Such a beautiful lie to believe’ were accompanied by flicking her page, and Arthur heaved another deep, lead-like sigh that seemed to weigh down on the air like a thunderstorm approaching. She always mouthed those ridiculously dramatic, cynical and depressing lyrics for the world to see, as if honestly hoping someone would notice what she really felt.
It was likely it never would happen. Then... then she would probably feel like she was abandoned, despairing and realising nobody cared enough to look that deeply into her persona. He could already imagine the questions running around in that gloomy little mind of hers. Why has nobody cared? Where did I go wrong? Why am I not good enough? Yes, the type to die young indeed. The suicidal type.

Minutes trickled by like a leaking faucet. The stoic blonde sashayed into the psychiatrist’s office at some point, and the girl to his colleague. Arthur shrugged, he must’ve mistaken his appointment time again, but that didn’t matter. In the long run, one person never made any difference. In the end, nothing mattered. Humans had just existed on the earth for a few seconds, already destroying it. Earth had only existed a short time in this universe, doomed and meant to disappear again. Like everything else. All existence was meant to fade away.

A man in an expensive suit and neatly slicked hair had scampered into the room, scowling in agitation as he chided and growled words thick with exasperation to the person at the other end of the line. The call ended and the man sat down directly in front of him, not even bothering to looking around and greet any other person that might be perched on one of the chairs. His inky eyes shone with livid anger, his shoulders tense and posture screaming with telltale discomfort. Arthur didn’t have any trouble imagining what he was doing here. Depressed business man, not realising his own faults, with a troublesome wife and a pregnant teenage daughter. Perhaps some mental issue passed down from his late grandma. Finally a friend got him an appointment with the psychologist, who sent him here. Angry that he was no longer in perfect control over everything in his no-longer-perfectly-orderly life, he was now in a bad mood and believed to be excused for it –silly, really; he wasn’t the only person living here, there were many worse cases. And now he had almost run late for his forced appointment, but when arriving he realised that he would have to wait another ten minutes because the psychiatrist was busy with an other case. Classical.
It was deathly silent. The entire time, not a sound apart from breathing was heard. The business man was visibly unnerved and appalled, and it served Arthur detched satisfaction.

The girl stepped out of her room, and the man was called inside. ’The hardest part, is letting go of your dreams’ she mumbled under her breath, an odd tune to her voice as she ranted another song.
The door was closed so softly behind her that the sound didn’t even hover in the air.

Arthur shook his tousled onyx tresses, shutting his eyes from the world and frowned. Why did this all exist? The chances of each particle falling into place in this exact way to create earth, that the mutations miraculously ended up creating the humans, who someonehow managed to create him. What had the chances been of that? Had his great, great, great, great grandfather married someone else, he woulnd’t have existed. Someone else would’ve. Many others would’ve. Did that mean he killed them, all those unborn children? Did it mean the world everyone knew was filled with murderes?
The door was opened again, and Arthur peered up at the newcomer to once again sit back and observe human nature. Human nature. What was that, really? What was nature, what was a human? What proof was theer that it really existed? For all he knew, he was just caught in his own dream. He dreamt of Johanna a lot. So, in the end, who was he? Was he Arthur Grey, dreaming he was Johanna Grey? Or was he Johanna Grey, dreaming she was Arthur Grey? Did they even exist? Did anyting exist in the world?

”Sitting here and judging again, Grey?” The recently entered man said with shimmering eyes. He was clad in cleaner’s scrubs, and Arthur was not fond of him. Then again, the raven was not fond of anyone, sparing Johanna. But Johanna was gone.
”I’m merely watching, Jackson, paying attention to my surroundings. Studying.” Arthur threw back with a grumpy sneer, leaving the obvious idiot unsaid. Roy Jackson was a frivolous, silly fool with no sense of realism. Arthur scowled and almost vocalised his agreement with himself as the thought rang.
”Didn’t seem like it to me.” Roy murmured with a heated glare lacking any remote wisdom. Wisdom that Arthur had decided he’d aquired after Johanna. ”To me, you looked like you were wallowing in that depression of yours again.”
”It’s not depression,” muttered Arthur with dead eyes. ”It’s wisdom.”
With a miffed sigh, Roy turned on his heel and marched out again, brusquely slamming the door shut behidn him. Arthur was tempted to holler and remind the young man that he had been hired to clean, and not stomp of as soon as somebody didn’t instantly agree with his naive ideas.

Minutes continued trickling, like dry sand in and hourglass. He didn’t know how long he had sat there. Perhaps three days, perhaps this was his first. It didn’t matter. Nothing ever did. It was a too common occurance for it to have any significance. Not that there was such a thing as significance in a world meant to fade.
Then the door was opened again.

by Aime Kleijsen-Laas 

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