Waiting

Ben alternated between tapping his fingers against his jeans and picking at the seam on his leg. He bit his lower lip as he checked his watch, hoping it would provide some sort of hint as to when this would be over. Nothing. No sign at all. Just the little hand mocking him as it tick, tick, ticked by.

“Nervous?” Her voice rung out like a bell in the fog. Ben snapped his head up, his eyes wide as he looked toward her. Her face was soft, and she smiled slightly at him. Ben fidgeted in his seat a little before answering.

“I guess,” he managed, finally. “I just wish it were over. I wish I knew one way or the other.” He glanced at her fleetingly, letting his eyes dance across the room between glances. He wasn’t sure how much he wanted to share with her. He managed a glimpse of a smile in her direction.

“Well, don’t worry too much,” she said. “You’ll drive yourself insane. It is what it is, right?”

Ben breathed out through a quick smile and nodded. He swallowed hard. “I think I need a drink.”

Ben stood, patted his pockets absent-mindedly before stalking towards the door. He passed through the door and down the hall, looking around hoping to find a vending machine or something. He followed the hallway around to the right, and as he turned the corner, he ran straight into him. There was a slight shriek that surprised Ben more because he didn’t know he could make such a sound. He looked at the man closely as he felt his hands on his shoulders.

“You okay, man?” The man asked Ben. Ben nodded quickly, blushing. The man looked directly into Ben’s eyes. “I’m serious, are you okay?”

Ben nodded again and glanced down at the man’s hand on his right shoulder which only made the man pull his hands away.

“Sorry,” the man said, “I just wanted to make sure I hadn’t hit you too hard.”

Ben shook his head quickly. He looked at the man’s eyes and couldn’t remember the last time he’d seen such clear, blue eyes. They were like ice. Ben felt a little buzz in his stomach.

“I, uh,” Ben managed before choking on a little saliva that had somehow built up in his mouth. After a second and a couple of coughs, Ben managed to utter, “I’m fine.”

The man smiled confidently. “Good. I did not have ‘run some cute guy over’ on my bingo card today.” Ben’s eyes widened and he stared directly at the man.

The man faltered for a second. “I’m sorry, was that forward? I didn’t mean anything by it other than you are cute.”

Ben swallowed hard again and pushed around the man. He started walking quickly down the hall only glancing back once to see the man staring after him. The man gave a small wave and turned and kept walking in the opposite direction.

Ben found a bathroom and quickly pushed the door open. He rushed in and made sure the door closed behind him. He went over to the mirror, put both hands on the sink, and breathed out in a heavy puff.

“What was that?” Ben asked no one in particular. More importantly, why was he aroused by the man? He’d never felt attracted to men before, but something about this guy sent a little wave through him. Did the man actually just call him cute? Ben was now acutely aware of his mouth which now felt like he’d spent the last few hours chewing on tar.

He twisted the faucet handle and let the water flow a few minutes before cupping some water in his hands and lifting it towards his mouth to drink. He took a couple of gulping handfuls of water before wiping his mouth on the back of his sleeve.

He returned to staring at himself in the mirror. He kept looking back and forth between each eye as if searching for something that hadn’t revealed itself yet. Then the reason he was here at all came flooding back to him. He frowned, sighed, and stood up trying to straighten his shirt a little. He brushed at invisible fuzz on his shirt before turning to leave the bathroom.

Ben made his way back into the waiting room and sat down in a chair as far away from anyone else in the room as he could get. He surveyed the room to see who was there, and noticed he was a little sad that the man wasn’t there.

Ben scoffed. “Of course he’s not here. Why would he be?” Ben thought to himself. “With eyes like that, why would he possibly be in a place like this?” He realized how stupid that was. Eyes were never a determining factor in whether someone would be in a building.

It then occurred to Ben that he was in the building, so he must have some need to be there. Ben ran a hand through his hair as he exhaled loudly. “What was taking them so long?” he wondered to himself. He glanced at his watch.

A voice called out suddenly, startling Ben, “Ben Carlton?”

Ben looked towards the voice and locked eyes with a middle-aged woman with bright red hair and perhaps the worst shade of orange lipstick he’d ever seen. She smacked her gum as she made eye contact with him.

Ben stood and started walking towards her. He shoved his hands deep in his pockets and watched the floor as he made his way to her. She led him back through a door, down a long hallway, and into one of several rooms that housed an office.

This one was fairly ornate with a dark cherry desk, some sort of orchid plant on the top of it, and stacks of paper at various locations as well. There was a computer display faced away from him, and he found himself studying it as he sat in the chair.

“He’ll be with you in a moment, Ben,” the woman said, flashing Ben a quick smile. She snapped her gum loudly once before turning and walking out the door. Ben breathed out, turned back around and waited.

It had only been about three minutes before the door opened, and someone walked in. Ben didn’t turn around, but he heard the man say, “Oh, it’s you!”

Ben stiffened. The man made his way around to the other side of the desk and sat down. His smile was stunning to Ben, and Ben found himself staring longer than he thought he probably should. Finally, Ben smiled back.

“Hello,” he said finally to the man. He tried not to stare but found he had a hard time looking away. The man looked down at the file on his desk, reached down and flipped it open.

“So, Ben Carlton,” the man said, looking back up at Ben. “I’m Dr. Stephens, and I’m actually stepping in for Dr. Broward who is out on paternity leave. And, uh, I’m sorry for earlier. Had I known you were a patient…”

“Oh, I see,” Ben said. “That’s cool.” That’s cool? Seriously, Ben? “I mean, it’s fine.”

Dr. Stephens nodded, grinning. “Yes, well, glad you’re okay. I think it’s also cool that I get to step in and take care of some of Dr. Broward’s patients while he’s away. Now, let’s see here, it looks like we got the lab results back.”

Dr. Stephens frowned a little. He glanced up at Ben and then back down at the report. “I see.”

“Well, Ben,” Dr. Stephens said after a bit. “It looks like you’re all clear. There’s no cause for concern.”

Ben’s eyes welled up with tears. He swallowed but suddenly his mouth was completely dry. The feeling in the pit of his stomach was as if he were on a roller coaster that had just come to a stop. After a moment, he managed a simple question, “You’re sure? No cancer?”

Dr. Stephens smiled and shook his head. “None whatsoever.”