art by jared barbick
Lynne Bronstein is a poet, a journalist, a fiction writer, a songwriter, and a playwright. She has been published in magazines ranging from Chiron Review, Spectrum, and Lummox, to Playgirl and the newsletter of the U.S. Census Bureau. She’s done four books of poetry and her first real crime story was published in 2017 in the anthology LAst Resort. Her adaptation of Shakespeare’s "As You Like It" was performed at two LA libraries. Recently her story “The Magic Candles” was performed on National Public Radio. She’s been nominated twice each for the Pushcart Prize and the Best of the Net awards.
Incident in a Waiting Room
It’s after 2 p.m. in the waiting room of the low-cost counseling center. The young white woman with long red hair seats herself in one of the leather-upholstered chairs. There is nothing to do but wait-and read magazines that are months too old. The young woman sits impassively, isolated by some inner process nobody can see.
There are no others in the room except for me and a middle-aged African-American woman with a kerchief wrapped around her head. I know she is waiting for her appointment, as I am. I don’t know the other woman at all.
Presently the side door opens and two women emerge. One of them is the female counselor with short hair who favors men’s button-down collared shirts. The other is her client, a slight, thin young woman dressed from head to toe in blue denim, sporting a short pompadour hairstyle that makes me think of Morrissey.
They whisper some things regarding their now-finished session and what to do next week et cetera. The young thin woman comes over to the young woman with red hair. They fall into each other’s arms and the thin young woman sobs audibly.
I watch this out of the corner of my left eye. I try not to even turn in their direction but I am aware of their actions. They hold each other close, desperately close, the fingers of one caressing the back of the other. There is a slight wailing sound.
Eventually, they break their hold and I see a faint smile on the face of the crying woman. It’s like the sun trying to break through during a rain shower.
At this point, the woman with the kerchief gets up and grabs a box of tissues from the low table in the center of the room. She goes over to the two women and places the box of tissues near them. It looks like they won’t need them, though. The tears have stopped now. Both women are smiling and whispering. And then they leave together.
I turn to the woman with the kerchief and tell her “I appreciate that you thought to give them the tissues. I wanted to do that but I didn’t want them to know I was watching them.”
“I know,” she replied. “I realized that it was a very emotional moment so I waited until they separated a little and then I only put the box near them without talking to them, without interrupting them.”
“It’s hard to know what to do when someone is crying,” I said. “I want to be concerned, to help, but I don’t want to intrude.”
I added: “And then again I’m a writer so I am always trying to guess what is going on with people. I can’t help it, it’s my imagination.”
Of course the other woman is thrilled to meet a writer and wants to know what I write. I learn her name is Landa. We admit that we had both been eyeing each other in the waiting room for months but never got to talk to each other until now.
Then it is time for her appointment. She has the same counselor as the Morrissey woman. I have to wait another hour for my appointment. I realize I have made a new friend and that is something I can tell my counselor. Maybe the waiting time is not so useless after all.