The Sorority of Strangers

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Something has suddenly gone very wrong in your life. You fear it might be your fault and you hope. You hope: Just let things go back to the way they were. If not forever, then just for a little while longer.

She was only 8 or 9 when I met her. I never learned her name.

She was sitting alone in the hospital waiting room when I walked in. She looked up at me with very sad eyes and I knew things were not going well for her. I smiled and said hello and sat across from her.

The television was on, as televisions are on in every waiting room. I was not interested in the talk show, so I picked up a 3-month old magazine and began flipping through it.

I had come to the hospital with my friends Rick and Phyllis. Rick’s sister had just given birth to a baby boy and we stopped by for a short visit. As there was a limit of two visitors at a time, Phyllis and I went in first. Then, I excused myself so that Rick could spend some time with his sister and new nephew. I told them to take their time and that I’d be in the waiting room.

That is how I came to find the sad girl.

She walked over to the water cooler for a drink and, as I read the magazine, sat down next to me.

“Who are you waiting for?” I asked her.

“My Mom. She’s visiting my grandma and I’m not allowed in.”

“That doesn’t seem fair, does it? I’m sure your grandmother would love it if you visited,” I said.

She looked down at her lap. “My grandma’s very sick.”

“Oh, that’s so scary,” I said.

She pulled on the hem of her T-shirt.  “I know,” she said softly, “and my mom’s really sad. I heard her crying last night.”

I couldn’t tell her something inane like I was sure her grandmother would be all right because I didn’t know that at all. I did understand the girl’s fear, though, because I recognized it from my own childhood. Something has suddenly gone very wrong in your life. You fear it might be your fault and you hope, you hope: Just let things go back to the way they were. If not forever, then just for a little while longer.

Visiting hours ended and soon Rick and Phyllis came by to collect me. I looked at Phyllis and nodded slightly towards the girl.

“Would you mind waiting here a little while longer?” I asked her. “We’re waiting for her mom to come back.” Phyllis looked at the girl and understood. She sat down, giving Rick her I’ll-explain-when-we-get-to-the-car look.

When the girl’s mother arrived, she scanned the room for her daughter. “Ready, honey?” she asked.

“Uh-huh,” the girl said, giving me a shy, sideways look, which caused her mother to look at me for the first time. I read the exhaustion in her face.

“We were just keeping her company until you came back,” I explained.

“Thank you,” she whispered.

I never saw them again. The girl would be a gown woman now, maybe 45 years old. I think of her occasionally and wonder if when she sees fear and sadness on a young girl’s face, does she recognize the look? Does she understand?

I like to think that she does.

15 thoughts on “The Sorority of Strangers

  1. oh the tears that are streaming down my face right now. this has been a tough month for me b/c tomorrow marks one year since I watched as my grandmother took her last breath… this beautiful post really hits home for me. i’m so very glad for that young girl that you were there that day.

    Like

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