birds in a barrel's mission is to release creative nonfiction into the wild.

40 Days & 40 Writes is its first project.

Conversations in Waiting

It was 2:15pm, and our appointment was at 2:30pm. Plenty of time to fill out paper work. We handed our clip board back to the non-smiling registration agent (bad sign #1), and then took an elevator down to the waiting area (bad sign #2). We're one level below the street and now we're in an open rotunda with the windows some 30-40 feet above us with minimal light coming in. Seriously, I should be a waiting room designer. You GOTTA think about the people who are sitting there. Don't make them sit underground. That's where you bury people.

We find two uncomfortable seats thinking we'll be called shortly. In our section of this massive waiting room is a family with two little bored-to-death kids, a teenage girl with what seems to be her mother and grandmother, a middle-aged couple and an elderly couple. We've got ethnic diversity, various ages and we all have a look of fear in our eyes. I'm here on this day with my Mom and we are both trying our best to not be terrified. So let's talk. We start with simple conversation that takes us until 3:30pm. Same people are in the waiting room this entire time. So much for making an appointment is what we can overhear.

I get up to find some coffee or a vending machine or anything which takes me out of this room. We've been facing a sign that reads "pediatric unit" with the parents of the 2 kids jumping every time the door opens, and I can't even imagine what they are going through. I get back to the waiting room with what I think is coffee from a vending machine or it could be hot chocolate tea (it's a machine that I think is rarely cleaned), and Mom goes to find the restroom. The teenage girl is called when Mom is away, and who I think is her Grandmother, can't stop shaking. As they pass by, I overhear the "Mom" saying to the Grandmother, "if this relationship doesn’t work out, she might go back to dating guys again”. My Mom comes back and tries to get comfortable in an uncomfortable chair. The light is beginning to dim from the windows. "Do you think I'd like pot?" is what she asks me. It's now 5pm. "Umm, I guess we can try and find out if you want". "Have you ever smoked pot?" Oh my god, please let there be a distraction, please let there be something to get her away from this line of questioning because I'm afraid it's going to lead to her asking me if I've ever had sex and I really, really don't want to get into sex talk with my Mom while sitting in a waiting room in a cancer center. "Yeah Mom. I've smoked pot before. But I realized that I didn't need it to eat, laugh and sleep. I can do that on my own". What I didn't tell her is that, now cocaine, I totally got! "Maybe I can try just a little with you". Jesus, my Mom is going to become a pot head.

She recently went to a UFO convention in the desert, called me up and said that she didn't know there were skunks in the desert. I could hear some muffled voices in the background and then she said to me "ohhhhhh, it's not skunks, they're smoking weed". My elderly mother used the word "weed". I became the parent and told her to NOT smoke weed in the desert with UFO enthusiasts. And it's now 6pm, and we get called in to see the doctor. Not young, not old, but he talks too fast. It's all happening too fast now. We hear the words bleeding and MRI and surgery and then we hear what no-one wants to hear. You have uterine cancer. What the fuck. I don't remember much after that except for going back into that waiting room, leaning up against a wall and dropping to the floor. I had to call my step dad to tell him that Mom was diagnosed with cancer.

The Perfecting Inclination