I’m sitting in a “waiting room.”
It’s a hallway.
On the fifth floor of the government hospital.
There is a system – although, if you’re from the west you’d be hard pressed to identify it right away. There are closed doors, and stools outside the doors.
You put your prescription on the stool, and wait to be called.
Patients show up hours before the employees – to get a good spot in line.
It’s warm in here (it’s cold outside). I was prepared for a day of waiting in the cold. I even put no closed toed shoes and socks instead of my normal flip flops. I’m wearing a sweater, but I wish I’d brought another layer. It was 57 when I left my house this morning. And I know that doesn’t sound cold – but it is when you’re used to 110+. It’s cold when you don’t have windows with weather sealing, or heat or insulation.
So I sit here.
I don’t want to be here.
I’ve accompanied the husband of one of the Sari Bari women to get an HIV test.
I have made him a villain in my mind.
And I don’t want to be here for a thousand reasons.
I don’t want to be here cause it feels overwhelming to me.
And I don’t understand the system.
I don’t want to be here – cause I don’t know what this day will hold – but I assume it will hold a lot of waiting.
I don’t want to be here – cause I would rather be somewhere else.
I don’t want to be here – with him – cause I don’t like him.
(never mind that I’ve never had a conversation with him).
I don’t like him cause I hear the stories my friend tells me about their relationship.
I don’t like him cause I see the marks left behind after they fight.
I don’t like him cause I hear about how explosive and manipulative their relationship can be.
I don’t want to spend the day with him.
I don’t want to be here – cause what if he’s positive too? Then what?! How in the world will we provide care and support for him too?
But this whole day is actually way better than I thought it was going to be.
I got to the hospital and we had a cup of tea
We began to talk
How he was
About his trip to the hospital
About the weather and how cold it was.
We talk about how coming to get this test is stressful for him. (a stress that i cannot even begin to imagine)
We sit and wait and chat (cause of course they aren’t there to start the testing when they’re supposed to be).
And as we chat – moments come up.
He tells me something about Sheila’s wedding – Sheila has been gone for years – but he knows this detail.
And my impression of their relationship – and his love for her slowly becomes slightly more well rounded and true.
He tells me about another incident – which he would only know from her.
And the relationship is slowly reframed in my mind.
He tells me moments from their 22 years together.
My heart and mind shift just a little more.
And slowly – I am able to see this time as a gift.
I realize that he is not the monster I made him in my head.
I am able to acknowledge his humanity.
I am able to see him for who is – rather than the caricature that I made him into.
He is not a villain. He is not the villain I made him.
He loves his wife. Perhaps imperfectly (but in the end, don’t we all love imperfectly?!)
I shouldn’t be surprised by this anymore.
This isn’t the first time this has happened to me.
It isn’t the second time, or third time either.
Every time I do something within this medical system that is new, and I don’t understand it – I dread it – and it turns out to be okay.
Every time I’m going to be sitting somewhere waiting for hours with someone – I dread it – and it always turns out to be sweet sweet time of conversation.
Every time I have painted someone as the bad guy – and then I actually get to talk to them and understand them a bit – I am surprised by how imperfect my perceptions were.
You’d think I would have learned by now.
But I haven’t.
So today was a gentle reminder of the humanity all around – even in people that I want to vilify.