As I sit in this waiting room, looking at those same two magazine covers, a nurse pops her head out of a door that I hadn’t seen as a door until just before it opened (I would have labeled it “Part Of The Wall,” if unexpectedly asked to do so before this moment, and given no special grace period in which to consider my words more carefully). She looks around at all of us, then makes a second sweep, as if she’d failed to see something she’d been certain of seeing. This second time, her gaze alights on me, and stays there. I try to meet her gaze and stay right up with it, like we’re jogging side-by-side in a city park, around a manmade lake, and I’m starting to fall behind, out of breath, her gaze trotting on ahead of me into the green. But I stick with her long enough for her to break the spell by asking, “You want to come wait in The Waiting Pasture?” This time it’s me that makes a sweep of the other faces in here, to make sure she really is talking to me, but I get so out of breath that I have to hang my head and sigh. She takes that sigh as a sigh of assent, and tells me to collect my belongings. I pick up a metal box of breath mints that says Merry Christmas in Spanish, from some hotel in Havana, that was sitting on the shelf next to me, because I don’t want to go there empty-handed. As I walk toward her, I can tell that I made a good decision, and pat the mints approvingly where they sit nestled tightly in my jeans’ inner pocket, which often teenagers and others refer to as The Drug Pocket. She leads me down a hallway lined with fishtanks, and asks if I’m taking any prescription medications or major risks, and then asks if I have any questions for her. “Sure,” I begin, “What’s The Waiting Pasture?” But she’s gone, along with the hallway and the fish, and now I’m in a Pasture. The air is extremely clean and good smelling, like the way someone who’d grown up in a closet on a space station might imagine the air in Switzerland in the nineteenth century to have smelled in high summer. There is a long, long extension cord snaking through the grass, and I almost trip over it, and then I follow it, and find that it’s plugged into a soda machine in the distance that says Fresca and is full of Fresca and Snapple. I drink one and sit in the grass by myself, untying my shoes and pulling the tongues way out, so they can graze and leave my socks momentarily in peace. I look out at the lush expanse all around and think, “Between Kurosawa videos, the caretaker apparently has his hands full managing this place.” I yawn, and in the distance hear a nurse yell, “Marty Coswald!” And a shiver passes through me, a shiver of relief that that isn’t me, that my name is something else. I’m not being called away from here just yet, and swallows and larks are passing overhead, neither here nor there, heavily involved in their own separate business that intersects mine at a point directly above my bald spot, if I had one, and is now finished. I recline and think, “If I’m still here a minute from now, I’m going to have one of those mints from Havana.”

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