Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Talking The Universal Language

Mark sat in the waiting room. He waited. He looked over and saw all the other waiters. The television above their heads blurted sounds around their silence. A child toddled over. He held the seat of each chair until he reached Mark. Mark looked over. The boy's father's hands held a magazine, but his eyes held Mark's gaze. The father's eyes looked dark and solid like a bear stuffed with sadness. He sat lifeless. His son reached Mark and held on to his trouser leg and looked up at him. The boy grinned. Mark smiled. Mark looked up and saw the father.

“He loves to walk now,” The father sighed. He proudly grinned, making them a trio. His eyes didn’t match his mouth. His mouth moved; his eyes were solid, staid spheres. His son raised a fist and pushed it into his mouth. He lost balance and bounced down to his butt. Mark dropped his book and bent to see if the boy had hit his mouth. The father raced to his son’s side. The boy wasn’t hurt by the hobble.

“I love how babies walk,” Mark admitted. “They actually toddle.”

The father sat down on a seat. His son remained on his seat. The father pushed his back against the chair and rested his head against the wall. His child chewed his fist. Mark silently sat. He felt the boy grab his trouser leg again and Mark looked down as the baby pulled himself up to his legs.

“No, Christopher! Come here!”

“It’s okay,” Mark sat up straight. “He’s not bothering me.”

“Okay.” He sighed and put his head back against the wall. He looked exhausted. Toddlers can do that. Yet they were in a hospital and he wasn’t chasing his son. The father sighed again.

“Anything I can do to help you?”

“No thanks sir.” He lifted his head away from the wall and dashed Mark's pride with his assessment of his age. “We’re just waiting.” His son did deep knee bends while holding the shin of Mark's trousers.

“Me too.”

“I don’t think I can take waiting much longer!”

“How long have you been waiting?”

“It’s not me,” he said. “It’s my daughter. She’s in with the doctor right now.”

“Oh,” Mark replied. He didn’t have a response to that. He didn’t want to pry. Yet he would have liked to pry the boy off his trouser leg because he had now climbed up and sat on Mark's lap.

“Christopher!” He sighed. “Come here!” He snapped his fingers like Christopher was a puppy.

“It’s fine. He’s not bothering me.” It was obvious the father was bothered. “I’m Mark.” He offered his hand for a shake.

“I'm Joe Brodowski. This is my son Christopher.”

“So, what’s up with your daughter?” Joe mentioned something Mark couldn't pronounce. “Oh, I’m sorry.”

“The wife is in there with her.” Joe pointed toward an examining room. He slid his ass to the back of the seat and put his hands behind his head. He put head and hands against the wall.

“Is it a serious thing?”

“Yeah.” He never opened his eyes and just let the word seep out his lips.

“Jesus, I’m sorry,” Mark whispered.

“Yeah, me too.” Joe's eyes remained closed. Christopher’s hands climbed Mark's face and he put them near his mouth. Mark moved his mouth out of Christopher's finger’s path. As a diabetic, Mark couldn't risk infections. Babies are practically factories of the contagious. Christopher’s hands reached Mark's neck and found Mark's necklace. He started to pull, “No baby,” Mark lifted his hand to stop Christopher from grabbing it.

Joe stood up and took the boy off Mark's hands, “Did he break it?” Joe bent and kissed Christopher's head as an act of ownership.

“No.” Mark stuffed it back inside his shirt.

“Oh I recognize that!” Joe backed on to his chair. Christopher was content to shove his fist in his father’s mouth.

“Oh yeah. It’s my scapular.”

“My grandpa wore one. So you’re Catholic?”

“Yeah. Cradle to the grave. How about you?”

“Yep. Not a good one.” He shook his head. “But yeah, I am.”

“Cool." Mark shifted in his seat.

Joe reached inside the neck of his shirt. “Look.” He pulled out a chain with a small metal medal that hung at the end.

“Saint Christopher?” Mark asked. His son was named Christopher. Mark took a shot.

“No.” He shook his head, “Saint Joseph.”

“Oh wow. Saint Joseph is my favorite. I just love him. Do you have a novena to him?”

“No.” Joe dropped the medal back down his shirt. “I don’t say novenas.”

“Oh okay.” Mark crossed his legs and then remembered he wasn't supposed to. It compresses a vein in his leg.

“Do you believe in novenas?” Joe shifted Christopher on his lap.

“Yeah I do, Joe.” Mark shifted in his seat again. Waiting room seats are rarely comfortable or comforting.

“Can I ask you something?” Joe shifted his voice and began to whisper. “Will you say a novena for my daughter?”

“Sure I will Joe.” Mark's voice caught in his throat. “Absolutely man.”

“Thanks.” He sat back against the wall.

“Hey Joe? Do you have a rosary?”

“No,” Joe admitted. “I used to. I don’t know where it is. Maybe my mom has it.” Christopher leaned back and put his head against Joe’s heavy heart.

“If I gave you one,” Mark reached into his pocket, “would you say it?”

“Yeah.” Joe looked in his eyes. “Yeah I would.” Mark reached out his hand to hand him his rosary. “But you don’t have to give me your rosary, I’ll ask my mom if she knows where mine is.”

“I don’t know anyone I’d rather give this to Joe,” Mark handed it to him. Joe took it.

“It reminds me of the rosary I got for my First Communion,” Joe said when he looked at it.

“Yeah. Exactly. It’s the rosary I got at my First Holy Communion.”

“Oh my God!” He reached out his hand to give it back. “I can’t take this!”

“Yes you can Joe.” Mark put his hands on the arms of the chair. “Because I'm not giving it to you. I’m giving it to Christopher for his First Holy Communion. You can use it until you give it to him.”

“It doesn’t seem right.”

“Hey look. You have a Joseph looking after you.” Mark pointed to his medal. “And Christopher has a Joseph looking after him. You.” Mark pointed at Joe. “This will give Christopher something to look after. Take it man.”

“It doesn’t seem right,” Joe put it into his front pocket. “But thank you, I’ll say it.”

“My God man, we’re brothers. We’re both Catholics. Who am I going to give it to?” Mark explained. “I don’t have any kids. It just seems right. You. Me. Here. Now. It just seems the right time and you seem like the right one to give it to. I’m not being so nice. It means a lot to me that we had this conversation. I don’t talk Catholic to people anymore. Catholics don’t talk Catholic anymore. I want to mark the moment. Okay?”

“Okay,” Joe nodded his head. “Thanks. I’ll keep it for Christopher. Thanks.”

“You’re welcome Joe.” Mark leaned and put his head against the wall.

“Anything you want me to pray for?”

“No man, I’ve got everything,” Mark admitted.

They sat in silence until Mark's name was called for his appointment. He stood up to leave. “It was great meeting you Joe.” Mark shook his hand. “I’ll pray for your daughter.”

“Thanks Mark.” He looked away. Joe hated to show emotion but that didn’t mean he didn’t feel it. Mark patted Christopher on his head. The child sucked his thumb; he was oblivious to everything else. Mark slid his hands into his empty pockets and walked into the clinic.