The man on the table next to mine hasn’t moved. He holds his plastic mug slightly above the Formica. It’s at an angle but the coffee has long since stopped its escape and settled as a raised caramel-coloured puddle, surface tension made visible; a strange manifestation of the paralysing inner turmoil of the statue man.
I follow his gaze. He stares, unseeing, at the snow flurrying outside in the hospital carpark. Swirling specs of white against the grey of dawn.
The timing of the automatic doors is all wrong. If you approach them from the outside, the first pair opens and closes behind you before, a few seconds later, the inner pair sighs into action. You are left looking through the glass down the long corridor with its jumble of confusing signs: Cardiology (second left), ENT (first floor), Gastroenterology (third right), Oncology (third left), All Wards Straight Ahead. Abandon all hope ye who enter here. In you go.
On the way out. the sensors fire the doors open both pairs at a time. A blast of cold air. It doesn’t deter the man who has spent the last five minutes shuffling along the corridor. I heard the lift ping. Heard his slippered feet shuffle. Heard the wheeled tripod supporting his drip squeak then stop, squeak then stop. Squeak then stop.
As the doors shut behind him, he shelters behind the sign – This hospital and its grounds are a no-smoking zone. He lights up and inhales deeply. I admire his dedication.
Turning back, the first man still hasn’t moved. I’m not sure he’s even blinked.
I look down. I’m still holding my coffee, untouched and cold.