So much of my life is spent waiting.  Forever waiting for tick to become tock and things to change.  Stuck in the moments before, unable to do anything but sit and wait.

As I child, I wait expectantly for the bell to ring which means recess or the end of the school day.  Sitting in my desk, staring at the wall clock, using all of my mental powers to push the minute hand forward faster.  Waiting for that sense of joy that only a child knows when the clock moved from 3:14 p.m. to 3:15 p.m. and the bell rings.  Class is over; school is done for the day.  Time for adventure to begin.

*

I’m seventeen years old sitting in the E.R. waiting room.  My friends were in a car accident, just minutes after leaving my house.  My friend who was driving is there with me.  She has cuts and bruises on her face and hands but apparently they aren’t serious enough to get a doctor to look at her.  She is shaken, and I put my arm around her while she cries silently.  The X-Files are playing on the TV.  It’s the episode with Bryan Cranston before he is really famous.  We sit there together in the mostly empty room.  Waiting for word on my other friends, hoping they are okay.

*

I’m in college waiting for my first exam to start.  I am shaking with nervous anticipation as I wait.  My pre-exam ritual is to slam a Red Bull and smoke two cigarettes while listening to The Haunted as loudly as possible.  The professor is droning on and on, and I am waiting with adrenaline, caffeine, and the brutal lyrics of Peter Dolving coursing through my veins.  Waiting for the exam to start so that I can be done with this semester.

*

I’m waiting for my wife to go to work so that I can be alone.  I need her to leave so I can retrieve my semi-skillfully hidden bottle of cheapest vodka.  There is a sickness in me, clawing at my insides, and I need to feed it.  My hand is trembling and my heart beating faster as I wait for her to finally finish packing up her things and head out the door.  Waiting so that I can surreptitiously feed my demons.

*

I’m waiting for my wife to come home from work.  She works days and I work nights, so some days we only have a few hours to see each other.  I’ve made dinner—steak, red onions, asparagus, and potatoes.  I try to time it so that dinner will be ready just before or just after she gets home, but I never know precisely when she will get out of work.  So I am waiting while the food sits cooling on the stove.  Waiting for her to come home so that I can give her a hug, ask her about her day, and watch Jeopardy! with her while we eat.

*

I’m waiting for my daughter to be born.  Months have turned to weeks and will soon turn to days turn to hours turn to one last push.  Then I’ll be waiting for new goalposts of her development—the first time she flips over, the first time she crawls, her first words, the first time she walks unaided, the first time she does something bad and tries to lie to me, her first day of school, her first driving lesson.  And on and on and on.  Waiting for her to grow up, hoping she never does, trying to find the balance between waiting for something to happen and finding joy in the moments beforehand.

Paul Menn

Paul (’10) lives in Grand Rapids with his wife, Emma (’10), and cat, HandsomeMarcoCat. He loves board games, Babylon 5, and honey-curry chicken. Everything else is negotiable.

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