Francis Warwick leans against one of the walls, eyes on the television, mind elsewhere, as the advert for the flu vaccination loops on the T.V once more. Earlier, he gave up his seat to a very frail looking woman, who thanked him by coughing in his face. He is beginning to regret giving up his seat now, because his appointment was scheduled for half an hour ago, yet the doctors still haven’t seen him. He checks his watch and mumbles something about the NHS going down the pan. A buzzing sound comes from one of his coat pockets. He pats himself down until his hand hits something hard in his breast pocket. He squints at the small screen of the Nokia, making sure that it’s not one of those numbers that try to sell him ‘some PPI nonsense’.
“Hello?” He answers “Hiya love… No, they haven’t even seen me yet, bloody NHS… well It isn’t my fault is it? I’ll be there love… I wouldn’t let you cart that home on the bus… I’ll ring you after they see me Dot… Bye Love… Bye.” Francis proceeds to press a button on the phone, which he hopes will end the call; but he can’t be sure what he’s pressing without his glasses. He takes his slouched position at the wall again, silently judging the twenty something year old with the headphones in, for not giving up his seat for him.
Francis hates hospitals. To him, it ‘s just a place filled with time wasters who think they’re dying when they have a cough. Francis wishes he were at home watching Antiques Roadshow with a cup of tea and a digestive biscuit. But he’d never hear the end of it from Dot if he didn’t pick up his results.
“Francis Wo-o-orwick.” The robotic voice attempts to say over the intercom.
“About bloody time!” Francis mutters as he starts to make his way down the hallway and enters into the doctor’s office. “I’m sorry about the wait Mr Warwick,” the doctor starts “Please take a seat.” Francis bites back a few terse words as he sits down in the chair.
“I’m sitting.” Francis states bluntly.
“We have your test results back Mr. Warwick”
“I should hope so,” Francis starts “It’s been two weeks. Me and the wife have been wanting to book a weekend away, but this faffy nonsense has stopped us.”
“Mr. Warwick,” the doctor says firmly. She shifts forward in her chair, and clasps her hands together in front of her. She lifts her eyes, so that they keep Francis’s gaze. “We found a tumour Mr. Warwick and unfortunately- the tests have found it to be malignant.”
Francis doesn’t respond. Outside the room, feet shuffle, doors squeak open then slam shut. The doctor begins to think that Francis Warwick hadn’t heard her. He rests his hands on his pot belly, a calm expression on his face, not dissimilar to the one he pulls when deciding whether to have tea of coffee.
“Mr. Warwick?” The doctor asks, “I understand that this may come as a shock-“
“Why do you people use all of this medical Jargon? It’s Cancer isn’t it?” Francis asks
“Yes,” the Doctor replies “we found a cancerous growth in your lungs Mr. Warwick. I understand if you need some time before we-“
“Can it be treated?” Francis asks. The doctor pauses, formulating a response in her head before she speaks.
“It’s quite advanced Mr Warwick… There are options, but-“
“This is such a faff” Francis interrupts, squeezing the bridge of his nose between his thumb and forefinger “It would have been much easier for you to tell me that I’m dying over the phone.”
“Mr. Warwick?” The doctor asks, concerned.
“This is why you have waiting rooms fit to burst. You keep me in a germ-ridden incubator, to tell me something you could have said over the phone!”
“Mr Warwick, do you need to speak to a grief councilor before we discuss options?”
“Grief councilor!” Francis exclaims, “This isn’t the sodding Jeremy Kyle show! No, I don’t want any of that. I just want to go into town and help my wife with the shopping.”
“I think the shopping can wait Mr. Warwick,” the doctor suggests in a light sympathetic tone “It’s best to discuss your options as soon as possible Mr. Warwick. This should be your priority right now.”
“That’s where you’re wrong Doctor,” Francis says, standing from the deceptively hard chair, knees cracking “you haven’t seen my Dot after I leave her waiting. She’ll kill me before the cancer does.” Before he leaves, he turns back to the doctor “Is there anything else doctor? Aside from the cancer.”
The doctor stares at Francis in disbelief, various words in her mind that she couldn’t put into a sentence, she then shifts through her papers with clumsy hands.
“No Mr. Francis… that appears to be everything”
“Good” Francis replies. He then turns to leave, closing the door behind him.
As he leaves the office, Francis pats down his body again, feeling around for the lump of the Nokia. He leans against one of the walls in the waiting room as he squints to find the name ‘Dot’ in his contacts.
“Hiya love… yeah I’m out… It’s alright. Honestly. Look, I’ll speak to you more later; Are you done? Ok… I’ll meet you at the doors, grab yourself a brew or something while you wait. Love you too.” When Francis looks up from the phone, his eyes automatically land on the spot by the wall that he had previously filled. The frail old lady had vacated the seat he sacrificed. A younger woman takes her place, flicking through a magazine while chewing on her excessively long acrylic nails. Francis feels suddenly grateful that no-one had given up their seat for him. He didn’t want to be the frail one who needed sympathy. He figured that he wouldn’t get that label for at least another ten years. Well, that was what he assumed before today.
“Sir, are you okay? You look very pale.” A nurse asks. Francis hadn’t even been aware of her presence. Francis realises that the nurses hand holding his arm is what’s keeping him upright. He uses the wall behind him to correct his stance.
“I’m fine nurse. Just in need of some food I think” he says, moving his arm from the Nurses grip. Before she could object, Francis turns to leave the waiting room, aware that he needed to meet his wife… and tell his wife. Francis doesn’t get scared often, but he’s scared right now. He approaches his car rubbing his chest, as if he could feel the cancer with his bare hand. He isn’t scared of dying. He’s scared of telling his wife. How do you tell your wife and grandchildren that you’re going to decay and die right in front of their eye? How do you comfort them after that?
Francis suddenly realises that he’s been walking aimlessly for a while, and he has gone past his car because his mind keeps conjuring up these unanswerable questions that make his body feel numb.
“I’ll pick up my wife,” he says to himself, silencing his morbid brain, trying to push those numbing questions to the farthest point of his consciousness. He’ll answer them another day.