They wait at stops—kids waiting for the bus in Topeka and businessman in monochromatic suits and ties, silver on silver, waiting to grab the EL and head off to another day’s work, both weary and enthusiastic. They wait in traffic jams, on steaming pavement, their bladders busting with coffee or bottled water or Sunny D. They wait in long, tenuous lines at the grocery store, one of those self-serve lanes, the sorority girl in front of them blabbering away to someone invisible, the Bluetooth above her ear an obtrusive hot pink.
They wait at Denny’s for white plates heaped with scrambled eggs, sausage, bacon and a short stack of pancakes with a glistening mound of butter.
At hospital bedsides, they wait to find out if their grandmother will survive another day, another hour, transfixed by the life support, a mess of circuitous tubes. They wait for a whirring box fan to seduce them into dream.
Missing the homerun, they wait for a lukewarm beer in a plastic cup that costs eight bucks. They wait to renew their driver’s licenses, the woman at the counter tapping her fingers, her fake nails coated with gunmetal gray. They wait for the water to boil, for their rigatoni to become al dente. In the morning, they wait for the sun to rise, streaking sherbet across the horizon.
They wait, pens clutched, for the infomercial to repeat the telephone number.
Holding their breath, drinking from a cup backwards, they wait to subdue their hiccups. They wait for the toast to pop up. They wait for first signs of hair loss, first heart attacks and first wheatgrass smoothies.
They wait to see if there’s a single line or a double line, a plus or a negative, a color that resembles blue. The wind snaps the branches, topples the garbage cans and the wheelbarrows, and they cower in windowless bathrooms, crouched inside bathtubs, waiting the storm out. They wait for the teacher to call on them, their arms shooting up, their sticky hands waving.
They hold the door, waiting for the old man with the driver's cap and the rubber boots to pass them by. They wait for some inspiration, motivation, provocation. They wait under hair dryers that look like the uniforms of astronauts. They wait to hear from the doctor’s office about their CT scans, MRIs, TEEs, EMGs, the LMNOPs of their diagnosis.
Newspapers hiding their faces, they wait for the waitress to pour them a refill. They wait for the final act, the final answer, the final seconds in regulation, the final episode, the final walk through, the final chapter and the glittering ball’s sluggish decline for the final countdown.
They wait for the inevitable waiting, what that rock and roll singer said is the hardest part.