It must have been around nine-thirty in the morning when the waiting-room door opened and the sandy-haired man with the clipboard came in. My appointment was at nine, so I'd already been waiting a while, but I wasn't really that bothered. I suppose I was feeling a little bit anxious, and there was something about the hospital gown I was wearing that made me feel weirdly uncomfortable, but I wasn't pacing around the room or chewing my fingernails or anything. I was just standing at the window, gazing out at the hospital grounds, trying to convince myself that everything was going to be OK.
It was just a routine examination.
All they were going to do was stick a tube down my throat and take a good look inside my stomach.
What was there to worry about?
"Robert Smith?" the man at the door said, glancing up from his clipboard.
I don't know why he asked, I was the only one there. But I suppose he had to say something.
I looked at him.
He nodded at me. "This way, please."
I followed him out of the waiting room and he started leading me down a long white corridor. I wasn't sure what he was-nurse, administrator, some kind of assistant-but he was wearing a hospital tunic with a name badge pinned to the pocket, so I guessed he knew what he was doing. He walked briskly, with busy little steps, and as we crossed the polished floor, it was a struggle to keep up with him. Too fast to walk, too slow to run. I scampered along behind him.
"Doctor Andrews will be performing your endoscopy," he told me, glancing over his shoulder. "He's very good." He smiled reassuringly-a quick professional smile. "There's nothing to worry about. It'll be over before you know it."
I gave him a look-half-smile, half-shrug-just to let him know that I wasn't worried about anything, but he'd already turned his attention back to his clipboard and was marching away down the corridor.
I wiped my sweaty hands on my gown and kept on following him.
At the end of the corridor, just as we reached a pair of green curtains set in the wall, he stopped quite suddenly and spun around to face me. I scampered to a halt in front of him.
"Uh, sorry about this," he muttered, peering at his clipboard. "I just have to.um.sorry, I just remembered something." He frowned to himself for a moment, then looked up and smiled tightly at me. "I won't be a minute."
"Uh...OK," I started to say. "What should I...?"
But before I could finish, he'd turned around and walked away, leaving me standing there in front of the green curtains, nervously fingering the hem of my gown, not knowing what to do.