I went straight to tia Nastácia’s work after my cut. She had told me I could. We would go to get something to eat and head home together. It was the first time that I would visit her at work and I had been looking forward to it. The façade of the building was a bare beige. I made my way to the second floor where the pediatric center was. From the elevator I could hear crying. The waiting room was colorless and the walls were slightly peeling. It didn’t have any toys, only plastic blue chairs scattered illogically. It was full of mothers and babies. You could tell that they weren’t waiting for your general check up. The babies were unwell and you could see it in the sickliness of their mothers’ eyes. Tia Nastácia worked with underprivileged families that couldn’t afford private hospitals and insurance. It had always been this way since my tia was in her twenties or so. She moved from city to city, trying to make weak children stronger.
“Hi – um – I’m Roberta, Natácia’s niece?” I told the woman at the front desk. She was a big-boned woman with greasy dark-blonde hair that hung stiffly from her skull.
“Her niece. She told me I could come visit her around now.”
“Visit? Honey, this ain’t no place for entertainment. I suggest you go home now.” I wanted to squeeze the nasal voice right out of her throat with my own two hands but instead I went straight for the door that let me into the patient area.
“Hey. Hey now girl you get back here! That ain’t right, I say!”
I walked hurriedly down the hallway past the door, looking straight ahead of me and half-forgetting why I was there in the first place. Tia Nastácia saw me pass from one of the patient rooms and followed after me.
“Roberta? Roberta, what are you doing here? You can’t just barge in here like this.” Her voice was tight and almost loud.
“You said I could come here. You did. Remember?” My cheeks were swelling and reddening and my body was burning.
“Yes, Roberta, I do. But you can’t just walk in here like this. This is a hospital, don’t you understand?” Her arms were crossed now and she looked at me with wide eyes. There was too much white in her eyes and it was frightening. I could have hated her.
“Natácia, there’s a patient in room six waiting,” a nurse called from the background.
“Roberta, I have – ”
“Alright! Alright, I get it!” My eyes started to water uncontrollably and I was embarrassed. “You didn’t even say anything about my hair…” I turned my face over my shoulder towards a dirty window. It looked out to a dead plant in a square courtyard.
“Oh, Roberta, I’m sorry but I have important things to do now. Why don’t you wait in my office while I finish with my last patient.”