The place was alright as far as waiting rooms go. They had a tight policy about noisy children, the chairs were nice and cushiony and the magazines were only a couple of months out of date. Ryan took a seat next to the generally average looking man sat in the corner of the room. He had short brown hair and a thin expressionless face. He was flicking through a car magazine. That could work as a conversation topic.
‘So you like cars, eh?’ said Ryan, leaning towards the man.
‘Oh.’ The man seemed startled. The looming silence that had occupied the room led him to believe that conversation was forbidden. ‘Yeah, they’re okay. I sell them for a living so I can get a little bit tired of them.’
‘Aha!’ Ryan let out a roaring laugh and clapped his hands together. ‘I knew it, you’re one of those sleazy car salesmen. You just have that look about you, you know?’
The man checked his coat anxiously. ‘No, I don’t know. I give people fair rates of their cars and wouldn’t call myself sleazy in the slightest. I’m just here to donate blood so if you would…’
‘So what’d you do then?’
‘Oh, you know what I mean…’
The man offered a look that, if anything, seemed to say ‘no, I do not know what you mean’.
‘Like…’ Ryan rubbed his face thoughtfully. ‘Did you set fire to a neighbour’s house when you were younger? Do you like to give children a little kick when their parents aren’t looking? Did you accidentally get somebody fired at work? Oh, oh, wait – you got somebody fired on purpose, didn’t you? I can tell from your face!’
‘No. I did not burn down a house, I do not like kicking children and don’t think I’ve gotten anybody fired at work.’
‘Then why are you here?’
The man flicked his magazine back open and started reading. It wasn’t where he had left off, but he just wanted Ryan to take a hint and leave him alone.
‘Well,’ continued Ryan, ‘I design nuclear warheads for a living. Yeah, it’s tough balancing things out especially because of how enthusiastic I am about the job.’
The man didn’t look up from his magazine. ‘I think you’re in the wrong place.’
‘No, I’m here to donate blood. I do it every year.’ He turned and talked quietly to a woman a couple of seats down before returning his attention to the man. ‘Yeah, see, she says I’m in the right place. I always make sure I donate blood, throw a barbeque for the neighbours every now and then, help out old ladies struggling with their shopping… Keeps me in the grey.’
The man shut his magazine. ‘What are you talking about?’
‘You know, the grey area. Good, bad, that little area in between them.’
‘Is Mr. Jenkins here?’ The two men noticed that the doctor had appeared. Ryan shot up gleefully.
‘Oh yes, I’m Mr. Jenkins,’ he said. The doctor nodded and led him beyond the double doors. Just before Ryan passed through he offered his new friend a little wave. The man inclined his head slightly as a response. He then returned to his magazine, looking for the article he had been reading earlier.