Daniel has plenty of problems. He is already divorced. He loses his job. He is stalked by a mysterious group of well-dressed men (maybe federal agents) for an unknown reason. They follow him around in a blue Toyota SUV and show up at his ex-wife's house asking questions. On his way to an interview for an assistant manager's job at Dunkin' Donuts, Daniel drives through a medical district containing six hospitals. His mother died in one of these buildings. When he spots the blue SUV trailing him, he takes evasive action. After parking his car in a hospital lot, he wanders into the hallway outside the intensive care unit.

Eventually he settles into the ICU waiting room where he meets many family members of critically ill patients. Michael, a former Russian KGB agent whose elderly mother is a patient in the ICU, befriends him. Daniel remains in the medical complex for one month visiting the intensive care area of a different hospital each day. He sits with the relatives of ICU patients, and even though they are strangers, he listens to their tales of woe and empathizes with them.

Daniel becomes addicted to the humanity of the waiting room. Even when his car is finally towed from the parking lot, the threatening men in suits still wait for him outside the hospital. Daniel never learns the nature of his offense. Although he has nowhere to safely go, Daniel finds himself strangely comforted and at home in the ICU waiting room.


Waiting is a central concept in this story but so too is the notion of being trapped. Anticipation, helplessness, and dread are associated with lingering and confinement. Camaraderie and empathy are byproducts of dwelling in the waiting room. Pity and love flow thru this space. On the other hand, "Pettiness is the first casualty of the ICU waiting room. No one has the energy for it" (70). The plot of this story calls to mind The Trial by Franz Kafka.

Primary Source

Coronado (pp 51-74)


William Morrow

Place Published

New York



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