Three months and four days. That’s how long it’s been since I felt normal. I could still feel the cold fear that had settled on me that first day when I realized something had changed. It used to consume me but by now it had settled down in my stomach like those dumplings I’d eaten from the street vendor last time I’d been downtown. I allowed my mind to wander as I remembered that evening, the shining stars had been reflected in my daughter’s eyes as she’d told me about her art class.
“I’m just going to replace the fluids and then the doctor will be in.”
My dreaming interrupted, I was pulled back to reality as I heard my mother respond to the nurse – it sounded like Linda – her gravely voice made me imagine her with a cigarette hanging from her lips. The swish of a page, the click of the fluid bag being hung and then I heard quick footsteps precede the doctor. I hadn’t been able to peg him yet, whether he loved his job or just drank copious amounts of coffee.
“Morningmorning. Let’sseehowshe’sdoingtoday, ifyoudon’tmindwaitingoutside, it’lljustbeaminute.”
Silence followed the shuffle of my mother’s feet. The cold fear had started to rise and I willed my hands to move up to my chest to rub at the spot. As every other time, I couldn’t. No matter how many signals I sent, they remained motionless at my side.
“This doesn’t look good. Her vitals aren’t changing as they should.” The doctor’s energy seemed to have vanished. Now his voice reminded me of an old haggard man faced with terrible news. “Go ahead and call her family back in, they need to know.”
I tried not to panic as I wondered at his ominous words, part of me refusing to understand what they truly meant. I had blocked so much of what I’d heard but now it threatened to come back and overtake me. I sent every signal I could think of to my legs, then to my arms, trying to move, trying to prove them wrong before he could further break my mother’s heart. And what about my daughter? What would she do without me?
In all my panicking, I missed the beginning of what the doctor said but one word broke through – the one word I’ d been hiding from since I first heard it.
The rest of their conversation flowed around me as I finally let the reason for the hard, cold fear settle around me. I was in a coma. For three months and four days now.
“It’s not looking good.”
“Please don’t go out tonight, the roads are icy.”
“Will she come out of it?”
“Just cancel, they’ll understand.”
“You need to prepare yourselves.”
The past and present seemed to meld into one, horrible and terrifying moment. The fear and pressure built so strong that I did the only thing I could.
And so did my mom. The doctor dropped his clipboard and the nurse looked like she might faint. When the four of us had stared at each other for an interminable time, the doctor said, dryly,