In and Out
A Sunday Story.
My sister was just here. She was just here hugging me goodbye. We were standing right above where I am now and her arms were around me and it was only minutes ago, five maybe. But now I am at the bottom of the stairs and I think how quickly things change, how suddenly everything can shift.
And there is almost always a warning.
We just aren’t always listening.
I think that my hip is broken. The pain starts there and then it shoots up and down and all over me in a way I would never have known about before now. It is hard to stay conscious. I slip in and out. When I am in I wonder about my phone. Is it in my pocket?
I slip out again.
Finally I am awake long enough to find the strength to reach for it. It is terrifying to move my arm. The pain comes at me like a madman, but I have to do it. I have to see if it is there, in one pocket or the other.
It is not.
I wonder if it flew out when I fell. Did it land somewhere on the stairs, or maybe on the basement floor? I want to look around for it, but then I slip out again.
And that’s when I hear my mother calling me. My mother is calling to me, but she’s gone. She’s been gone for years and years, but she’s calling me.
“Gel?” she calls.
Gel. The name she gave me because she didn’t want to name me Angelina, but my father had insisted and so she did, but she refused to call me it. So she called me Gel or Lina, but never Angelina, never what he wanted.
Why am I thinking about that now, about them? Am I awake? I’m starting not to feel anything anymore. I’m starting to wonder if I’m dying.
“Gel,” my mother says. “There you are. My sweet girl. What has he done?”
“I fell Momma,” I tell her. Then I feel my mother’s hands, her soft hands on my face. I smell her lotion and her makeup and her tea and I see her strand of pearls hanging from her neck.
“Am I awake Mom? Are you really here?”
“Oh my Lina. My sweet Lina. How did you fall?”
I try to take in a breath, but it seems to crush me and I think that not just my hip is broken, but my ribs too and my legs and my heart and my soul and my every single thing.
It is all broken.
“Lina? How did you fall?”
“I was doing too much Momma. I am always doing to much. And I fell.”
Her eyelids drop and she looks down because she knows.
“You are like me,” she says softly. “Don’t be like me.”
“But I don’t know any other way.”
I see tears in her eyes.
“How could you?” she says, her words dripping with sorrow. “I didn’t show you any.”
“It’s okay,” I say, trying to comfort her.
“Stop saying that you fell, my love. Stop saying that. Say the truth. It is time to say the truth.”
“I just fell. I don’t look. I hurry. I trip. Really.”
We are both quiet then because we both know about all the times my mother fell. We know about her not looking and hurrying and tripping.
We know the same stories.
“Lina,” she says. “Call the police. Call now.”
“I don’t need the police, Momma. I just need an ambulance. We’ll be okay.”
“My Gel. My Lina. I love you so much. Please don't be like me.”
And then I feel heat. I feel so much heat. I feel like the walls around me are burning and I don’t know if I am in or out. I look for my mother, but it seems she is gone and I think I will be gone soon too. I think I can’t hang on, but then I see my phone. It is sitting beside my head on the cement and I hear a voice, but I can’t understand.
I cannot understand.
Where did my phone come from? Who is talking?
“Momma?” I whisper.
But my mother doesn’t reply. It is just that voice again and I want to speak, but I am in and out and I don’t know what to tell her anyway.
I slip in.
I slip out.
I slip in and I hear the voice on the phone again.
“We’re sending someone okay? Just hold on. We’re sending someone.”
“How did you know?” I choke. “How?”
“You dialed nine one one honey,” says the voice.
“I didn’t,” I tell her.
And then I smell lotion and makeup and tea and I see the strand of pearls resting beside me on the floor.
And I slip out.