SHE EXHALES VANILLA SUNSHINE, warm, honeyed, tucks dimpled fists under a scarred heart too worn to sleep. I sniff metal and sweetness. The medicine has changed her. I breathe, scoop her body into mine, drape her leg over, to feel the weight of it and quiet the clatter. There is chemical warfare. Weed killer kills weeds and grass. It’s the best we’ve got. I tuck my face into her hair, once straight, now curly, once thin, now full, once light now dark like this room we’ve come to know. I inch my face toward her shoulder and collar bone, between her neck and the tube placed inside it. On my lips, there is a residue of sweat where the warmth of my breath and her heat meet, breathing her in, I swallow the scent for the day I may not have it. Trying to record her face, I pull back and scan, nose, cheeks, full brows and lips. Forehead to forehead, she lets out a weighted breath, and I whisper, “I’m sorry.”
WHEN THEY GIVE THE ANESTHESIA, I am right at her head, talking into her ear so she hears me over her screaming, about all the fun things we’ll do when we get home. “Already out,” the doctor says, but her eyes are still open, telling me something no one else can hear. I back away, about a millimeter, and she screams, reaches out for me with a hand I promised to hold. “Sometimes that happens,” the doc says, “but she’s out.” “We will take good care of her,” he says, and I’m nudged out by nurses with a job to do. Leaving the room never feels natural, but those are the rules. In a room with others waiting for their children, I am surrounded by pastel walls displaying pictures of happy kids, brave and smiling, but in front of me, I see ones lank and brittle, in chairs to help them walk and machines to help them breathe. “Done now,” the nurse says, sticking just enough of her body out to call me back to my child who lies lifeless in a dark room with a headlamp and beeping machine. Her eyes open lazily, close and open, head turns toward me and looks away. I kiss her forehead, deep and firm, wet it with tears that escape rebelliously, run my hand through her new hair, and kiss again, this time pressing harder and holding longer to an apology, to a pain, to a… I don’t know what. The nurse looks, “Oh, Mom. I’m so sorry.” She hands me a tissue and continues typing on a mobile computer rolled into the room just moments ago, taps, charting, recording, business as usual. My child sleeps, awakens, in and out. Bandage still on her back, hole still fresh, new like the skin of a baby. This wound may never heal. Some don’t.
Nora Simões loves people, animals, the way the mind works, the perfect bite, playing, cuddling, and the outdoors. She is a college English Instructor, earned her M.F.A. from CSULB. Her most recent chapbook, a sip of wind, was published by Picture Show Press in 2021.
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