ordeal of water
She heard it before she saw it and she was running before she knew. Knew or suspected or feared, she was running. When she finally saw the flashing lights she started to scream. Down the steps and onto the sand and then to the men surrounding her sister. Hard, professional men rattled by her scream and where it came from.
At the hospital she would cry and pick sand from her toes as she waited inconsolably. She was 11. Her sister- surrounded and closed doors and pulled curtains away- was 9.
They were too late but not late enough. She was gone but still there on the bed accompanied by the low hum of machines including the really expensive one that went “Ping!” The sound brought a small smile and her heart broke all over.
There were consultations and people huddling and conferring and offers of ice cream and advice on the need for her to sleep but she sat next to her sister.
She wouldn’t leave her side. Not in some touching way; it was feral.
Eventually the drama was replaced by the reality of the situation and plans were made to move forward. Plans are always made with imperfect knowledge and a callous disregard for fate and these different plans being proposed were no different. Good intentions paving away to places unknown and terrible.
She hated the smell of the place. Her sister would have hated the smell of the place and the tubes and all the crying.
“Please squeeze my hand back.”
Whenever she was left alone in the room she would crawl in bed next to her.
“Please don’t go.”
In the end, science is doing the best it can. We all are. Our efforts at understanding are a candle in the dark but sometimes that candle flickers and dances and threatens to go out. Sometimes it does and we learn all over again that darkness isn’t always a bad place to be.
She pressed her forehead against her sister’s. “Stop hiding in there. Come out,” she thought to her sister. “Remember when we would try and read each other’s minds?”
We started in darkness and after all this time we’re fireflies at best.
“You can’t leave.”
“Squeeze my hand.”
The machine that goes “Ping!” pinged.
“You remember too?”
“I didn’t understand why it was funny but the way you laughed at it made me laugh too.”
They walked in to find her in bed with her sister again.
“So you’re not leaving? You’ll stay here with me?”
The candle flickers and there is something to be learned again. Parlor tricks or evolution, psychosis or miracles. Chemical affinity or expensive machines that go “Ping!” getting it wrong.
A squeezed hand.
That song on her iPod.
The future’s open wide.