First conscious awareness—pain. Pinching-stapling-in-a-vertical-line-from-bellybutton-to-top-of-pubic-bone pain. I don’t want to move. Of its own volition, my hand reaches, encounters thick bandage. What’s happened? I can’t remember. Eyes still shuttered, I moan. No one responds. I want…I need to be heard, touched, comforted.
“Is anyone there?” I whimper. “Please, someone.”
I force my eyes open to shadows. Metal rails guard me on both sides. A hospital bed. My left arm is leashed by an I.V. and immobilized with a splint.
Pain comes in waves. I gasp.
“Ooooooh, please, where is everybody? Help me.” My voice, held captive by stale anesthesia, rasps. “Can’t anyone hear me?”
Memory joggles. Somewhere there is something to press, a connection to the nurse. My free right hand gropes in the gloom. Not looped on the bed rail. Above my pillow? No. Where? Ah, to my left, just at the edge of the mattr…No! Oh, fumbling fingers! The call button on its cord slaps to the floor. Out of reach. Who will hear me now? How will they hear me now?
Bed sheets rustle from the other side of the room. I turn my head to the left. Ghastly green curtain blocks my view. But someone is there.
“Hello?” Hoarse, barely serviceable, my voice tries to resurrect. “Can you hear me?”
A low buzzing followed by a whistle is my only answer. How can she snore when I’m in such misery?
Tears creep up ducts and spill. I am completely alone. Hospital full of helpers and no way to gain their assistance.
My body reacts. I gulp in and expel air in sobs. More pain. This is not helping. I calm myself but it’s too late. Agony has found a home in my abdomen. And I realize now that the ever-growing bulge that preceded my every journey for the last few months is no longer in evidence.
“Where’s my baby? Did my baby make it?” If a whisper could be a shout, this would be it.
I try to roll over, thinking to stretch my hand through the railing to the floor. Fetch back that errant line, reel in the catch of the day. Riptides of pain pull me into the dark depths. To dreaming memory.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
Driving the freeways through downtown L.A. on a sunny day. To the sides and above graffiti spouts gang possessions. Movement on the overpass ahead. Boys running. Are those guns they’re carrying? Probably just studio props. I reassure myself.
Distraction arrests me—a Harley-Davidson swerving from behind, passing, cutting in front, lawnmower-engine roaring and popping. The semi to my right bellows as the chopper darts in front to make the exit ramp. The popping continues. Surprising that my ears pick it up long after the motorcycle is out of view.
The guns point from the overpass. My windshield disintegrates, splinters flying. Not motorcycle popping! Not studio props! Wind rushing past my ears, shrieking tires, screaming voice. Mine.
Blood. Again, mine.
From the window of a car to my left, the black snout of an AK47 sniffs the air like a killer dog. “Stop!” My screech directed towards it has no affect. It doesn’t listen. It barks. Boys’ bodies hurtle from the overpass, their guns end-over-end alongside. As traffic skids and crashes, the shooter’s car speeds away. Hands cradling my belly, I sink into blessed blackness.
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
“Ma’am? Can you hear me?” I link to words like life preservers floating near my bed.
“Yes,” I breathe shallowly, my eyes barely slit. “I hear you. Please help.”
Through the dimness a face bends down, passes by the bed railings.
“You dropped this.”
The lost link is pressed into my hand. A way to communicate in my crisis, to cry out my need, my pain.
“Thank you,” I sigh. The girl in the candy-striped pinafore pats my hand.
“I brought these flowers up for you.” She directs my gaze to the windowsill. A teddy bear, holding a vase of blue irises, eyes me back.
“Let me pin that call button to your pillow. You never know when you’ll need to get someone’s attention.” Her voice encourages me, gives comfort.
She exits, holding the door open for a bassinet. Its rubber wheeled squeaking invades the room, introduces the sound I’ve almost died waiting for. The sweet wail of my healthy baby boy.
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