We are in the throes of tubes and wires and numbers and beeps and lights and alarms. The hospital. Her tiny teeth marks pressed into the pads of each of my fingers as I rotate through all 10, pushing down on her bottom jaw with one and pressing her tongue out of the way with another. Opening her airway. Making room in the world of her face for air. Just breath. Just one after the painful next until she is well and I am less paralyzed and day wakes her and she remembers that it is her job to do the breathing.
There is nowhere to rest my head. It bobs to the beat of her air gargle. I have not slept since Monday night. We are one agonizing hour into Friday. Her heavy sweat soaked body is beached across mine in the bedside chair. Like sand I feel my particles shifting beneath her. Taking this imprint. Another imprint of fear in the shape of maternal love.
The only love I can name.
Tests and panels and pees and meds litter the whiteboard. They try to fit her with numbers like she is made of something simple. An equation’s work shown. But no solution is found. She is a fish out of water, evolving. She gulps and thrashes and makes whale sounds with her too-narrow windpipe. I feel her, splayed open on my seasick sand-skin. She doesn’t cling. She kicks. Tries to make a raft of me.
Sinking into the ocean blue chair I start to hallucinate other bodies. Hands pressing down on blankets and thin forms tiptoeing the room. A baby is screaming next door. A baby that carries more oxygen in one wail than all the chest pulls and mouth sucks of this entire dark night. I begin counting the drops of fluid that fall routinely into the tiny tube that connects her to water. It’s not enough.
I kiss her salty forehead and she moans. She swats at me, startled. She reaches up and grabs at the plastic tubing carrying oxygen to her brain. She rips it off.
I will myself to believe that my experience is shared. That someone somewhere in an ocean blue chair feels pinned beautifully below the enormity of the sea.