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What Happened to Us by Dion Hines

How to: make it to room 404 by Chloe Pancho

Step #1.

Say hello to the man at the counter. He says hello back and tells you to say hello to your mother for him as well. You promise that you will. Get your temperature taken beside the front door. You didn’t know how to use the machine the first time you came in contact with it. You stood as close to it as you possibly could, thinking that was the only way for it to check your temperature properly. He was the one to correct you and say that there was no need to get so close. A full twelve inches in front was ideal. You laughed and thanked him and now you look forward to your quick greetings.

“Don’t forget to say hello to any of the staff or any other breathing person that exits out of the elevators, assume they crave just as much comfort as you do.”

Step #2.

Make your way towards the hallway on his right and onto your left. Walk past a water fountain and a gender-neutral bathroom until you ultimately reach the elevators. Press the button to ascend towards the higher floors and wait until one of them opens for you. Don’t forget to say hello to any of the staff or any other breathing person that exits out of the elevators, assume they crave just as much comfort as you do. Once inside the elevator, press the button etched with the number 4 and make your way towards the ER where Mama is most likely to be sleeping.

Step #3.

Introduce yourself once again. (Note: The ER is separated from the rest of the hospital by two heavy-set metal doors. On the wall is a white intercom in which each individual must push to announce their presence and reason why they would like to enter the ER.) Reiterate your first and last name, as unlike the man at the front, you are never fully able to recognize the voice that is on the other side. Tell the face-less figure that you are here to visit your mother. They request for your mother’s name and ask you to wait as they confirm that the patient knows of your existence.

Step #3.5.

You imagine a life in which her accident never happened.

Step #4.

Listen to the unfamiliar voice as it announces that you are permitted to see your own mother. They instruct you to stand back as they open the doors, but before the sentence is finished, take three steps back as you are used to these procedures.

The first sight you encounter once you enter the ER is an empty gurney stationed in front of the first room. You remember it as the room for the unconscious woman. The woman looked the same age as your mother, dark hair just like your mother as well, you don’t know how to describe her eyes as you have never actually seen them open. You expect to see her today, but yet she is not there. Her room is completely empty. The bed wiped of its sheets, the curtains drawn dark. You want to ask one of the nurses what happened to her, ifshe is okay. But you do not.

Step #5.

Smile. You finally make it to your mother’s room. Your father is inside along with your mother's registered nurse. They both say hello to you as they adjust the tube that is going to be feeding your mother lunch today. Keep smiling. Your father leaves your mother in the nurses’ care as he comes over to hug you. He asks you if you are okay and how school was today. Smile at him and tell him that everything is okay. Your mother finishes her lunch a little after you and your father are done conversing.

The nurse reassures the two other conscious people in the small room that your mothers vitals are finally starting to look better. She soon leaves the three of you alone.

Look at your mother. There are wires and multi-colored lines wrapping around her body, all with their specific use and purpose to keep your mother here. It is then when you notice truly how much weight your mother has lost. She has always been a small woman. Standing at a mere 5’2 most of her life, she looks even smaller now, frail, fragile almost. Her eyes are sunken in, hands slender to the point of concern. She looks almost dead.

“The man at the front told me to say hello to you,” you tell her.

Massage her forearms as you remember Papa telling you they were bothering her during your last visit. She doesn’t respond. You didn’t expect her too.

Step #6.

Close your eyes. Papa’s lap will act like a pillow for you tonight. The denim of his jeans scratch the side of your cheek, and his thighs are bony like chopsticks, but you will cling onto any form of familiarity life is willing give to you. Listen to the local news playing on the hospital TV along with the constant buzz of the heart monitor sitting beside your mother’s bed, telling you that it is okay to go to sleep, that your mother will still be right there, in her bed, when you wake up.

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