Closer to the sternal notch but
in proximity of the xiphoid process, sits the thymus. They say it is
only active through childhood and then shrinks in puberty. It is where
T-cells are produced; it is an endocrine gland; it aids immunity. It
does not aid the immunity to mental/emotional pain, but since time
immemorial, women have wailed and beaten their breasts, unconsciously
bolstering themselves from despair and disease by expressing their
grief and activating their immune systems.
Ginny, stop, goddamnit, I can’t watch this another minute.
My mother grabs my fist, tries to pry open the fingers. She starts with
the index finger but by the time she has reached the pinkie, all the
fingers are clenched once more. Like a mallet, the hand rhythmically
descends on my sternum. Pain is physical. Pain is emotional. Pain is
mental. Pain hurts. It sears, burns, grinds, punctures, stings,
penetrates, wrenches; its jagged pieces of glass rhythmically stab
deeper into the heart.
Ginny, let me get you a cold washcloth for your eyes. They’re all
puffy. Do you want something to drink? When’s the last time you
ate? Ginny, Ginny look at me. I know this is hard but you have to take
care of yourself now.
My girlfriend Doro means well. She’s replaced my mother on the
chair next to mine and is touching my arm, my shoulder, leaning in to
me, trying to catch my gaze. I don’t know exactly when she showed
up here. I don’t know who told her to come. Actually, I called
her. I don’t know what time it is. I only feel this gaping hole
Earlier, at 11 a.m. my cell phone rang.
Mrs. Virginia DeAngelo?
Ms. DeAngelo? You’re Darien’s motha?
God, I hate that nasal drawl.
Ms. DeAngelo, this is officer Pete Graziano. We need you to come here
to Montefiore Medical Center on East 210th. I’m sorry,
ma’am, Darien’s been in an accident and we need you to come
here as next of kin.
The phone is dancing around in my hand, I can’t hold it to my
ear. I can’t hear anymore. I feel blood rushing through my head;
like water gushing from a broken pipe. I want to ask something but my
mouth has gone dry and I’ve got silk wrapped around my tongue,
gagging me. Blue silk, cold and dry, and taking my breath away.
The cell phone’s gotten really small in my hand now; it’s
jumping. My feet seem really far away as I look down to find my
ballerinas to slip into. I have to go to the door, take a jacket, take
my purse, don’t need my work backpack now. The guy, the cop, the
officer, that man said Montefiore. The bus will be too crowded. I have
to get there fast. I have to take a taxi.
Fumbling with keys, fumbling with my feet, trying to get down the three
flights of stairs, fumbling with the door knob that always feels like
somebody just ate a piece of greasy pizza and forgot to wipe off their
hands. Fumbling down the street lined with fading brownstones. Trying
to get to Amsterdam Ave so I can hail a cab. Falling into the back seat.
Montefiore Medical Center please.
Sorry, what you say?
Montefiore Medical Center please, East 210th…
Is the hospital, yes?
Yes, north, just keep going north, to the Bronx…
Yes, I put in GPS, yes.
Just hurry, go, go, please.
I take my phone out to call my mother, call Doro, call someone.
It’s sliding in my hands. Why are they so sweaty; so cold? My
mouth is dry. My body feels trapped in opposing climate zones; pushing
me out of context with myself.
We pass the Cloisters. I imagine the Unicorn Tapestry — the
maiden gently holding the animal’s head in her lap. I wish we
could stop, enter this magical retreat of my childhood. Instead I see
my nine-year-old Darien, a skateboard crash, running in with bloody
knees and elbows. Pain in his eyes, refusing to cry.
The ringtone on my phone startles me, its insistent chromatic chord
progression meant to invoke hope.
Ginny, you were trying to call? I got cut off or something. Girl, you
Doro, oh, Doro…
Everything’s going hazy through the tears, snot’s building
in my nostrils, ready to seep out, all over my upper lip and onto the
phone. I grab a tissue from the back zippered pocket of my purse, try
to wipe everything off. My gut gurgles.
Doro, I’m on my way to Montefiore; I just got a call that
Darien’s there. I don’t know anything, they just said next
of kin. I don’t know, I’m…
Ginny, OK, you hang in there. I’m going to see if I can get up
there. I’ll call your momma, OK?
Thanks, yes, I’ll leave a message or text or something when I get
there. Doro, I’m scared, I’m so scared.
Snot and tears mix. Won’t stop flowing.
OK, lady, we here. Which entrance you want?
It’s fine, just let me out, here. Yes.
I can barely get the wallet out of my purse and the cabbie paid because
my hands won’t stop shaking. I exit the cab, slamming the door,
running toward the revolving door that pulls me in and spits me out
Yes, I’m looking for my son, Darien DeAngelo? I just got a call?
It’s an emergency?
Ma’am, please fill out this form and we’ll get you set up
with a visitor’s pass.
The vowels are so wide, they match the smile the receptionist flashes
Elevators, corridors, hospital smell, white and pistachio scrubs. The
pattern on the linoleum tiles alternates between Morse code and skid
marks, depending on how fast I walk. I have to keep looking up to make
sure I’m getting to the right hallway. I want to avert my gaze,
just not have to see.
Ms. DeAngelo, they said you’re on your way. Here, come through
these doors with me.
The nurse swipes his card, the automatic doors open. Rush of air. They
close behind us. Metallic thud. Such efficiency. How can I be caught in
this chaos while I’m surrounded by order; tables turned.
Calm, deep, mellow. My eyes move up along the silver Danskos,
grey gabardine trousers, the red shimmer of silk radiating through the
white of her doctor’s coat. I reach the nametag on her left
breast pocket, Rachel Dupre, M.D.
Ms. DeAngelo. You’re Darien’s mother?
She takes my left arm, gently, steers me to a set of linked eraser-pink
armchairs and places me in one of them, taking the seat next to mine.
Ms. DeAngelo, Darien was fatally wounded today. He was brought in about
two hours ago bleeding heavily from stab wounds to his abdomen and
chest. Your son is a social worker, yes?
I nod. I groan. I feel everything I’ve eaten and drunk today
moving up my esophagus. There’s a burning. I want to retch.
Yes, yes, he told me he’d recently switched jobs and was doing
some support work for rehab clients and their families. I haven’t
seen him in a month or so. What do you mean by fatally? I want to see
him. Where is he now?
Dr. Dupre is stroking my arm. But it feels like she’s going
against the grain. I push her away from me. I can’t keep my
thoughts straight. Strobe lights in my head are obliterating sense.
Yes, Ms. DeAngelo, you can see him. We just wanted you to be prepared.
He is heavily sedated and bandaged; there’s not much we can do.
What the fuck do they mean, not much they can do, they just have to
patch him up. Aren’t there transfusions, major miracle drugs,
power bandages, the whole emergency medicine gamut? They just
don’t want to waste the money.
We’re standing and walking, walking dead, my mind is
disintegrating as my body pushes onward.
The white walls in the room are too bright, the lights are too bright,
his body lies there, a grotesque Nana, I want to take pots of primary
color and dump them on his oversized torso. My baby’s face is
pale and puffy, there’s a little line of white powder reaching
from the right corner of his mouth to his chin, dried spittle mixed
with something, couldn’t they clean him? There is a very slow
beeping that seeps into my consciousness: it’s the lifeline.
It’s the devolution of the vital signs I felt when he kicked
inside the womb. It’s the opposite of the frenetic, fast,
bursting sound of neo-natal heartbeat that enthralled me the first time
I heard it.
Ms. DeAngelo, you can sit here and hold his hand.
It’s frigid that hand. I hate hospitals. Always too cold.
And then everything accelerates, the beeping changes; flatlines. Coming
out of my comatose fog, I gasp for air and scream. The nurse next to me
grabs me in a bear hug, shushing, trying to get me to stop.
I come to.
It’s OK. It’s OK.
I blink. I try to find my composure. I look at my child. I feel he has
left. My soul pours over and sends a surge of light to guide him on his
I will have to collect his bits of scattered energy in the rays of
sunshine, surge of the surf, tiny moments of bliss found in spring,
summer, fall, winter; look for him. Listen deeply.
I’ve been walked back to the waiting area where my mother and
Doro hover, gathered to birth me into mourning. I sit down. Instinct
takes over; I beat my breast. Like a mallet, my hand rhythmically
descends on my sternum. Again and again and again.
Eva Lipton works as a certified homeopath
and Core Synchronism practitioner in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She is
interested in exploring the states of the mental, emotional and
physical body through writing. Her children are her best teachers and
her sweetheart is her source of strength.