An ear-splitting scream shoots through my brain. My eyes flash open and I see pink walls and my mother bolting to the door…
My bedroom was pink.
But, I shared that room with my sisters and they liked pink, so I endured it for their sake.
I am still in the first grade and still taking naps, but I think my mother just made us lay down because she was tired, and on this particular day my cousin was visiting.
This was her first time to visit and spend the night with us. We were all very excited and probably screaming and running all through the house.
Hence, the nap.
We were all lying down in our pink bedroom. My mother, too. I had my eyes closed, but I wasn’t asleep.
Still, the scream from Bill’s room would’ve woken me even if I’d been dead.
My mother shot up and crashed through the room, flying to the door and to Bill. I knew something was wrong. I could tell by his scream. He sounded like he was hurt, but how could that be? He was in his crib.
I followed Mom.
I know I did, but I don’t remember how she got to the living room with Bill. And I don’t remember our neighbor, Miss Holly coming over. She was there, though, beside my mom and watching Bill’s every breath.
And then, I watch my mother, holding nine-month-old Bill in her lap as his eyes roll back into his head.
She cries his name, calling him back to her, her tone conveying a fear that wrenches at my heart and trembles in my blood.
Bill’s eyes were white. Not brown. They rolled and the bottom dropped out of my stomach.
Mom stuck her finger down his throat, and he vomited. I know now that she was keeping him from swallowing his tongue.
I was paralyzed. My thoughts, my body…frozen. All I knew was a fear so acute I could barely breathe.
My sisters and cousin were gone from my mind, as I watched my mother struggle helplessly. I knew the ambulance was coming. In the fog that was my thoughts, I heard Mom say that to Miss Holly.
At some point, I came back to myself…someone had to check on the girls…
I left the living room and went down the long hallway to my pink bedroom where my sisters and cousin were waiting.
I don’t know their impressions of this day now that they are adults, but I remember having to answer a bunch of questions.
Is Bill gonna be ok? Is he hungry? Why won’t he stop crying? Why is Miss Holly here? Can I go home to my house?
I did the best I could and half-way through their questions I realized I was calming down. My sisters and my cousin needed me and that helped me focus.
The ambulance was coming, Miss Holly was with my mother, and Bill was still crying…so he was breathing.
I stayed with the girls. I don’t remember the ambulance arriving, or anything else that day.
However, some images are very striking. So much, in fact, that when I think of that day…I am there.
An ear-splitting scream. Rolling eyes. Tortured cries. Vomit.
And pink walls. Cotton candy pink…