voices, she turned and raised her free hand at the harried nurses who
darted into a room down the hall, chipmunks into a bolt hole. They
didn’t respond, didn’t look.
“I need to get back to my room,” she said and gestured to the elevator,
which dinged and opened its doors.
“That’s amazing,” I said.
“For my next trick, you’ll help me in.”
Her manner was imperial, totally confident. As I gave her my arm
and walked her into the dim elevator car, I felt that I clung to her and not
the other way around, like she’d found me when I was lost. We turned
around slowly and faced the doors as they closed. When we arrived on
the second floor, I walked her down the hall and was surprised to see my
mother again—wearing different clothes, but it was her—coming down
the other way in a wheelchair she was walking with her feet. As she
passed us, she nodded to the mother I was walking on my arm.
“Are you all here?” I said.
She broke off from me and turned into a nearby doorway. I stopped
under the metallic lintel, painted the color of Band-Aids, and watched
as she shuffled to her bed and lay down on it. Light from the window
struck me as having no color at all. It only brightened the pink blan-
ket and white sheet under which my mother tried with difficulty to slip
herself. She hadn’t taken her shoes off, and her legs would not obey her
“Can you help?” she said.
I came to the bed, took off her shoes, and lifted her legs for her, moving the blanket caught on them and placing her feet underneath the
sheet. Once I’d accomplished this, I pulled the blanket up into the air
like a cresting wave and brought it down gently over her, burying her up
to her neck. She looked worried.
“Will you take my glasses?”
I pulled them from her face and kissed her on the cheek, which felt
cool and dry.
“I’m putting them over here.”
“I can’t see.”
“On the table. I’ve pulled it right here next the bed.”
“Thanks. You’re sweet.”