It is not a miracle of faith, but a miracle of perseverance that delivers them both to high ground, the boy wincing under her bruising grip, protesting, I was joking, I could stand all the time, and the Bubbe, her dress soaked, her mound of blond hair slumped to one side.
The ebb of machines was constant beneath the murmur of nurses and, when I strained to listen, faint sobs. I looked out the sugary windows in my room. An empty freeway was like river water from up high, curled through the fog and flat strip malls. The hospital was near the airport and I could hear the planes leaving and coming into the city.
On my fifth day in theater, I stand in the OR at Bagram Air Base, Afghanistan, after another IED explosion. Two patients are laid out on surgical tables, each with a wound that gapes and gray skin tattooed by shrapnel.
While I wait for him to pull the trigger, I drive to the grocery store. Pick up milk, chewing gum, sponges. Drop off the dry cleaning: the dress I splattered with a spaghetti stain at Shana and Calvin’s wedding last month. Ignore the stench of the rotting plant in the backseat and keep the AC rippling.
Li has never seen a kidney, but he imagines a flesh-colored ball the size of a fist. He wonders how he will transport it on his motorcycle, whether he will seal it inside a plastic bag with duct tape or place it in a cooler lined with ice.
Victor has evaded physical activity with crafty excuses his whole life, but he decides that boxing could be an acceptable diversion. He doesn’t have to hit anyone or get hit in the boxing class, and there’s something thrilling about wrapping his hands, hammering away at the heavy bag in a hot warehouse under industrial fans, knocking the bag with one fist and catching it hard with the other, the contented exhaustion after.
I am finding the experience terrifyingly similar to what I imagine it would be like to witness my mother drown. I stand on the shore and throw ropes to her, but she has no idea what to do with them. I try to swim to her, but she only moves farther away.
I turned thirteen that week. I assumed that it came with some new liberties, but no one had specifically said so, and I was too uncertain to ask. Still, the night after my birthday, Elmo and me made plans to go out.
The two of them stand framed together in the fragile glass, she thin-faced with a worried mouth, he like a wisp of smoke with flint at its center, vulnerable but still volatile within.