It begins when I’m cleaning my son’s room. The heavy breathing. The phlegmy cough. The cravings. I grab another handful of M&M’s and stuff them into my mouth, but they don’t quench the insatiable gnawing in my stomach.
Falling to my knees, I pick up a plastic dump truck and shove it into the toy box. Why are my hands trembling? Is it the flu? Dehydration? I try to stand… but can’t. Legs are too weak. Tingly.
Over-exhaustion does this to people. I think. It’s part of parenthood. The sleepless nights, toddler waking before dawn, baby nursing all night, and more toys on the floor and the light is too bright and I wish the ringing in my ears would just stop.
Another cough. The movement wracks my lungs, my back, my body… everything. Fall on my side until the convulsions stop. Getting harder to breathe. Where are my M&M’s? Left them on the shelf, too high to reach.
I try to cover my mouth, but my hand doesn’t quite make it before the cough ends. Ah well. Try to get more sleep tonight.
Crack an eyelid open. My five-year-old stands in my line of vision, a terrified look in his eyes.
“Mommy, what’s wrong?”
“Sw––-sweety.” Why is it so hard to push the words out? “Get…” Water.
He doesn’t seem to hear that last part as he kneels beside me. My thirst intensifies until it’s almost painful.
His voice sounds somewhere in the back of my mind, echoing through the buzzing and ringing and fog and thirst and hunger and there’s food HERE. Right in front of me. If I could just… get the energy to… and taste…
Something warm and thick fills my mouth. Heavenly. Ambrosia.
So good. That sound, though. Like screaming. A screaming child. What’s a child?