Based on a real event
It was a cloudy fall day and everyone was getting ready for Halloween.
I was sleeping when my mother entered my room, turning on the light. I felt the bright light shinning on my face, but it was not enough to wake me up. She opened the curtains, letting in the sunlight. “Gabriel, wake up! Your cousin is sick again. We have to go to the hospital.” That was the only thing she said before leaving my room.
When I finally woke up, she stopped what was becoming an anthem. I looked at my phone it was only 9:17 AM. I knew I would have a long day ahead with my mother. So I decided to relax and take a hot shower.
Before making my way to the bathroom, I looked at my phone again: 9:34 AM, and it was a hundred percent charged. I took my phone, my towel, and my toothbrush, and I started to walk toward the bathroom. On my way there, I realized that my mother was still taking a shower. I returned to my room and lay down on my bed, waiting for her to finish.
“Gabriel! Are you still sleeping?” she yelled.
“Naa. I am awake.” I replied.
It took me half an hour to get ready. We took the first taxi that was passing by. The driver was a Dominican guy. He was one of those guys that can tell you their entire life story and what is happening on the news in just a ride. My mother enjoyed all that talk. They were talking and I was listening to music through my headphones. I paused the music to ask my mother what was going to be my birthday gift. I was about to turn nineteen in a few more days.
“You have to wait five more days,” she said, “Stop asking.”
My cousin Lea suffers from lupus. She has to come to the hospital often because of her condition. Lea is married and has three children. Two of them are teenagers. Her children are always affected by these hospital visits.
Lea was in a hospital located on Broadway, in Uptown Manhattan. It took us about twenty minutes to get there. The New York Presbyterian Hospital had the typical smell of sickness and antiseptic alcohol. Lea was in a two bed room, the room number was two hundred and twenty seven, located on the third floor.
“Lets take the stairs.” my mother said. She does not like elevators. Once, she had a bad experience inside an elevator.
“Mom, this hospital is huge. We might get lost. Lets take the elevator. And you want to see Lea, right?” I said.
“Okay. Let’s take it.” She finally said, while glancing at me.
When we got to the room, Lea’s older child was there with his dad. “Lea, what happened?” my mother asked my cousin. “Are you okay?” As Lea started to tell us what happened, I took a deep look to her. She looked like she did not sleep in days; her skin was as white as the full moon in a summer night, and her mouth was as dry as the arid earth in a desert.
On the other bed in the room I noticed a middle-aged Asian woman. I could see her name on her hospital bracelet; her name was Kim. Next to her were an Asian man and a white woman. I guess he was her son and his girlfriend. I looked at Kim and I realized she did not look bad at all. She looked healthy.
Fifteen minutes later, a doctor came into the room to take a look at both his patients. The doctor was around twenty eight years old.
“Very young to be a doctor.” my mother said under her breath.
“Nowadays they are like this, Tia.” Steven, my cousin’s husband, said back.
“Can you all wait in the hall for a few minutes? Please!” The doctor said. We all left the room, including Kim’s son and his girlfriend. About seven minutes after the doctor entered, he called Kim’s son inside. The doctor called him Jim. Jim took his girlfriend inside too.
Ten minutes later, the doctor left the room number two hundred and twenty seven with a changed face. He looked sad. “He is crying. Right?” Steven said. I could not see his tears. When we got back inside the room, we saw Kim and Jim crying. Jim looked devastated crying like a baby without his mother.
“ What did the doctor say?” My mother asked my cousin.
“The doctor said that Kim has a high level of cancer,” Lea said under her breath, “He said that she only has five months left. Maybe less than that.”
We were all shocked when we heard the news. I looked at Kim. She was crying; nothing exaggerated because she was trying to calm down her son, who was devastated.
I started to think how a single word can destroy a person. How cancer can destroy a family. I started to cry too. Kim looked at me. “Is okay.” She said. I couldn’t handle it. I left the room because I didn’t want Jim to look at me. “I’m going take a walk.” I said to my mother.
“Gabriel, wait! Lea we should go. Is getting late and is cold outside. I’m coming tomorrow after work.” My mother said to Lea and me.
“Okay, then. Take care!” Lea said.
We took a taxi again because the temperature dropped and the wind was freezing. The taxi driver was a quiet guy this time. I thanked God because I wasn’t in a good mood to talk or listen to anybody, and I’m sure my mother felt the same. I thought about life and how hard it could be sometimes.
Then I said:
-“What?” my mother asked me.
-“I don’t want anything for my birthday.”