I slide out of my warm bed as Mommy’s screaming gets louder. Daddy shakes and coughs. That horrible gravy covered rice we ate for dinner bubbles out of his mouth. His hand flails at my face. Mommy kneels on the bed next to him trying to hold him down. “Go to the intercom. Call downstairs. Say we need help. Ambulance” I stare at her. “Now!”
I’m not allowed to use the intercom near the door, I press the gold lettered “call” button and it buzzes. “Mrs. Lowe?”
“It’s Kate. We need, ah, ah an ambulance. For my father.” The words roll around in my mouth like golf balls.
“It’s Johnny, Katie. I’ll be right up.” Right, “Katie,” I sigh to myself.
The foyer is dark but I stand barefoot in a pool of light from picture windows in the living room. It feels like I’ve been standing here a long time when my mother calls, “Kate- come in here!”
I am afraid to get closer to the bed. He is shaking, but not swinging his arms and kicking his legs anymore. Without being asked, I get a green towel from the bar in Daddy’ bathroom and dab his mouth and cheeks with it. He looks at me. His eyes are like marbles, they don’t close and they don’t move. I stare at them, trying to find Daddy inside these glass eyes.
The door buzzes and I go to open it. I can’t reach the deadbolt. I go back to the room for help. Mommy leaves me in the room alone with him. “Don’t be scared Daddy. It’s like my asthma attacks, it’ll go away.” He’s not shaking. He blinks and passes the back of his fingers across my cheek. Daddy’s eyes are softer now and I smile at him.
Mommy and Johnny come back. They send me away into the hallway while they try to make him speak. He keeps calling Mommy a name none of us recognize.
A police lady and two paramedics arrive with a wheelchair. They walk right past me. I stay in the hallway, “Why can’t I help? I helped before.”
My mother ushers me to stand behind an open closet door. I am in my Nutcracker nightgown. She flops my duffel coat onto me. “Stay here. He doesn’t want you to see him like this.” I nod and wait wanting to peek around the door. I see my reflection in the mirror on the inside of the coat closet door where I am hiding, no one brushed my hair before bed and it looks like what Grandma calls, “a rat’s nest.” I hear the paramedics, the policewoman, and the doorman with the gold epaulets talking about the best way to wheel Daddy out the front door of the apartment. I begin to say, “Just push it forward,” but no words come out.
My head leads my body, peeking around the door and disobeying Mommy’s instructions. The need to look doesn't let go of me. Slumping in his wheel chair, he tries to say Mommy’s name. His mouth won’t open. Mommy’s crying loudly now. I can’t tell if she’s angry or afraid. I feel like I'm watching a movie.
The adults don’t know what to do. They can’t even agree on how to push a chair through a door. I am now standing in the foyer, in my coat, in open disregard for anything anyone’s ever told me. The paramedic looks in my direction but doesn’t see or hear me. No one does. I’m alone in a room full of grown ups.