“ Come on move for me” I urged my body forward.
“We can die another day, not today” I pleaded with myself. My body was beaten down, worn and torn from sleepless nights and numerous jobs. Although drained out of life, today was just like any other; thinking of her, chasing time, running wherever dollar bills flew, wherever nickels and dimes fell.
It was like a sona, the heat intensifying every passing second.
“Two big Plates, and a bowl” chef called out.
“Dose grande, y uno bol” I called back. The food hit the plates in seconds, covering the once pristine, ceramic white plate with mouth watering ingredients that had been chopped, diced and orchestrated together to form the masterpiece that laid before me.
This was my daily routine. At the strike of eight I was a prep cook and dishwasher till five, then at six I was filling ice, turning tables as a busboy and that lasted until two thirty in the morning. From then until three thirty I would take the bus to the hospital, and that’s where I would see her, my mother. She had been sick for a couple of years now, she had gotten worse ever since my father passed, now all she had was me. But despite the constant stress of hospital bills and money, Fridays were my special nights, nights when I got to see him, the black and white prince.
We didn’t have insurance, we didn’t have money for the procedures, doctor visits and the treatment. This broke me to depths I never knew, what kind of son watches as his mother dies and withers away. So I did what needed to be done, a few years back I started working so she didn’t have to. Got two more jobs so I could start taking her to the hospital so she could start whatever treatment was needed to get her better. But the doctors still couldn’t find a cure for her illness, and in worse news they told me that she wouldn’t last long, a couple more months at most.
“Lord help us” I whispered, holding her hand as exhaustion took over, plunging me in a slumber.
“He’s here!...” she wrote.
“He looks so peaceful when he’s like this, I dare not wake him. His hands are rough against mine, just like yours used to be. I was given two hard working men in this life… actually your son is more hardworking, more handsome, and just everything we both dreamed him to be. I wish you could see him now, how much his grown”.
Every time I came to see her she was always writing things down in a small leather bound book.
I woke up to the sight of the nurse tending to my mother.
“Buenos días, mi amor” she said, with a weak smile I knew all too well. She hid her pain well enough, but through it all I knew she was suffering. Knowing there was nothing I could do killed me every day when I saw her.
“Mi hijo, it’s almost seven, hurry up and get ready” she told me. I took showers at the hospital, with my schedule that was the only way I could get to work on time. I never seemed to have enough time with her, which made it even worse when I knew I didn't have much time left. How does one handle it, knowing that their loved one is about to die.
I remember it clear as day. It was a Friday, I had my usual restaurant routine with chef, but that night I was cleaning a small company office that I cleaned every Friday night. When I was done I washed up and went outside, I waited for him to arrive. He was someone I could talk to about anything and everything to, he was someone I confided in every Friday night, those were our little moments. “Meow” I heard coming from a nearby bush, he always had to make an entrance, stepping into the light he was nothing short of royalty. His black and white coat was always immaculate and his eyes, green as emeralds they were. Of all the chaos my mind was in, with him I felt at ease.
I laid down his portion of food. I told him about my week, about work and the customers. He took breaks from his meal here and there to meow, letting me know he was still paying attention. When I talked about my mother he would always stop eating and would seemingly listen to every word almost knowing that this was the most important part.
“ she’s not doing well, I’m holding things together but on the inside I’m shattered and I don’t know how to put the pieces back. My mind is constantly running, and I can’t make the thoughts stop, she’s all I have you know. I can’t lose her too”.
“ meow “ he responded.
As I arrived at the hospital, I felt uneasy for some reason, as if my body knew what my mind fought hard to keep out. My breath was uneasy, my steps were heavy.. and that’s when I received the call.
“ hello “ I answered.
“Hey, honey where are you” the nurse asked.
I rarely received calls from her, a first and at such a late hour.
“I’m right outside, is something wrong? “ Iasked.
“ I need you to seat down for me ok, a few moments ago...”
everything she said became muffled, distant as if her voice was an echo slowly drifting away into some unknown darkness.. Everything became num, almost weightless, as if nothing existed. I have no idea how but I found myself next to her, taking hold of her hand as I had done before; felt cold and lifeless. In that moment everything broke, I shook my head as if to say no, my eyes held nothing back as my heart got struck with unimaginable pain. I knelt beside her, holding on to dear life “this is not happening, this is not happening, this is not happening “ I repeated to my self over and over until darkness too over.
I just sat there as the nurse explained what was going to happen next. I zoned it out, I had no care for it.” She also left this for you” the nurse said,, her voice becoming clear as if those words were the most important. It was a leather bound book, I recall seeing it a few times when I came to see her. There was a rose petal pinned between some of the pages, and that’s where I began.
“My son, I think it’s time. I don’t know how much time I have left but hopefully I have time to see you one last time, you're probably cleaning that office you talk about, and that crazy prince of yours. I like that cat. There’s not much to say that you don’t already know. I love you, to the moon and far beyond. I really wish I had more time. Me and your father want to give you this, it’s not much, but hopefully it’s a start. I would have loved to see you continue growing, becoming the man you already are.”
There was an envelope on the last page addressed to me, I tore it open revealing a check of twenty thousand dollars. I had no excitement, no joy, no emotion, these were just numbers to me. I never needed money, all I needed was you to be ok, to get better, to not leave me alone. “ I’m alone now” I breathed out clenching my teeth as tears ran down my face.
It was Friday again, I stopped working at the bar and cleaning the office. I told chef I would be out for a while. The world seemed cold, muted through my eyes, all I wanted to do was drown in its darkest corners and be left there. As I stared out the window I thought to myself…
“ maybe I should go see him”
I got off the bus and headed straight to our usual spot, I was early. My fingers started turning through the pages, her scent filling the air. I landed on a page dated months back.
“ oh my goodness! We made a handsome boy... well I did, you kind of helped a little.”
Mom always picked on my dad with little loving remarks like this. I turned a few more pages in and continued to read.
“ He’s here again, he used to be so small. I wish you could see him now honey, he’s just like you. He thinks too much, that’s one thing I don’t like about the both of you, but that’s also something I love that he got from you. You took care of us, now his taking care of me... but who’s going to take care of him? Hopefully he finds a good girl. Women nowadays are so materialistic, hopefully he sees past her looks and judges her heart properly. Honey, have we done enough? Have we taught him enough...”
Both of them had taught me plenty to survive.
I heard something bristling in the bushes, a few cracks here and there. I released a heavy sigh when he finally stepped out.
“ Hey old friend” I said as he made his way to me.