Below is an excerpt from The Color of Nothing, by Barbara Meyers, a young adult fiction novel inspired by actual events.
I killed my mother.
That’s what I think the next morning when I see her on the floor in the kitchen with a puddle of orange juice floating around her.
“Mom!” I yell. I go over by her. I bend down and put my ear by her mouth to see if she’s still breathing. It seems like she is, but I can’t be sure. I put my fingers on her throat, the way they taught us in health class if you want to take someone’s pulse. I can’t feel anything. Maybe my fingers are in the wrong place.
I roll her over to her back and put my head on her chest. Is that her heart? Is it still beating?
I didn’t think I listened when they taught us how to do CPR and rescue breathing at the Y camp two summers ago. I was supposed to go for two weeks, but the counselor didn’t like me. She kept picking fights with me for some reason, telling me I needed to follow the rules. Stuff like that. I got kicked out after a week.
But all of a sudden it’s like I’m in that stupid class and I can hear everything in my head that I didn’t know I knew.
Clear the passageway. Tilt the head back. Cover the victim’s mouth with yours, blow in two breaths. Okay, now, find the bottom of the sternum. One hand under your fist, fingers out. Press. Count. CPR.
I’m not a hundred percent sure I’m doing it right, but I do it anyway for a couple of minutes. Then I run and grab the phone and dial 911. I put my head on her chest again. I think her heart is still going, but I’m not sure. What if my mom’s dead for real?
I start CPR again holding the phone under my chin. Somebody picks up and wants to know the nature of my emergency.
I killed my mother, lady. Is that enough of an emergency for you? And hey, while we’re at it, can you go over how to do CPR with me one more time?
I don’t usually get that upset about anything. Either I’m pissed or I don’t care. But thinking my mother might be dead makes me a little upset.
The lady at 911 keeps talking to me, telling me I’m doing great, that the paramedics will be right there. She obviously doesn’t know me, is what I think. I never do anything great. I’m pretty sure I’m doing CPR wrong, because I do everything wrong.
I wish my mother would open her eyes and yell at me to get the hell off of her, what do I think I’m doing and clean up the damn orange juice. Didn’t I know orange juice doesn’t grow on trees?
But she just lays there. I hear the sirens and I run and unlock the door really fast and then do some more CPR until the paramedics come in and take over.
I try to watch them, but the kitchen is small and I have to get out of their way. It looks to me like they’re doing the same thing I was doing.
A patrol cop shows up right after the paramedics. I don’t know him but I’ve seen him before because he patrols the neighborhood.
I must be setting some kind of a record. For the third day in a row I’m talking to a cop.
After a while the paramedics put my mother on a gurney and roll her out to the ambulance.
The cop says maybe I want to get dressed and is there someone I can call. I forgot I’m wearing a tee shirt and underpants. I just got out of bed. I look at the clock. An hour ago.
I go in my room and put on some clothes. When I come back the cop says again, “Is there someone you can call?” I can’t think. Who? “Your father?” he suggests. Yeah right. I shake my head.
“Where’s your mom work?” he asks.
“At the Glades Nursing Home,” I tell him. “She’s a CNA.” I don’t tell him about her part-time job on the weekends.
What about friends? Relatives. I shrug. Miguel, I think. But what can he do? He barely speaks English. And besides, he isn’t my friend.
Then I remember. I don’t know why, but all of a sudden I remember Miz Klein. She gave me her card a long time ago when I first met her. She said I could call her any time, if I ever needed anything, anything at all. She’s told me that about a hundred times since then. Every time I see her, in fact.
I get her card out of my purse and I say to the cop that I can call her, so he says, “Okay. Maybe she can take you to the hospital.”