Home is not a place, but a feeling

I coughed.

It was a dreadful, hollow sound that vibrated through my chest and wrangled its way out of my mouth. It made my body feel exhausted, as if I haven’t gotten a wink of sleep in days, even though I was in a restless slumber the entire ride here.

I glanced over to the other side of the brightly lit room to see whether my mom heard my cough at all, but she seemed preoccupied in a quiet conversation with a man in a white coat. Tuning in, I caught the words “contagious” and “severe” in the man’s murmurs. My mother frowned.

Contagious? What was happening to me?

Another fit of coughs took over my body and my torso heaved and shook with the tremors.

My mother suddenly jumped, looking startled, and for the first time since we’ve gotten here, seemed to register the fact that I was only across the room from her. For a second, we maintained eye contact and I could clearly see the dark circles under her normally lively eyes. She smiled dejectedly and the doctor leaned in to say something else. I looked away, pulling my legs up to the seat and hugging them tight, as if I could hold my malfunctioning lungs together by the sheer force of my limp arms.

My mother started to walk over. An alarm went off in my head. What was she doing? Didn’t she hear that I’m contagious?

“It’s going to be okay,” she took a seat beside me and I flinched away, “We are going to be staying at the hospital for a few days.”

“For how long?” I said faintly, staring down at the dirty and yellow stained square panels in the floor.

` “Until you get better” Mom put her hand on top of mine in a comforting gesture but I could feel the slight shaking before she took it away.

The next few hours were fuzzy. Countless needles, tubes of blood, bags of fluids all blended together into that horrid antiseptic smell. By the time the nurses finally put me into bed, I was lightheaded and exhausted beyond measures. I forced my eyes to open and saw my mother sitting beside me in a stool with a worried expression.

“I’ll be right here when you wake up.”she said,and a wave of lethargy and comfort washed over me as the drugs kicked in.

Some time during the night, I dreamt of the sound of feet hitting the ground, an excessively annoying, mechanical beeping, and doors slamming. I felt like I was submerged in excruciatingly hot oil but when I tried to open my eyes and cry out, the darkness pushed me under once more.

When I did wake up, my  mother wasn’t there.

The gentle breeze from the half opened window beside my bed felt soothing on my tight skin. My eyes roamed around the seemingly empty room, fixating on the little details. Bottles of half opened medicine on a white counter, the dark contrast of the needle against my pale hand, winter sunlight streaming in, the steady beeping of the machine next to me and a heavily bandaged foot. That’s when I realized that mom has been sitting in a sofa chair all along.

“What, what happened?” I managed to croak out, staring at her injured right foot with bandages seeped through with blood. My throat was parched as the desert and my chest hurt every time I inhaled.

“It’s alright.” my mother whispered, “I think we are both going to be just fine.”

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