By now, I know he’s going to be okay but I’m still running because he expects me to be the kind of mom who runs from the car to the emergency room. He can’t see me, but my husband is watching out the door and narrating my movements, so I run.
He is stretched out on the gurney. His hand covers his face, blocking the fluorescent light from his eyes. He lifts his fingers when I come in.
His eyes are bloodshot, and they fill with tears when they see me. He closes them to try to hide.
And then we both do it. Exhale the breaths we’ve been holding. I didn’t even realize I was holding my breath.
His body deflates, but it’s not a bad thing. It’s the relief that comes when your mom shows up and you can give in and give up. I’m forty-three, and it’s the relief I still feel when my mom comes into the room.
Oh good. Here she is. She’ll take care of things. She knows what to do. I’m going to be okay.
I don’t have the chance to speak first.
“Okay, okay, Mom,” he says, irritated. “You can calm down now.”
He’s been imagining me driving here from work just as I’ve been imagining him strapped to the stretcher, loaded into the ambulance, driven to the E.R.
“Did you drive fast?” he asks. His voice is groggy, slow.
“I don’t even want to tell you how fast I drove.”
I step closer and sit in the chair my husband has just vacated.
I reach for him, but he shakes his head and then groans.
“Not yet,” he says.
I can wait.
I place my hands on the metal rail. I inch them closer onto the gurney. Soon my nail is touching the fabric of his sleeve. I try the lightest pressure of fingertip to shoulder. He opens one eye to look at me but doesn’t say anything. I take that as permission and grip his shoulder. He doesn’t ask me to move away.
He breathes. I breathe.
Slowly he lowers his arm until his elbow is resting on my arm. Slowly he stretches so that his entire arm is supported by mine.