"I'm sorry, Mrs. Worthing, we…we did…w-we lost him."
My ears started buzzing. Those words were not in my vocabulary. I got very dizzy. I stepped backward to steady myself, but instead my knee buckled.
Jack caught me. He pulled me up. "Doctor!" he shouted.
"I'm sorry! There was nothing we could do. I'm sorry, I'm…so sorry."
Those words were not in my vocabulary, either. Words? Useless things. They would not help my son.
I saw my hands shoot out and catch my Jack in the chest, shoving him roughly into a chair. His eyes were wide as I rushed past him towards the exit. I crashed through the two sets of doors; my palms stung from the impacts.
If I could run all the way home, me, his Mommy, if I could run all the way home he would be there. He would be all right.
I knew that. So I started to run.
I passed the park where his favorite thing was the tire-swing. He could sit in it for hours. I could see it swinging back and forth, side-to-side; I could hear his little laughs. I saw his baby curls—not so long gone—waving around his face as he came down the slide into my only-too-ready hands.
I ran on. Breath came hard, now.
I passed the daycare center. He had gone there every weekday for a month. Last October. I had gotten a job. My friends had convinced me I was missing something. That month was the closest thing to Hell I had ever suffered. I quit that job and got my boy back. My son. I was his Mommy! That daycare brought tears to my eyes. I fought them.
I ran on. My legs ached. But if I could make it all the way home he would be there. Waiting for me. He would be sitting drawing a picture or watching TV, but he would be waiting for me. For his mother. The door would open and his eyes would turn to me, shining, as he would run to me to grab me around the waist. Yes.
Once he had spilled my groceries. There had been eggs and milk and cereal—Cheerios. Everything spilled everywhere. I had been angry with him. No! I mentally flogged myself. How could I have? I would fix it. When I got home and saw him there I would apologize.
I fought back more burning tears.
My legs and arms were tingling. My lungs were on fire.
But I am Mommy.
If I could run all the way home he would be there.
I ran on.
I passed the hardware store where Jack bought the wrong sized screwdriver to fix his crib. Twice. In the same day. That crib was mine once. Now it is my niece's. But it was my son's. It was his. He was never a good sleeper. He woke me up at least once every night. I would hold him, walk with him, feed him, rub his back, or—the most wonderful—rock with him in the old rocking chair. He always fell asleep smiling if I sang to him. Those little lips curled up just the tiniest bit at the corners. They are so beautiful when they sleep. I would stand and just look. Drink it all in. That beautiful, beautiful boy was mine. His chest moved up and down, up and down, so slowly.
I loved kissing his forehead.
I ran on.
Each step jarred my whole body.
But the thought that controlled my mind was that I must make it all the way home.
The ground next to the sidewalk seemed to drop away. The hill, the sledding hill. I was so afraid he would scream, would cry, would hate it. But no. When we went over a huge bump and flew through the air he was the one laughing and I was the one hating it. I had bruised my tailbone, I think. But it was an enchanting evening, because he was happy. Mommy is alive to be Mommy.
If I could make it-
-to the house-
-all the way-
-to the house-
-he will be there.
I knew this. I knew this.
I ran on.
There. There was my street. I could barely breathe. I could not feel my arms and legs. My feet hit the sidewalk so hard, hard each time. A little farther, a little farther.
I would make it. I would have run all the way home. Everything would be all right. I knew.
Up the front walk, through the front door. I could not breathe.
We left the door unlocked in our frenzied rush.
I tripped over Jack's work boots, bruising my knee. But I could not feel it. I was not aware. I scrambled about, struggling to lift my body off the floor. It could not, must not fail me now.
I could not breathe. My ears were buzzing again. I remembered. I remembered when he put those boots on, once. The picture I took was hanging in his bedroom. The tongues came up to his hips. He was giggling so hard his eyes are shut. My little boy. He will be embarrassed of that picture someday. When he can actually wear Daddy's work boots.
I scrabbled on the floor. I needed to find him now. I heaved myself up.
The house I knew, but it was not mine. Not without him. It was hollow. It would be right when I had found him.
I could not breathe.
I forced myself up the stairs.
He would be there.
Sleeping in his bed with the Superman sheets.
The teddy bear.
--"Mary!" A door slams open. A young man runs up a set of stairs into a small room. A woman lies, soaked with sweat, stretched full length across a small bed, her fist closed around a brown teddy bear's paw, unconscious. —