It was 2 a.m. I'd been lying awake for hours, kept up by the sound of my own cough.
I heard my bedroom door creak open and looked up to see my mother, old and haggard, enter my room. In her hand she carried a plastic bottle and a metal tablespoon.
"Can't sleep?" she asked.
"No," I replied.
She nodded at me and came to my bedside, unscrewing the bottle's cap as she walked. She sat gently next to me and poured me a spoonful of the syrup.
"Here, try this.
"I just took some an hour ago. It didn't do anything."
"Take some anyway." She brought the full spoon to my lips. For a moment, I kept them closed, but her look made me open wide.
"There," she said as I swallowed the medicine. A pleased tone was woven throughout her voice. "That should help."
"I hope so."
Silence penetrated the room for an instant.
"I think you should see the doctor tomorrow," she said.
I shook my head.
"And why not?"
"Because he won't do anything about it."
"He might give you some stronger medicine."
"You know he won't. He never does."
She nodded sadly and said nothing after that. She knew the doctor was a poor one and that I would go undiagnosed for as long as I could.
Suddenly, a cough bubbled up in my throat and I began to hack. It went on for longer than I anticipated, and I reached toward my mother, motioning for a tissue. I covered my mouth with the thin paper and continued to cough, my body shuddering from the force.
When I finally stopped, I pulled the tissue away from my mouth and saw blood. I quickly wadded it up and threw it in the trash. I didn't want my mother to see.
"Are you all right?" she asked, gently rubbing my back.
"Yeah," I said, reclining back into bed. "I'm fine."