sick slate

It was around this time many years ago when our class went to a summer camp as the autumn turned cool. We were to talk to each other without the skyscrapers leaning over us. When we got to the bare cabins where even now the snow had fallen, a fever fell me. I nearly fainted over the toast in the cafeteria; blank stares and concern of classmates, a teacher rushing to my balance.

Infirmary-bound, I spent the night retching and sweating, staring at the blinds. The anonymous nurse watched impassive through the window to make sure I didn’t leave. What I remember most is that I struggled for clean breath, the air too thick with must and old cotton, my chest pressing in on itself, doubled over inside to useless density.

Somewhere in the middle of the night, I stumbled down the long linoleum corridor to the frigid air, as clean and cold as water. I know that clutching the walls to stay upright is a phrase too old to have any use anymore, but it is true. I seem to remember that I crawled the last few feet, the last few miles.

The swinging glass door, the impossible lean, nothing—the falling into snow.

I must have spent only a few minutes in the open air before they found me again, clenched arms and orders, but the memory of that relief: a sweating cheek pressed to the cold stone, the closed eyelids. Spinning inside my head, the twisted gut unclenching, slack muscles, limp hands, heaving chest on slate. This was the last time I saw dark glitter when I closed my eyes too tight.

I seem to remember the decision to stay.

It could have been so easy to wander away, to lay there and let the heat and the cold consume me. But there on the stone floor, each flake of rock hard and real, the wind blowing ice crystals across my skin, every thing I knew was too precious to leave.

I slept soundly. The fever broke in the morning. My father, frantic behind his eyes, drove up from the city to bring me home. We drank huge bottles of orange Gatorade, cursed the traffic, stocking feet on the dashboard. Home through the turnpike, across the bridge, and I was well, well so quickly.

But it had been a long night.

© 2015 Anna-Christina Betekhtin, All Rights Reserved.


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