- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
Cynthia sat nervously in the waiting area of the emergency room at Jackson Park Hospital. She couldn't stop gnawing on her fingernails or bouncing her leg up and down rapidly as if it were a jackhammer busting up concrete. Cynthia was a worrywart and during high-stress times such as this, her worst thoughts, fears and insecurities had a way of taking control. She tried to keep her worrisome imagination from running away with her, but she was losing the battle. She decided she needed to move around so she stood up and began pacing the floor. She massaged the back of her neck with her fingertips, then exhaled a few times. Cynthia paused at the nurses' station to ask if there was any news from the doctor about her mother, Elaine, who'd been rushed in because she was experiencing chest pain.
"They're still working on her. As soon as I hear something I'll call out your name," answered the nurse, who continued about her business of typing on her computer. Cynthia wanted to ask the nurse to double-check, but she decided to try to be patient for a little while longer.
She walked back to the waiting area and sat down on one of the hard and uncomfortable plastic chairs. Her leg started doing the involuntary movements again, and the scent of alcohol and disinfectant wafting through the air was making herstomach turn. She hated the smell of hospitals.
Cynthia attempted to distract her mind by watching a rerun of the program 227 that was playing on the television in the waiting room. Comedian Jackee Harry was making jokes about how the men in her life weren't any good in bed. Under different circumstances, Cynthia would have laughed at the humor, but right now she couldn't. Nothing was funny to her at the moment and adding to her frustration was the fact that her life was in a wild and crazy state—nothing was going the way she'd envisioned it. My husband isn't any good in bed, either. Cynthia smirked at the truthfulness of her thoughts and how well she could relate to what Jackee had just said.
Cynthia had chosen to get married early instead of going to college. She had thought marriage was the best way to escape from the poverty and poor living conditions of her mother and brother. If she got married, she had believed, life wouldn't be such a struggle and she and her husband could build a better life for themselves. Now, after having her first child and with continual money problems, she realized the marriage might have been the worst mistake of her life.
Cynthia began to think about her older brother, Victor, whom she was upset with at this point. She'd phoned him well over an hour ago and left word about their mother having to be rushed to the hospital. She'd even left the number of the hospital front desk where she could be paged but he still hadn't contacted her.
"Typical Victor," she muttered to herself as she once again began to pace the floor. He doesn't think about anything or anyone except for himself. If something doesn't have a direct impact on him, he could care less. Cynthia was even more upset with him because she'd loaned him fifty dollars which he had promised to repay in a week. It was now three weeks later and when she had confronted him about it earlier that day, he'd yelled at her.
"You're worse than a damn loan shark, Cynthia. When I get your money I'll give it back to you. I don't have it right now. Besides, you don't need it right this minute anyway."
Cynthia cringed at the memory of the argument and the shouting match that followed. She hated fighting with Victor in front of her mother, but she had no choice since Victor still lived at home but refused to meet her somewhere else to talk. Elaine had become very upset with them for fighting. She'd gotten so frustrated that she'd begun shouting at both of them for ruining her quiet afternoon. Eventually, Victor had stormed out. A short while later, Elaine had started experiencing chest pains and had to be rushed to the hospital.
"I feel guilty as hell about this," Cynthia muttered. "If I hadn't started the argument with Victor, I wouldn't be in here with my mother."
"Mrs. Cynthia Clark," Cynthia heard someone call. She rushed over to the nurses' station.
"Yes, that's me, I'm Mrs. Clark," she informed the nurse.
"Come with me. I'll take you to see your mother and the doctor will give you an update," she said and escorted Cynthia through a large wooden door and back toward the E.R. They walked to Bed Seven, where Elaine was sitting upright and fastening the buttons on her shirt.
"What's going on?" Cynthia asked, relieved to see that Elaine appeared to be okay.
"Nothing," Elaine answered, and Cynthia knew right away that she was still in a foul mood.
"The doctor will be over in a moment," the nurse said and then left them alone.
"How are you feeling?" Cynthia asked. "I was worried sick about you."
"It was just a little heartburn that's all." Elaine paused as she fastened her last button. "But you know how these doctors are. They want to poke around in your ass until they find something."
"Mom, it had to be more than heartburn. The way you were complaining of chest pains made me think you were having a massive coronary. You had a different look in your eyes, too."
"I didn't have any kind of look in my eyes," Elaine argued.
"Yes, you did. You were just staring at nothing, like a doll does. Your eyes were open but I didn't think you could see, and then you fainted. I've never heard of heart-burn making a person faint."
"I did not faint and I wasn't acting like that. I just felt a little tired, that's all. I just got a little dizzy from the heartburn. Now I wish this doctor would come on so I can get the hell up out of here. All they did was place me on a cold-ass table, in a cold-ass room, and stick and pinch me for two hours. I'm ready to go!"
"Elaine, lower your voice," Cynthia said soothingly.
"Now, what did the doctor say?"
"The hell if I know. Like I said, all they did was strip me naked so that they could stick me and take some of my blood."
Cynthia sighed a frustrated sigh. Talking rationally to her mother when she got into one of her cynical moods was impossible.
"Hello. Are you her daughter?"
A male doctor came over. He was a nice-looking man, Cynthia thought. He had pretty brown skin, a bald head and a nicely shaped mustache.
"I'm Dr. Weaver, the cardiologist on staff tonight." He extended his hand and Cynthia shook it.
"So, what happened to my mom?" Cynthia asked.
"Thankfully nothing has happened yet, but her test results indicate that major changes need to be made."
"Changes like what?" Elaine snapped.
"Mom, don't be difficult," Cynthia said through clenched teeth, glaring at her mother. Cynthia wanted her mother to know that she wasn't about to put up with one of her classic tirades up in the emergency room.
"For one, the smoking has to stop. Her cholesterol level is extremely high and initial tests are showing signs of vascular disease."
"Vascular disease?" Cynthia asked. "What exactly is that?"
"Oh, Lord! Now the man is trying to tell me I got the damn—whatchamacallit." Elaine folded her arms across her chest and began to rock back and forth on the edge of the hospital bed. Cynthia was an expert at reading her mother's body language and knew that Elaine wasn't ready to hear or accept what was about to be said.
"When high cholesterol goes untreated, it clogs the arteries and restricts the flow of blood. Blood not flowing well can lead to a variety of medical problems, including a heart attack."
"Did she have a heart attack?" Cynthia asked.
"I don't think so. I'm certain that her shortness of breath, chest pain and dizziness are warning signals that her body is having a difficult time." Dr. Weaver picked up a nearby clipboard and began jotting down information. "Elaine, I want you to follow up with me later this week. I want to run some more tests, place you on a diet and work on your addiction to nicotine."
"Addiction! Man, I don't have an addiction!" Elaine shouted. That was the way that Elaine handled things when they didn't go her way—she'd explode, and Cynthia hated when she did that. Cynthia shot threatening daggers at her mom with her eyes. "Mom, you need to relax," Cynthia quickly spoke out.
"The man is trying to say that I got some damn vascular thing and an addiction, and all I had was a little heartburn. I know what I had, and I don't need someone like him to tell me that I got something else. All I need to do is take some of my roots and herbs and I'll be just fine." Both Cynthia and Dr. Weaver remained silent until Elaine ran out of breath and began coughing uncontrollably.
"Go on, Dr. Weaver. Tell me what needs to be done and where she needs to go and I'll make sure she gets there." Cynthia focused on Dr. Weaver's instructions; she'd deal with fighting and dragging her mom to his office later. Right now, all she wanted was to get the information and get Elaine released before she caught her breath and continued hollering about what Dr. Weaver did and didn't know.
"I can't believe the way you acted up in there," Cynthia scolded her mother as they drove down Stony Island Boulevard back toward Elaine's apartment on Fifty-First Street and King Drive.
"Those doctors don't know everything, Cynthia. They were in there running a bunch of tests so that they could get paid, that's all." Elaine rolled down the car window and allowed the crisp winter air to blow into the car. She then opened her purse, removed a cigarette and lit up. She inhaled deeply and then blew the smoke out the car window. She also positioned her cigarette near the window opening so that the smoke wouldn't circulate inside the car. "Dr. Weaver just told you that you need to stop." Cynthia was annoyed by the fact that her mother wasn't taking the doctor's findings seriously.
"I'm going to stop when I finish this pack," Elaine said. Cynthia didn't believe a word of what she said but made a mental note to work with her to kick her habit.
"Where is Victor?" Elaine asked.
"I don't know. He never showed up and he never called me back," Cynthia answered bitterly. If there was ever a moment that Cynthia anticipated an outburst from her mother, this was it. Instead, Elaine was silent for a long moment and then she began to sniffle. Out of the corner of her eye, Cynthia saw her quickly wipe away tears. Cynthia knew that Victor's absence had hurt her feelings.
When I see Victor, he'd better pray that I'm in my right mind. It's not right that he didn't at least call to see about his mother's well-being.
"I'm going to get on his case. Don't worry," Cynthia said trying to make her mother feel better. Elaine didn't speak a word; she just continued to sniffle and smoke.
"That's okay. I'll be all right. I just can't believe that my own son didn't come to see about me."
"Maybe we should give him the benefit of the doubt," Cynthia offered, thinking that might ease the sting a little.
"Now you know as well as I do that Victor is going to come back with a million excuses as to why he didn't come see about me." Elaine took another drag and then exhaled. "One of these days, he's going to run out of excuses with me," Elaine said and then remained silent for the rest of the drive home.
Excerpted from When Push Comes To Shove by Earl Sewell Copyright © 2006 by Earl Sewell. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.