Long Lost Page 43

That made me pause. I looked around the hospital room as if that would give me the answer. It did. My blanket had a logo on it and the words: NEW YORK-PRESBYTERIAN MEDICAL CENTER.

This couldn\'t be.

’’I\'m in Manhattan?’’

’’Yes.’’

’’I was flown back?’’

She said nothing.

’’Esperanza?’’

’’I don\'t know.’’

’’Well, how long have I been in this hospital?’’

’’A few hours maybe, but I can\'t be sure.’’

’’You\'re not making any sense.’’

’’I don\'t quite get it either, okay? Two hours ago, I got a call that you were here.’’

My brain felt fuzzy and her explanations weren\'t helping. ’’Two hours ago?’’

’’Yes.’’

’’And before that?’’

’’Before that call,’’ Esperanza said, ’’we didn\'t have any idea where you were.’’

’’When you say \'we\' ’’

’’Me, Win, your parents ’’

’’My parents?’’

’’Don\'t worry. We lied to them. Told them you were in an area of Africa with spotty phone service.’’

’’None of you knew where I was?’’

’’That\'s right.’’

’’For how long?’’ I asked.

She just looked at me.

’’For how long, Esperanza?’’

’’Sixteen days.’’

I just lay there. Sixteen days. I had been out for sixteen days. When I tried to remember, my heart started racing. I felt panic.

’’Just let it go . . .’’

’’Myron?’’

’’I remember getting arrested.’’

’’Okay.’’

’’Are you telling me that was sixteen days ago?’’

’’Yes.’’

’’You contacted the British police?’’

’’They didn\'t know where you were either.’’

I had a million questions, but the door opened, interrupting us. Esperanza shot me a warning glance. I stayed silent. A nurse walked in, saying, ’’Well, well, you\'re awake.’’

Before the door could swing closed, someone else pushed it open.

My dad.

Something akin to relief washed over me at the sight of this admittedly old man. He was out of breath, no doubt from running to see his son. Mom came in behind him. My mother has this way of always rushing at me, even during the most routine visit, as if I were a recently released POW. She did it again this time, knocking the nurse out of the way. I used to roll my eyes when she did it, though I would be secretly pleased. I didn\'t roll my eyes this time.

’’I\'m okay, Mom. Really.’’

My father hung back for a moment, as was his way. His eyes were wet and red. I looked at his face. He knew. He hadn\'t bought the story about Africa with no phone service. He had probably helped peddle it to Mom. But he knew.

’’You\'re so skinny,’’ Mom said. ’’Didn\'t they feed you anything there?’’

’’Leave him alone,’’ Dad said. ’’He looks fine.’’

’’He doesn\'t look fine. He looks skinny. And pale. Why are you in a hospital bed?’’

’’I told you,’’ Dad said. ’’Didn\'t you hear me, Ellen? Food poisoning. He\'s going to be fine, some kind of dysentery.’’

’’Why were you in Sierra Madre anyway?’’

’’Sierra Leone,’’ Dad corrected.

’’I thought it was Sierra Madre.’’

’’You\'re thinking of the movie.’’

’’I remember. With Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hep-burn.’’

’’That was The African Queen.’’

’’Ohhh,’’ Mom said, now understanding the confusion.

Mom let go of me. Dad moved over, smoothed my hair off my forehead, kissed my cheek. The rough skin from his beard rubbed against me. The comforting smell of Old Spice lingered in the air.

’’You okay?’’ he asked.

I nodded. He looked skeptical.

They both suddenly looked so old. That was how it was, wasn\'t it? When you don\'t see a child for even a little while, you marvel at how much they\'ve grown. When you don\'t see an old person for even a little while, you marvel at how much they\'ve aged. It happened every time. When did my robust parents cross that line? Mom had the shakes from Parkinson\'s. It was getting bad. Her mind, always a tad eccentric, was slipping somewhere more troubling. Dad was in relatively good health, a few minor heart scares, but they both looked so damn old.

’’Your mother and father down in Miami . . .’’

My chest started to hitch. I was having trouble breathing again.

Dad said, ’’Myron?’’

’’I\'m fine.’’

The nurse pushed through now. My parents stepped to the side. She put a thermometer in my mouth, started checking my pulse. ’’It\'s after visiting hours,’’ she said. ’’You\'ll all have to go now.’’

I didn\'t want them to go. I didn\'t want to be alone. Terror gripped me, and I felt great shame. I forced up a smile as she took out the thermometer and said with a little too much cheer, ’’Get some sleep, okay? I\'ll see you all in the morning.’’

I met my father\'s eye. Still skeptical. He whispered something to Esperanza. She nodded and escorted my mother from the room. My mother and Esperanza left. The nurse turned back at the door.

’’Sir,’’ she said to my father, ’’you\'ll have to leave.’’

’’I want to be alone with my son for a minute.’’

She hesitated. Then: ’’You have two minutes.’’

We were alone now.

’’What happened to you?’’ Dad asked.

’’I don\'t know,’’ I said.

He nodded. He pulled the chair close to the bed and held my hand.

’’You didn\'t believe that I was in Africa?’’

’’No.’’

’’And Mom?’’

’’I would tell her you called when she was out.’’

’’She bought that?’’

He shrugged. ’’I never lied to her before so, yes, she bought it. Your mother isn\'t as sharp as she once was.’’

I said nothing. The nurse came in. ’’You have to leave now.’’

’’No,’’ my father said.

’’Please don\'t make me call security.’’

I could feel the panic start up in my chest. ’’It\'s okay, Dad. I\'m fine. Get some sleep.’’

He looked at me for a moment and turned to the nurse. ’’What\'s your name, sweetheart?’’

’’Regina.’’

’’Regina what?’’

’’Regina Monte.’’

’’My name is Al, Regina. Al Bolitar. Do you have any children?’’


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