Two fire trucks and an ambulance? Maybe more? I can’t remember for sure. The response came within minutes
The moment I do recall is when the golf cart flipped over. Everything at that time seemed to freeze while the cart made its way to the left side. I remember my hand grabbing to the right on the passenger side, holding, hoping not to be tossed over. The blue, motionless sky with its white clouds met my gaze in the slow progression of the weight of the cart to the side. The inevitable fall probably took seconds but it seemed like an eternity until the sounds of the emergency vehicles came blaring in, along with the sound of people coming towards us. All, from a sudden pause in time, came rushing in. Colors, sounds, smells.
“My foot. My foot” were the only words emitting from my mouth as I was writhing in pain on the pavement, moving side to side in full soccer player mode holding my left ankle. The driver, unscathed, was trying to talk to me, but I all I mustered in my anger towards him, “my fucking foot.”
My last day of what had been a carefree summer job, shared with a kid that lived up to his Italian last name, Pelusso, and another kid that looked like one of the Handson Brothers, culminated that morning with a ride to the hospital. Up to that moment, it had been a glorious summer.
Miles Davis, Ben Harper, Sugar Ray’s “Fly,” broken golf-carts thanks to our shenanigans, summer crushes, BBQ’s at a friend’s off-campus house, copious amount of wine and coffee that we smuggled out from the campus dining center, and careless times shared with people that came and went out of my life marked that summer.
Becky, Sonia, Val, Pelusso, Ben (aka Hanson), Brenda, David Muso, Sky; all now ghosts in the cemetery of buried memories. And then there was John, the kid responsible for flipping the cart. Pelusso and Handson had long been gone, having had gone for the summer weeks prior. John, the rookie, who was our replacement to work on the grounds of the campus, never made it past that first day of his job. His nagging convinced me to let him drive as we were heading back to the greenhouse after the morning gardening routine.
Months prior to that summer, nothing seemed to be carefree. No Miles Davis or other music to distract me. No girls sending me love letters. No long conversations with friends under the endless night sky. Just heavyweight of loss, thousands of miles away from life as I knew it, as imperfect as it was.
A call set all in motion, leading me to borrow $700 for the flight, scrape whatever monies I could gather, and leave everything behind –mostly, a challenging college semester with a thesis that was going nowhere. Making the decision to leave came after searching and struggling for an answer. “I don’t hold office hours today, but what can I do for you,” were the words that met me from my thesis counselor, not even before approaching her office doorway. “Nothing,” I said and I went to search for my tutor/mentor. “All should be fine. Stay the course” was his advice.
I don’t recall what time the phone rang following the next or the following days within that week as sleepless nights and the stress merged time all into endless hours of agitation and uncertainty. “How is the situation” was the question I asked my older sister’s husband. After hanging up, I set my travel arrangements back to New York City from Poughkeepsie. Two days later I was sitting on a plane heading to Quito, Ecuador.
The local population I found to be hostile. Their local transportation, inadequate and uncomfortable. The food? All I can tell is that the local cuisine sent me to the crapper for the whole week that I was there with my stomach twisting, and churning in painful cramps.
Home for that week narrowed to trips back and forth from my stepfather’s house to the hospital. My two sisters and I gathered in the waiting area sleep-deprived and hanging to hope. The comings and goings of those days have faded into threads of memory that I can’t completely untangle.
Aside from the times,I shared with my sisters talking and laughing at each other during those long days, what I remember clearly is that when I first arrived on a Sunday to the hospital, I got to see my mother for the first time in almost three-years. Did we share hours together? Or just moments? I can’t say for sure. All I know is that was the last time I saw her alive. I remember her laughter and love. The next time I got to see her was her lifeless body.
The whole night before that morning I didn’t want to move from the waiting area. I held my desire to go to the bathroom, even as my stomach was killing me. Finally, sometime around the morning hours, I gave in and decided I could not hold it anymore. The bathroom I remember being one level down from where we were. Of course, minutes after I had sat down on the toilet, I began hearing my sister knocking on the door.
I knew what that meant. Whatever hopes I had for my mother’s situation to turn had disappeared as the days in the hospital prolonged. I remember praying, something I had not done in years, with a plea to God or the Universe to perform a miracle. As no news came with each passing hour, evening turning to morning, I remember just pleading for her suffering to end.
I walked out of the hospital with crutches in-hand. Luckily, the golf cart misadventure ended only with a sprained ankle, my foot the size of a football, and a scar as a reminder of an unforgettable summer sprung by loss.