“When I was a child I had a fever …”
They’ve put me in an older brother’s room, the only bedroom of five that’s situated close to my parents’ room. I sleep in a dense fog that fills the room with dread. I sleep, and I sleep, and when I wake up some time long before morning, my night clothes are soaked. I hear voices, loud voices. These adult murmurings won’t leave my brain; there is nothing I can do to make them shut up and just let me go back to sleep.
I step out of the bed, tip-toeing on my ballerina feet. I am nine years old and I am sick. But I don’t really know this. What I know is that I must find a way to quiet the voices and I am too young; I have no power.
I slither out the borrowed bedroom door, my back sliding down the hall so quietly towards my parents’ bedroom. I don’t want the voices to know I’m on a mission to banish them. Slowly, quietly, inch-by-inch I finally reach the closed bedroom door where I hear my father snoring. Carefully I turn the doorknob, and silently I reach my mother’s side of the bed. The voices in my head are still raging.
I tap the pile of blankets—tap, tap, tap. My father stirs, jolts.
“What!? What’s the matter?!” He’s angry, I think. My heart is a frightened butterfly.
Mother quickly rises, scoops me up and out, where she closes her door and takes me into the kitchen just outside their room. She shuts the pocket door to give us more privacy, allow her husband to go back to sleep. In the safety of the bright kitchen in the middle of the night with my mother, and only my mother, I tell her I hear loud voices and I cannot get back to sleep.
She invites me to the square kitchen table as she moves like a spirit, from cupboard to refrigerator, to drawer. She dishes out a bowl of butterscotch pudding she’d earlier prepared just for me, the sweet comfort of my youth. I spoon cold pudding into my mouth; its taste is sweet like love.
Sitting beside me at the heavy wood table my mother tells me the voices are not real. “It’s the fever,” she says, and tells me I’m going to be okay. “Have some more pudding,” she says, spooning more into the dish.
When I’m finished she helps me change out of my damp night clothes and into a fresh, dry pair of pajamas. She takes my hand and guides me back to the borrowed bed, then tucks me in for the second time that night. I quickly fall asleep.
When I wake up in the daylight, the voices are gone.