The doctor had been very clear about her faulty valve. “I strongly recommend immediate surgery,” she told her. “Your heart is operating at 25 per cent and could give out at any time.”
Nyla had frowned, considering the words, and then put the doctor off with the excuse that she had to talk to her daughter and son before she decided on surgery.
The doctor frowned too, seeing the slowness of her thinking process. “Don’t forget,” she cautioned. “Would it help if I called them?”
Nyla refused and took a taxi home. She did not drive now. No one had told her she could not, but with a flash of terrifying clarity, she had recognized the symptoms in herself when she found a poached egg, rotted and forgotten in the microwave. More and more often, memories and fragments of thoughts drifted through her mind like cottonwood on the early summer breeze. Always, she had faced reality, even when it overwhelmed her. Lying in bed, lulled by the soft night, she stared out at the great white moon and forced herself to consider her future. Her mother’s dementia had begun the same way, but she did not have a failing heart. Without taking her heart into consideration, Nyla guessed that she had a few months, maybe a year before the vaguely worried looks on her children’s faces translated into irrevocable action.
She did nothing about the surgery, said nothing to her children. Told anyone who noticed that the exhaustion was a sleepless night and the gasp of pain, a sudden muscle spasm.
And then the pain staggered her. Flashes of the gravel road by the mailbox spinning into her face. Julie, the next-door neighbor, shaking her shoulder and shouting her name. A few agitated words of meaningless reassurance before the darkness spun over her again. Brief flashes of a young man leaning over her in the screaming red box. She noticed the dots of whiskers in his skin before slipping back into the grey night.
There were many dreams, madly mixed with rousing flashes of strangers and machines. Pain. Slipping into drugged sleep. Rousing as the doctor muttered, “Oh shit!”
“There are better words to express yourself,” she managed clearly.
She heard a startled chuckle followed by his gentle voice as he leaned close to her. “…emergency surgery…” was all she grasped.
She had a tangled sense of time passing, of voices again before she opened her eyes once more.
“Mom…” her son clasped her hand. Her daughter kissed her forehead.
“You here?” She smiled. “It’s alright. It’s all alright now…love you…”
She sank again into the blue edged-side of darkness. The white moon shone ahead, and with unspeakable relief, she moved toward it.