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  • I picked up the phone, mumbled “Hello.”

    Pleasantries aside, my father spat in a whisper, “Melea, she cannot die here.”

    “What are you saying?”

    “Marty can’t see this. It’s too much for a 14 year old. She can’t hold her head up. She can’t go to the bathroom by herself.”

    “Why didn’t you call me earlier?”

    “I was busy holding her over the toilet and pretending everything is fine”

    “I don’t think Marty thinks anything is fine.”

    “Well, I didn’t sign up to be this level of nursemaid. There is black stuff on her teeth.

    “What kind of black stuff?”

    “Bile, I think. She’s spitting. She doesn’t know what day it is. She’s really declining fast.”

    “What do you want me to do?”

    “Get in your car and come get her. I want you to take her to the hospital.”

    “Okay,” I sighed.

    “I’m on my way.”

    I grabbed my keys off the side table in my studio apartment. My hand brushed the alarm clock. I flicked the alarm button to OFF in case I wasn’t back by morning. I strode to the door, swatted the light on my right. I felt the cold, old crystal of the doorknob in my hand and let out a cry. I leaned my body weight against the door for support. My forehead touched the wood and I looked down, burrowing the top of my head into the peephole as though it were someone’s chest and big hands would envelope my back. But they didn’t. It was just a door. I didn’t want to take my mom to the hospital. I didn’t want my mom to die.

    I opened the door, walked to the elevator. On the first floor, I walked by the closed door of my friend Adrian’s apartment. Spinster cat collectors are cliché, I know. Adrian, however, breathed new life into the type. She lived on the first floor of our art deco, seven-story apartment building, The Robert Browning, sat between the Mark Twain and the Eugene O’Neill. It was full of furnished studios on the Plaza in Kansas City. The management company wouldn’t allow cats, but Adrian’s apartment was overflowing with pictures of cats: tabbies, Siamese, minx, Scottish folds, tiger cats, littered every inch of available wall space. She’d moved in to the 320 square foot apartment when she was 22. This year she turned 64, still in the same apartment. We met on on the front stoop within a week of my arrival. And the only thought I had as I went upstairs is, “I gotta get out of here.”

    I was 20. Mom was 46. Adrian, 64. Mom will never be an old lady with cats. She would never be a grandma. She would never do anything she set out to do. I shook my head quickly. Squeezed my eyes together tight. I opened them; they were wet.
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