Iowa Writes

MAGDA MONTIEL DAVIS
She Might Die (Part 1)


She might die, my mother. She might die, and for a minute, for more than a minute and more than once I thought, If she dies, I'll come home from school in the middle of the day and she won't be here. No one will be here. Just my sister and she's busy being José Mato's yes-yes-yes girlfriend. And I'll do what I want. Because there won't be anyone here.
        If she dies, I'll be like the bad girls at Miami Elementary, who smoke and wear Thom McAn shoes with no socks, like Peggy Kirkpatrick who has no mother, and has this neat little mystery about her.
        She might die, my mother, but aren't we lucky. Lucky she diseased strangely. Not as if she had terminal cancer, because cancer is not strange. Just deadly.
        Lucky after all because she will receive medical care. No funds for Catholic school, no funds for medical care but she diseased strangely and this tumor that grew in her pituitary gland will be watched, studied, and even taken care of along the way. And aren't we lucky. Her lips, her cheeks, her jaw grew, swelled bigger and bigger, a balloon about to burst. How much of your breath can you blow inside a balloon before it pops? Big, bigger. A bomb, really. A bomb on the verge. About to explode. Her lips, cheeks, jaw grew and swelled but her eyes shrunk, tiny yellow-brown eyes lost in her ballooned, bomb-like face.
        Her feet, like elephant's feet, and her hands. Oh my god, her hands, her once-beautiful hands. Her fingers, thick and browned and useless now. Her red, glossy fingernails now ugly. Tiny bits encrusted onto the nail bed, like shards of glass. After an explosion. But aren't we lucky. Yes lucky.
        Jackson Memorial, a nice teaching and research hospital will study my mother and has taken on her strange case, her strange symptoms, her entire strangeness on. And while they're at it, they'll treat her as well. Good teaching and research material, my mother; a challenge. A freak.

She might die, my mother. She might die, and for a minute, for more than a minute and more than once I thought, If she dies, I'll come home from school in the middle of the day and she won't be here. No one will be here. Just my sister and she's busy being José Mato's yes-yes-yes girlfriend. And I'll do what I want. Because there won't be anyone here.
        If she dies, I'll be like the bad girls at Miami Elementary, who smoke and wear Thom McAn shoes with no socks, like Peggy Kirkpatrick who has no mother, and has this neat little mystery about her.
        She might die, my mother, but aren't we lucky. Lucky she diseased strangely. Not as if she had terminal cancer, because cancer is not strange. Just deadly.
        Lucky after all because she will receive medical care. No funds for Catholic school, no funds for medical care but she diseased strangely and this tumor that grew in her pituitary gland will be watched, studied, and even taken care of along the way. And aren't we lucky. Her lips, her cheeks, her jaw grew, swelled bigger and bigger, a balloon about to burst. How much of your breath can you blow inside a balloon before it pops? Big, bigger. A bomb, really. A bomb on the verge. About to explode. Her lips, cheeks, jaw grew and swelled but her eyes shrunk, tiny yellow-brown eyes lost in her ballooned, bomb-like face.
        Her feet, like elephant's feet, and her hands. Oh my god, her hands, her once-beautiful hands. Her fingers, thick and browned and useless now. Her red, glossy fingernails now ugly. Tiny bits encrusted onto the nail bed, like shards of glass. After an explosion. But aren't we lucky. Yes lucky.
        Jackson Memorial, a nice teaching and research hospital will study my mother and has taken on her strange case, her strange symptoms, her entire strangeness on. And while they're at it, they'll treat her as well. Good teaching and research material, my mother; a challenge. A freak.
        I don't remember saying good-bye to my mother, not when she was carted off to the hospital. Or maybe she walked in the hospital herself. Drove there, probably. I don't remember, not the way my father remembers saying good-bye to his mother. A mother he never knew, a grandmother I never knew, waving silent to him, lifted limp onto the white ambulance.
        I only remember visiting my mother at the teaching and research hospital. Once, I think. My father took me. A small table lay next to her, yellowy white and metal and cold. I imagined Catherine, Hemingway's Catherine sailing past yellowy white hospital tables, Catherine in her white nurse's uniform loved by the wounded soldier, Catherine in her white starched headdress with pointed wings like the nuns at St. Paul's in my beloved Jacksonville.
        Hemingway was the greatest writer who ever lived. That was the opening line of my English paper for Mrs. Rosenwasser's sixth-grade class. Mrs. Rosenwasser believed in me. I could tell. She didn't start off believing in me, and then she did. In A Farewell to Arms, he shows us that greatness. Or maybe it was, Hemingway must have been a great man and in A Farewell to Arms, he shows us that greatness. I don't remember what I wrote exactly, but I remember I tried hard to come up with something different than the other sixth-graders and I got my A.
        And then Catherine, on her way to death's door, was no longer sailing past yellowy white tables and wounded soldiers. The yellowy white table now lay next to her and still she said Darling. Darling, she called her wounded soldier. Beautiful words on her way to death, and her wounded soldier on his way out to the falling rain.
        My mother said someone maybe a nurse; maybe a cleaning lady came in her hospital room in the middle of the night and opened the drawer of her yellowy white table, tiny and metal and cold and stole something from my mother  I don't remember what; stole something that was hers. She heard and saw it with her tiny eyes now colorless, now lost in her on-the-verge-about-to-explode swelled-up bomb-face. Someone took something that was my mother's and stole it from her.
        Two blue-purple dots now over the top of her ears where patches of hair were missing, that are there to this day. She saw me looking at the twin purple dots and touched the sides of her face and said, "Terapia." Therapy, that's all she said.
        Surgery, Dr. Katims said. Robert B. Katims MD, the nice soft-spoken doctor who leaned gently over her and smiled sadly. "Yes," Dr. Katims said. "The head will be split open. To burst the tumor in your pituitary gland, the head will be split open, and then the tumor will pop." He touched her face. "Like a balloon."
        "I have two daughters," is all my mother said.

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About Iowa Writes

Since 2006, Iowa Writes has featured the work of Iowa-identified writers (whether they have Iowa roots or live here now) and work published by Iowa journals and publishers on The Daily Palette. Iowa Writes features poetry, fiction, or nonfiction twice a week on the Palette.

In November of 2008, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Iowa City, Iowa, the world's third City of Literature, making the community part of the UNESCO Creative Cities Network.

Iowa City has joined Edinburgh, Scotland and Melbourne, Australia as UNESCO Cities of Literature.

Find out more about submitting by contacting iowa-writes@uiowa.edu


MAGDA MONTIEL DAVIS

Magda Montiel Davis is an MFA student at University of Iowa's Nonfiction Writing Program.  After 33 years of practicing immigration law, she went back to her first, true and only love: writing.  Her work has appeared in Best Women's Travel Writing: True Stores from Around the World; Bellevue Review; Cimarron Review, and others. Her favorite assignment while at UIowa was working with the talented, dedicated, and fun staff at the Daily Palette.

She Might Die will appear on the Daily Palette in two parts.  Be sure to check back tomorrow for Part 2!

This page was first displayed
on August 17, 2015

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