I touched my face. It felt…fake. With the mirror reflecting the truth the memory of who I use to be, skewed. The features told my mind that this was me. But the small distortions and growths told me something else…My short brown hair now longer, down to my back. My cheeks are slimmer than I remember. Only my sapphire eyes reminded me of who I was.
The nurse who held the mirror up gently pressed on my hand. As if to keep me from falling back into the endless abyss. I was visibly confused. There was no other way to interpret it.
“Nakagawa Ayumi, right this way ma’am.”
I heard a voice from the other side of the door. My neck turned rigidly, like rusted gears grinding together. The room door opened. A figure stood outside the doorway. It was a woman with eyes as bright as the new morning’s sun and a beam from ear to ear. Her movements were clumsy as she approached. Her long brown hair swayed back and forth like waves in the ocean. With tears flooding down her puffy cheeks, she stumbled into the room and fell at my bedside.
With a lift of her body, she held me tight, dragging me towards the floor. Her long brown hair mirrored the girls in the mirror moments ago. It took me a moment to process who she was.
“M-mom, is that you?”
Her wails stabbed my chest. My ears trembled as she had no signs of stopping. It now came to my understanding that I was in a white room. Like when waking from a dream and the mind isn’t fully lucid yet. There I was, lying in the stiff hospital bed unable to move my body from the neck down.
From what the doctors told me, I, Nakagawa Madoka, have been in a coma for around two years. Today by some miracle I have woken up. The woman who held me, Nakagawa Ayumi…my mother.
Her tears eventually dried up, but the hiccups set in, threatening to rob her voice.
“I’m so happy you’ve come back.”
“What happened to me, mom?"
I do not remember how I fell into the coma. My memory was rigid as I tried to comprehend that what was happening was in fact reality. My head swirled but I couldn’t lift my hands to stop it. It felt as though I had lapses of spinning in a whirlwind as my vision grew stale. My neck gave in and fell to the side causing me to drift back from dream to reality. Like a jolt of energy had surged in my eyes they popped open minutes later.
“Are you with us?”
The male nurse asked, blinding my eyes with his light.
“Yes, I’m awake…”
Again, I couldn’t comprehend everything around me. The medications may have played a part in my mind being hazy. I recalled hearing voices while I was asleep. They started loud, then sobered like whispers. The thought made me woozy. With dried lips, I begged.
“Mom, what happened to me?”
She gripped my back as if to never let me go again. I can’t remember if my question was answered right then because I closed my eyes and drifted back to sleep. I had little to no energy and even speaking felt like a grueling task. The next thing I remembered is the doctor speaking to me. He held up a calendar and sure enough, it said September 12th, 20XX.
If two years went by then…life went by too. My mom who sat at the foot of my bed explained to me that everyone was supportive of me when I fell into my coma. She did not go on to tell me, but I could already understand... My friends must have moved on with their lives. The mental image of me in a field formed. There I stood while people in front of me marched forwards with smiles on their faces. I did my best to move but chains bounded me to the ground.
“I’m so happy that you’ve come back to me, Madoka.”
Interrupting my vision, the somber voice of my mother. Before I noticed, warm tears trickled from the sides of my eyes.
“Mom…I-I don’t remember much…”
Mom placed her hand on my head. The bliss of her touch soothes my heart. My mind wouldn’t settle down but having a moment of peace with my mom helped my anxiety. It all felt surreal that so much time has gone by without me being a part of it.
“What all do you remember, Madoka?”
I stared up to the ceiling trying to recall all that I could.
“I remember, you were working at the insurance agency…”
“…After that, I don’t remember much. Bits and pieces of you coming home late then everything gets hazy.”
As if to ease my anxiousness, mom started telling me about all the things that have happened while I was asleep. How my friends graduated from middle school and are now in their second years of high school. That my uncle got a new job at a big editorial company and that he brought my mother along. We used to be struggling to get by. But now she has the money to support us since father died a year ago…no three years ago now.
But then her face turned dark as if a cloud had shadowed the sunny day.
“Madoka…I have something to tell you.”
“What’s wrong, mom?”
At first, she didn’t say a thing as if some unknown entity was stealing her voice away. Instead, she adjusted the ring on her finger.
“…You’re with someone else?”
It didn’t take longer than a second to figure it out. My mother shifted the ring on her finger. All the hurt of losing my father wailed up in me like it happened yesterday. It may have been three years for my mom but for me…
“Yes Madoka, I…someone…at my company.”
Mom captured my arm in hers. Her voice shriveled up; lips pursed together.
“T-They helped pay for the medical bills. E-Even visited you every day with me when they could.”
Her attempts to resolve the growing problem became glaringly obvious to the point her sentences became muddied in her own desperation. Mom’s eyes darted from one side to another as if looking for an escape. Her fingers trembled, rubbing against my hospital gown.
I tried to force a smile. One to comfort her but…I couldn’t.
“I-I was lonely with you gone, so soon after your father died. I didn’t know if you’d ever wake up either and t-they supported me...Madoka.”
With the shock still capturing me, I could not build up any other response. I fell silent even though I didn’t want to. My lips dried up and my throat shut tight. My mother is a strong woman. After my father died, she took the burden and prepared to pay for my schooling. She took on plenty of part-time jobs along with a full-time job at a small insurance business. Mom pushed herself hard…but even she yearns for companionship. So, it’s okay, right?
“I know it’s a lot to take in, Madoka...”
Mom begged, clawing at my shoulder. What kind of daughter would I be if I did not at least tell her that…It’s okay? I nodded, which was all I could do at the time.
It came out stale even though I tried my best. I could see the expression on her face darken. I must be a horrible daughter if I put a face like that on such a sweet woman.
“Y-You know what, we’ll talk about it another time, Madoka.”
She shifted her ring and cast down her eyes. It felt as though a weight had been pushed on my stomach. Unable to move, this weight would eventually crush the lower half of my body, mercilessly. I was more confused than angry if I had to tell the truth. I wanted to speak and tell her that I just didn’t understand but she lifted her eyes. She spoke before I could…
“There is someone else I’d like to introduce you to soon though...”
“I’ll explain later, okay?”
Mom’s face brightened up. I wouldn’t want to make her upset again so I did my best to raise a smile of my own. But the impending pain throbbing down on my chest wouldn’t go away. This anxious feeling of not knowing what happened in the time stole from me. Things mom did while I was away that I couldn’t share with her. Once dad died, she and I were inseparable. We wanted to share as much of our lives with each other. I’m not sure if this goes for all who’ve lost a close loved one. I began thinking about what if today was mom’s last day? Meaning I wanted to make sure I had no regrets or secrets with her. I ignorantly believed she was the same.
"Madoka, why don't you go outside?"
After sessions of physical therapy for a few days, I was finally able to move the lower half of my body again. Mom prompted me to go outside for some fresh air when she saw me walking around my hospital room. So, to appease my mom's worries, I made my way to the botanical garden of the hospital.
Down the steps near my hospice room. The air filled my lungs with a bliss freshness my body hasn’t experienced in so long. So, I took the offer of the flowers and walked outside. The pressure of the rock pathway shook my bones. The sensation I haven’t experienced in years rose in me all at once. In front of me stood a tall tree centered with flush flowers of all assortments. My legs were still weak as I ventured into the mystical sea of beauty.
My breath escaped me. I’ve always loved flowers and even when I was younger, I wanted to be a florist. Perhaps that’s why seeing this sight of colors scattered about the garden took my breath away. I continued to journey through but not long after my legs began to quake. I guess I have been overexerting myself and needed to rest.
But instead of choosing the benches laid about I went over to the large tree center to the garden. I had the overwhelming urge to touch it. Its roots raised high above me reminding me that I was tiny compared. As I brushed the wood a sensation jittered within me. "How long has it been since I touched a tree?" The thought made me nauseous and my head began to grow foggy.
“A-are you okay?!”
I heard a young females voice, but I was too exhausted to turn around. My body faded into the grass as I leaned up against the tree. A warm touch embraced my shoulder as another felt my forehead.
“I-I can’t tell but you might be running a fever.”
The anxiousness in her voice made my stomach turn, wailing up a slight sense of concern. With all my might I turned in her direction.
“Don’t worry, I’m okay.”