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  • Writer's pictureBrenda Benalcazar

Crying in Bathrooms

It seemed like time and space were suspended, and I was in a dream. Is this happening? To her? To us? I recalled the “suspended animation” verse from Pink Floyd’s song “Comfortably numb.” I was numb at this moment, but I knew I would never feel comfortable again. We only went up a few flights, but the elevator seemed to be in slow motion. I don’t remember if other people were with us or if the elevator made that humming noise. But all I knew then was fear and trepidation about what would come. I did know that as long as we could stay in this space, nothing could hurt us, and nothing was wrong. The elevator abruptly stopped, the air swirling all around, and then it happened. The doors slowly crept open, the air swept in, and dread filled my body so much that I couldn’t move for a moment. My eyes drifted out to the opening doors, and I knew my life would never be the same again. I wanted to fall to my knees and scream, “No! Not my baby! Please take me instead!”

It was a bustling sight with many moving parts. But what I saw shook me to my core. There were several bald children in hospital gowns. A small child was in a wheelchair with a feeding tube, and another teen was pushing an IV stand. Everyone looked incredibly sad, including children, adults, parents, and doctors. I could fill my stomach sink, a lump in my throat and the tears welling up. It felt like the worst nightmare you can imagine.

I looked at the tile before me when I pushed my daughter into the ward. I spotted a bathroom right in front of me. Without turning my head, I told my husband I would be back. I walked into the single bathroom, locked the door behind me, slid to the floor, and sobbed. The tears were flowing, but I didn’t make a sound. I have always hated crying because I thought of those times as a weakness. After a minute, I pulled myself up to the sink and looked into the mirror in horror. My mascara streaked down both cheeks, and two eyes were drenched in blackness. I was starting to make heavy breathing noises now, and I couldn’t control it. I quickly turned on the water to hide the noise. I knew I was taking longer than expected because my husband knocked and asked if I was all right. I don’t know how, but I finally uttered the word okay. I cupped my hands, ran through the water, and splashed my face. I looked up to see that disaster in my reflection. I looked like Alice Cooper!

I quickly took the paper towels and cleaned up my face as best I could. I looked at least presentable with an entirely made-up face, but not this one now puffy, red and with no makeup. I gazed at the bathroom through the mirror, then put one hand on my heart and the other on my stomach. I took three deep breaths. Slowly counted four, then held four, then blew out eight. I remembered this breathing technique from therapy, but I couldn’t remember the counting sequence, but I thought those numbers sounded good. I went to the bathroom door, put one hand on the knob, and paused. I didn’t mean to stop; my body just needed another minute.

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