A young woman travels home to find her sister in a rural hospital.
|In front of me is more blood than I have ever seen. Two nurses keep trying to pull me away. My feet are planted, like the roots of an old oak tree Katy and I used to climb. I refuse to leave her.
It is like a movie scene. Without warning, my sister had picked up the vase of pink baby roses I had brought her.
She threw the vase at a floor length plate glass window; resulting in an explosion, sounding like gun fire.
All action had moved into slow motion. Katy stepped through the shards. One piece was at her neck, a butter knife separating soft tissue into the carotid and/or jugular. The blood spurted then bubbled from her throat. Now Katy was a limp bleached sheet, her ocean blue eyes looking beyond this world.
I hear a blood curdling scream, my own voice.
Someone barks, "Ativan; two milligrams, I.M."
It feels like a wasp sting in my buttock. A wheelchair appears to collapse on. Hospital staff is filling the room.
Several hours earlier:
The hospital was just what I expected. Nothing seemed to change in this sorry town I had grown up in. I left, no looking back, when I was a teenager. Here I was at twenty-two, like a super hero from a comic book, sweeping in to rescue Katy.
The small lobby had stained rugs and mismatched plastic chairs. A few plants needing resuscitation were scattered around. There was an area with food and beverage machines along with a stained microwave. I was the only person around except for a man that was snoring. He was spread out over chairs clutching a paper bag with a deathlike grip.
An information desk had a middle aged woman with interesting gray and red streaked hair in a bun. I believe she was eating something from the movements of her mouth. It was probably under the desk area and spicy from the smell. She smiled at me. Her front tooth was missing and she had dark eye makeup complete with glitter lashes.
"Can you give me a room number for Katy Robbins?"
"She's in 313."
"It says 'No Visitors'," she emphasized.
I suppose she was in charge of enforcing that. I wasn't going to argue with her.
"Thanks. Have a good evening."
I took the stairs.
I had to pass the nursing station. A young girl in a blue top stopped me.
Her name tag read, Becky Long, CNA.
"Can I help you?"
I told her Katy's name.
"Come this way. You know she's in bad shape, mam."
"I know, Becky. Thanks for taking care of her. She's my sister."
"I am glad someone cares about her. She sure is sweet".
"You have a visitor, Katy," my new friend announced.
Katy was a shadow floating over the floor, a vague resemblance to the sister I remembered.
I felt chills rush through my bones. I reached out my arms to hold this fragile marionette.
"I am sorry, Aileen," she quietly whispered. "See what he did to me."
Sitting down on the bed, I looked with horror at her scarred face and ugly track marks on her arms.
I knew who "he" was. The spider that came in our bedroom at night, wrapping his long legs and arms around little girls. He whispered sweet sentiments. He had cheated on Mom many times. Daddy was an alcoholic god in our house where we bowed to his heartless presence. None of us talked to each other about it. He made sure we were scared of him and jealous of each other.
Our mother left us with him. The house was falling down, full of holes, where he plummeted walls after using his fists on us. I was young but I remember how weak Mom was. She stopped cooking and taking care of us but could still lift a beer to her mouth.
Sadly, I found out later she died alone in a homeless shelter.
Katy had walked away and left me with him when I was fourteen. She was sixteen and terrified for her own life.
She spoke like it was physically painful, "I had dreams; I could've gone to college. Maybe I'd met a decent guy......had babies. The tears streamed from her eyes, "You know I've got AIDS?"
Katy's eyes told the ugly truths. She slowly spoke of her life on the streets. Men and drugs had used up the sad shell our father had left of her. Her voice was halting but she managed to say a few things that made sense.
"You think you can do it but guys like Dad are everywhere. They just look hot and act nice.''
She reaches for a water glass, hand shaking. I try to help her.
"Work crappy jobs, getting groped, share a gross place with this baked chick turning tricks."
"Donnie, her pimp, talked me into it...gave me a lil' something to "relax me". I got hooked! Needed more and more to get don't care feeling."
Her dignity had been lost. She had no faith in herself and no strength to fight.
Then her eyes glass over and she grabs my arm with an iron grip.
"I can rest in peace if you'll never see him again."
I touch her sweet face that has Kaposi Sarcoma lesions on it.
"Dad is dead, honey!"
Katy's brain had been damaged from drug use and the beatings. I know she had been told many times that I had a productive life now. I had spoken to her on the phone.
I was the fortunate one. I knew there had to be help. I went to the high school clinic and talked to the school nurse.
"I have a problem at home, Ms. Smith."
I couldn't even finish talking. The tears came loose like flood gates, opened from years of holding back. She pulled me into her arms and I soaked her blouse. By the time I slowed down and started to apologize, she was having someone call the Department of Children and Infant Services. I didn't even go home.
A very special social worker took me into her family which meant love and therapy. Dorothy Remron had four other foster children. I found out that night what having a warm bath, pajamas, a safe bed with clean sheets and a hug meant. Another girl living there had been molested. We both went to a therapist to talk about the shame, anger and depression. I know I have PTSD.
I finished high school with a 4.0 and was rewarded with an academic scholarship. Now I am in graduate school, working with the District Attorney's office to make sure people like my father are punished. I plan to take the LSATs and go to law school.
I tried to get Katy help but she kept going back, to places she knew and same rotten people. She wouldn't agree to a treatment center and was over eighteen. It's difficult to get a court order to put anyone in the state facility. Besides the facilities are under staffed and patients aren't kept long enough to help with multiple problems.
Our father escaped prosecution when he committed suicide last year.
Katy knew all of this but maybe her brain had gone through so much it was drained. There wasn't even room for the good news. Of course, the AIDS was effecting it at this point.
I am ashamed it took me this long to see her but I was trying to work for her.
With her final strength and last shred of dignity, Katy raised off the bed. She straightened her back and moved towards the window. Then she picks up the vase, raising her arm and throwing it.
I am a frozen statue, watching from somewhere else.
The movie starts and Katy plays her final scene.
Light seems to shine through her, cleansing all disease. To me, Katy appears to be a baby bird flying from its nest for the first and last time.
Then she is on the floor crumbled up, a bloody waste of precious life.
By Kathie Stehr