I ate the grey chalky substance in the holes of the sheet rocked walls when the fridge echoed emptiness at the release of the rubber molding that held it shut. I stood on the back portion of the couch that was situated in the living room to the left of giant-sized windows that faced the back of one of Newark’s notorious housing projects. However, I do not recall which one. The red brick giant blocked the sun from entering the house through my mom’s white blinds. The sun never kissed my skin as I sat and watched the people walk back and forth on the street, as I listened to the front door in the hallway open and shut.
To the right of my view there was a black tear shaped stained wall underneath a window that was broken. At the base of the building that kissed an over grown back yard laid a pile of household goods of clothing, sheet and blankets. It was the proof of last night’s fire and the occupant’s attempt to save things or fluff their jump.
I sat in the living room alone as my stomach folded over twice and touch my back right before I gave into the temptation to place my pointer finger in my mouth to give it the layer of spit it needed to scoop up the sandy pieces. It felt like spooning a heap of Quick into a glass of milk. My mother ran in and out of the apartment after a man I assumed was my dad. She was too busy to notice me until one day the blood filled blisters made their presence known on my tiny hands. She rushed me to the hospital.
At the hospital, I blamed my brothers for hitting me with a stick and resulted in the red puss filled blemishes on my hands. My memory serves me the English version, but my heart tells me that I spoke my native tongue, the one that I will lose in less than a year when they place in me and my siblings in foster care. I will eventually end up as the only Puerto Rican in the house of African-Americans until China and Mimi, my biological sisters, joined me. The doctor probed and checked and eventually left me to my room.
I woke the next morning in my metal prison. The room was cold with its clean white walls, white sheets, and white ceramic hospital floors but held no roommate to stare at the ceiling with. I yelled and jumped and cried for what seemed like hours. I caught the attention of a non-Spanish speaking black pediatric nurse. I grasped the freezing metal bars and wailed at the top of my lungs as tears streamed down my chubby cheeks. My English-speaking memory translated her language into Spanish as she boldly told me to stop and relax as she checked my vitals. I looked back at the memory of my three-year old self and wished I had the power to say “I’m sorry but the heart monitor is not going to tell you that I have to pee.”
The nurse leaves the room without helping me and my mind started to churn. My eyes fixed on the bathroom door on the other side of the room. I hoisted myself over the edge and placed my tiny toes and one foot on the edge of the crib’s bars and then the other foot. Once I was firmly attached like spider girl to the outside of my metal prison, I jumped and landed in a cat-like manner on all fours to the cold unwelcoming floor. I grabbed the metal pole with the plastic tubes and clear bag filled with a clear fluid that ran into my right arm with my tiny hands. I pulled it with me as I ran as fast as I could the seven feet of distance to the bathroom.
While I sat on the toilet I felt the spray of a cold wet liquid on my arm and face. I looked to see that the needle was no longer feeding into the IV in my arm. I grabbed it and placed back into place as I have seen the doctors and nurses do so many times before. I did not want to get in trouble for leaving the crib and messing up the IV. That combo was a sure fine way to get a beating, even in my state, from my mother.
The tears stopped, my bladder stopped kicking me in the ribs, and my nose stopped running once I relieved myself. The only task remained was my return to the bed. I didn’t think this far ahead, but I figured I get back in the same way I got out. Shimmy up the side, hoist myself back over the edge and land on the mattress. It was easy.
I walked to the right side of the crib, opened the drawer that was filled with candy and quarters from my parent’s visit the day before and grabbed a chocolate dum dum before I set my mind to going back into that metal case hoping that I leave no trace of my escape.
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