Fear’s Metallic Taste

The time she called, “come to me, I need to tell you something.” How I heard it in her voice—someone had died or their marriage was over. How I already knew—my life would be marked by this forever. Before and after. Each bearing witness to different people. 

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When my newly rolling baby of a daughter rolled right off the edge of the bed.  And later when she started vomiting—a sign our carelessness might have wrecked her developing brain—he ran to the car forgetting his shoes. And I ran to the front desk forgetting her birthday, the very day I came to know such love and fear. 

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The times tears fell from my face as we drove the 119 miles home. Wondering if this had been the last we’d see him alive, if his grief would finally catch him. Only able to breathe deeply again a week or so later when he walked through our door, smile on his face. 

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The spring morning our pediatrician looked me in the eye, sympathy and mystery shining in hers as she ordered a look inside his seemingly shrinking head. The words “something may be wrong with his brain” rang loudly in my ears as I drove home to put him to bed, feed my toddler dinner. I still hear it ringing sometimes when I look at him 

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Then again today. When I held him over my knee and pounded a goldfish tail out of his gasping-for-air throat. His purple face draining mine of color. The sound of him working to breathe and my yelled-to-the-heavens prayer, “help me, please,” will follow me around and keep me from sleeping. 

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Metallic floods my mouth in each of these moments. 

I’ve tasted fear’s flavor, felt its iron grip around my beating heart, and then in some severe mercy, walked on.

The anxious energy of adrenaline seeping from my sweat soaked skin reminding me of what little I actually control and all I have to lose. The memory of its harsh flush on my face my only scar.


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