No Less Afraid ~ Mark Brazaitis


If Ariel ever found a lover, Summit once teased her, it would be at the hospital where she worked.

“Because of all the sexy orderlies?” she asked him.

“Because,” he said, “you work all the time.”

This was when Summit could joke with her about adultery, when the topic was theoretical.

This was before he moved out of their house in Lexington and into a one-bedroom apartment in Boston. This was before he suggested they share joint custody of Carla, their six-year-old daughter, and she said, “You’ll be lucky to see her one day a week,” her anger surprising both of them. This was before she called him at midnight three nights in a row and no one answered.

She envied the excitement she was sure he was finding without her. Most of all, she missed him. She was afraid to think about what her life would become without him.


At lunchtime on an early January day, with the usual bitter cold and snow, Ariel dashed out of the Boston Children’s Care Center wearing nothing warmer than her white pediatrician’s coat and ran a block-and-a-half to Yaz’s Diner, named after a retired Red Sox player. She glanced at the man sitting at the counter. He had ink black hair and pale skin, and he was thin without being gaunt. His black turtleneck hugged his chest like skin.

When Ariel sat next to him, he smiled at her, a smile at once wry and inviting, and asked, “Is a doctor’s life as glamorous as the movies make it out to be?”

“Of course. Especially a pediatrician’s life.” She held up her left forearm and explained the scar: two days before, a five-year old, afraid she would give him a shot, had gouged her.

“I’m sure you were doing nothing more than saving his life,” the man said.

After Ariel ordered, the man introduced himself: Tim Rubenstein, the film, drama, and occasional music critic of the Boston Phoenix. Ariel told him her name, although redundantly because it was pinned above her breast. “You’ve given me an idea for a story,” Tim said. “The ten best films about doctors as rated by doctors.”

“Does Doctor Zhivago count?” Ariel asked. Once upon a time, Summit told her she looked like Julie Christie’s Lara, with her blond hair, her blue eyes, and her “fierce fragility.”

“It’s one of my favorites,” Tim said.

Ariel’s matzo ball soup came, steam swirling off it.

“Every time I see matzo ball soup on the menu, I think, ‘Today’s the day I’ll make my mother proud,’” Tim said. “Then I order a ham-and-cheese sandwich and think, ‘Tomorrow’s the day I’ll make my mother proud.’”

Putting on his coat, he said, “Will you be here tomorrow? I’d like to follow up on our conversation about movies.” He handed her his card. “If we miss each other, call me. I’m serious about my story idea.” His eyes lingered on her.


Ariel made it home in time to see her au pair, Hidalia, from Colombia, lifting Carla out of the bathtub. Enveloped in a white towel, Carla looked like she was plotting a walking tour of the Sahara. “Mommy?” Carla said. Either Carla wasn’t certain about who was in front of her or she couldn’t believe Ariel was home this early.

Tonight, at Carla’s request, Ariel read Good Night Moon, although Carla had long outgrown sing-song picture books and preferred plots and villains and tantalizing complications. She wondered why her daughter had requested such a simple book.

“Would you like one more story?” Ariel asked, and when Carla said yes, Ariel said, “Would you pick one out from your shelf?”

Ariel yawned, amazed at the soporific effect children’s books had on her. As soon as Carla left the bed, Ariel closed her eyes and saw a hospital corridor. But she didn’t know what room she was supposed to enter, what patient she was supposed to see.

She woke up at 2:43 in the morning; Summit’s digital clock, which she hated but couldn’t bring herself to dispose of, glared red at her. Carla was sleeping beside her. Why isn’t she in her room? Something’s wrong. But even as she moved to touch Carla’s head, to feel for fever, she remembered where they had ended the night. Beside Ariel in the insufficient light, Carla looked spectral, a round-cheeked ghost. The signs of her breathing were invisible; she was as immobile as the moon. In her left hand, she clutched another picture book: Mama Doesn’t Know My Name.


“Okay, give me the names of other doctor films you admire,” Tim said the next day at Yaz’s. He was wearing a burgundy turtleneck sweater.

Dr. Strangelove?” Ariel said.

Tim laughed. “How about Dr. Doolittle?”

“It won the Oscar, didn’t it?”

“Close. It was nominated but lost to In the Heat of the Night.”

Ariel bit into her turkey sandwich. As a joke, perhaps, Tim had ordered matzo ball soup. “Maybe this isn’t such a great project,” he said. “Maybe there are only a few genuine doctor movies of any merit.”

M*A*S*H,” Ariel said.

“Now we’re talking. Or does it qualify as a war film?”

Ariel had another bite of her sandwich. She had to be back at the hospital in ten minutes, but she didn’t feel compelled to hurry her lunch.

“Is your husband a doctor?” Tim asked.

“Of philosophy,” Ariel said. She looked down at her untouched potato chips. “We’re separated.”

“I’m sorry.”

“We’d been drifting apart for several years,” she said. “We have a daughter.” She paused. “Are you married?”

“Never,” Tim said. He smiled and turned his head to look out the window at the bleak Boston afternoon. “I have a proposition,” he said.


When Ariel returned home at eight, Carla was asleep in her bed. “She was very tired,” Hidalia explained. “Too tired for a bedtime story.”

Ariel wondered if Carla hadn’t slept well in Ariel’s bed. Usually, the opposite was true.

“Mr. Summit came by to see her.” Hidalia always called Summit “Mr. Summit.” Ariel had stopped correcting her. She liked how it made Summit seem ridiculous, like the host of a children’s puppet program.

“When?” Ariel asked. “For how long?”

“Before dinner,” Hidalia said. “He stayed for maybe two hours.”

“He probably rough-housed with her and tired her out.”

“He asked if you would call him. He said he wants to talk to you about Carla.”

“All right,” Ariel said. “Sure.” She thanked her and walked into the kitchen, where she intended to pick up the phone. But she remembered the day she and Summit had toured the house. She’d had no strong feelings for it until she walked over to the window above the kitchen sink. Outside, a pair of cardinals, male and female, sat side by side on a branch of a blackberry bush, singing.

If she called Summit, she thought she would yell at him or cry or both. She looked into her refrigerator, but nothing appealed to her. It isn’t even nine o’clock, and all I want to do is go to bed.

So she did.


In the morning, Ariel rose before Carla and Hidalia, as usual, although because she hadn’t even seen Carla last night—she had fallen asleep before fulfilling her intention to go into Carla’s bedroom—she had the just-woken-up sensation that her daughter could be merely a wish or a dream. This wasn’t unusual: She often had the feeling, especially in the darkness of the early hours, that who she had become, not just a mother but a doctor, a homeowner, and a wife in a precarious marriage, was a peculiar premonition her true self, young and single and more sure of everything, was having.

Ariel thought to go into Carla’s bedroom, to kiss her hair or merely gaze at her. But she worried she would wake her and thereby leave Hidalia with a cranky child. She walked outside, climbed into her Corolla, and drove automatically, the route from Lexington to Boston so familiar the houses and trees on the side of the road were invisible. I have a child I don’t see and a husband who doesn’t live with me. Two ghosts.    In the pediatric ward, whose doorways were painted in rainbow colors, Ariel stopped at the nurse’s station to say hello to Pammy, who said, “I’m sorry, Dr. Bloom, Duncan Tibbs died last night.”

Ariel’s lips trembled. “What?” she said.

Duncan, who was four years old, had been brought in two days before with pneumonia. Ariel had seen him twice. Both times, he’d been asleep. He had been under the care of the unit chief, Thomas Bowers, who had written a textbook on pediatric medicine, required reading in medical schools around the world.

“He didn’t come to us in time,” Pammy said.

“Right,” Ariel said. She looked at Pammy, and Pammy nodded, acknowledging, Ariel guessed, the terrible side to the work they did.

Ariel walked down the hallway and stepped into Peter Hessan’s room. The boy, her patient, was six years old and had been hit by a car. On arrival, he had lost so much blood he looked translucent. But today, a week later, he was going home. On seeing Ariel, Peter’s mother, whose hair was a glorious mess of uncombed curls, cupped her hands as if in prayer and whispered, “Thank you.” Ariel allowed herself a small, satisfied smile before wishing them a safe trip home.

Over the course of the day, however, her thoughts returned frequently to Duncan Tibbs. Each time, she tried to push him aside with words she had first spoken to herself as a resident: Heal the next patient. But the words seemed as much wish as command.


Tim lived in an apartment whose living-room window, if one craned one’s head eighty-five degrees to the left, had a view of Boston Harbor. “Beautiful,” Ariel said, un-craning her neck and looking at Tim, who stood beside her. “I love harbors at night. There’s something timeless about their twinkling.”

Ariel had arranged for Hidalia to look after Carla tonight. Ariel felt derelict and guilty, but she wanted to keep her relationship with Tim, such as it was, moving. She had grown weary of inertia. She and Summit were stuck in a marital murkiness, neither moving toward reconciliation nor initiating a divorce. Perhaps if she found a lover, it would force the issue.

Tim asked if she would like wine, and she nodded and he left the living room and returned with a glass of cabernet sauvignon. Hoping for help in feeling less awkward, she drank half the glass in a single sip, as if she were throwing back a shot. She glanced at him to see if he’d noticed. He smiled neutrally. In his apartment, with its single-man decor—he had two shelves filled with videotapes and DVDs and nothing on the white walls—he looked older. There were shadowed lines around his mouth, and his black hair glinted every so often with silver. She wondered if he might be ten years older than she was. But he smiled, erasing a few of the years, and, pointing to his movie collection, began to talk with enthusiasm about his favorite films.

She had another long sip of her wine. After a third sip, it was gone.

“Would you like a refill?” he asked. He hadn’t touched his wine.

“Sure,” she said. “I guess I was thirsty.” She laughed.

He smiled ambiguously.

He left with her glass and returned with it filled higher than before. She thanked him and took a small sip. “I’m not thirsty anymore,” she said. She thought his smile was genuine this time.

He said, “I told you I had something special related to film to show you, but now I’m feeling bashful.”

“Why?” Ariel asked.

He blushed. At least, she thought he did, although it was difficult to tell in the light. “It’s a film I made as a grad student at B.U. A short feature. My dream is to have a feature-length version made.”

“Super!” Ariel exclaimed. She hadn’t eaten dinner—she had expected it to be part of their date, if a date was what they were having—and the wine had climbed to her head.

“It’s set in a hospital,” he said. “I was hoping you might verify or debunk its authenticity.”

“I’ll do my best.”

He asked her to sit down, and she did, on a leather couch, which had a two-inch slice in it, revealing the pink material inside, like fiberglass. She was going to make a joke about the little known benefits of insulating one’s couch, but she refrained.

Tim located a videotape on one of the shelves and crouched in front of the TV. “The sound quality isn’t the best,” he said, “so I’ll turn up the volume.” The music accompanying the opening credits was as loud and discordant as gunfire. Tim manipulated the volume control before he found a place on the other end of the couch from her. “Should I refill you before we start?” he asked.

Ariel looked at her glass, at the teaspoon amount of wine left. “Perhaps later,” she said, and slapped her hand across her mouth to capture a burp.

The film was about an outbreak of a mysterious illness, its victims only artists—poets, playwrights, sculptors, musicians. The illness manifested itself in extreme concrete thinking and a zombie-like affect. A local hospital had set up an isolation ward.

“It looks like a school building,” Ariel observed.

“I shot it at my high school,” Tim snapped. Apologetically, he added, “I didn’t have much of a budget.”

“It does the job,” Ariel said, although she wondered why a hospital room would have on its walls posters illustrating the declension of –ar, -er, and -ir verbs in Spanish.

Ariel had a difficult time following what was happening. There was a lot of talk between the doctor (there was only one) and her patients, who were complaining of feeling “inauthentic” and “the opposite of who I used to be.” At some point, Tim refilled her wine glass. She wanted to say, I need something to eat, but she decided this would be rude.

Ariel wondered why Tim wasn’t moving closer to her. Wasn’t he supposed to be seducing her? I’m a beautiful woman. Everyone used to tell me so ten years ago.

The doctor tried all sorts of cures—pills and injections of experimental medicines—but they all failed. Eventually, a blind painter—of course the prophet has to be blind, Ariel thought, and of course his art has to be preposterously incompatible with his condition—announced, Confucius-like, “Before we find our way back to the art we love, perhaps we must practice an art we fear.” After tentatively casting aside his walking stick and careening into a diorama of a bull-fighting ring, he danced, Baryshnikov-like, around the room, somehow avoiding desks and a bust of Cervantes. The others soon joined him.

“I wanted a happy ending,” Tim admitted.

“Who doesn’t?” Ariel replied.

Although she thought Tim’s movie was awful, she found something appealing in its earnest portrait of creative lives deadened and revived. Fearing she might be caught in a similar predicament, but thinking she knew how to escape, she threw her arm around Tim’s shoulder. “It’s wonderful!” she said, and kissed him on the cheek. She registered his reaction—a stiffness, a chilliness—without contemplating its meaning.

“When are you going to seduce me?” Ariel asked. She was conscious of the absence of flirtatious humor in her words. Despite her best effort at joviality, she spoke in a monotone. She tried again: “This wasn’t the main attraction, was it?”

She saw something fall in his expression but couldn’t imagine she had offended him.

“Here,” she said. “Let me introduce you to the rest of the evening.” And she kissed him on the lips. But the kiss lasted no longer than a second before he pulled back.

“I think we had different ideas about tonight,” he said. “I mean, I like your conversation. It was nice to meet a doctor with an interest in movies. But you’re married and you have a child and…”

He looked around, as if hoping to spot an audience, a third party who might rescue him from what was unfolding. “I was hoping for your insights into my film. As I said, I’d like to see where I can go with it. Do you think the doctor’s interaction with her patients is realistic?”

Ariel felt whatever socially inappropriate elation the wine had produced in her disappear. “Your movie is an allegory,” Ariel said. “Does realism matter?”

“Oh,” he said, unsure, apparently, whether she meant this as criticism or only as an observation.

There was a pause. “Carla,” she said.

“I’m Tim,” he said, his smile a 9.5 on the condescension scale.

“And I’m in a hurry,” Ariel said, “to see my daughter.”

Back in her Corolla, she discovered her cell phone on the front seat. It must have slipped out of her purse. She’d received calls from Summit and Hidalia. She didn’t listen to the messages, but immediately called Hidalia, who told her Summit had taken Carla to the hospital.


Carla was sleeping in the bed Duncan Tibbs had died in, her body looking tiny, shrunken, and defeated, her blond hair curled on the pillow above her head like a question mark. Summit, unshaven, brown hair left weeks uncut, sat slumped in the armchair next to the bed, and he rose slowly to greet her. But Ariel rushed down the other side of the bed and covered Carla’s forehead with her palm. “She’s on fire!” Ariel said.

“One hundred and four point five,” Summit said. He added, “Where the hell were you?”

“What antibiotic are they giving her?”

He began to speak but cut off his words with a shrug. “I’ve forgotten. She threw it up, whatever it was. They tried to put in an IV, but they can’t find a vein. They’re talking about putting in a PICC line.”

“Of course they are.”

“It might be viral pneumonia anyway,” Summit said. “Which means we can’t do anything but wait.” He repeated, “Where the hell were you?”

“She needs to be drinking. Is she drinking anything? And if she isn’t drinking, she should be given ice shards to suck on. Is she dehydrated?”

In response, Summit gave a tired shrug.

“What exactly happened with her IV?”

“The nurse tried to put it in. When she couldn’t, she called in one of the paramedics who flies with the emergency helicopter. He’s supposed to be an ace at this.”

“Danny,” she said. “And?”

“It stayed in for maybe five minutes.”

“Is Lydia Emerson her doctor?” Ariel asked.

“Uh…short woman with gray hair and a scar under her right eye?”

“Summit, you’re amazing,” Ariel said. If she had called him the filthiest word she knew, she couldn’t have spoken with more bitterness.

“Listen, I was around,” he said.

Ariel found Lydia Emerson down the hall and around a corner, gazing at a child’s drawing of a rainbow on the wall. Ariel had never had much faith in Lydia’s doctoring skills. She had graduated from medical school in the 1960s, “in the age of leeches and lobotomies,” as Lydia liked to put it. She always seemed a little lost, as if she’d been blown into Boston Children’s corridors from a lecture she was giving on knitting.

“My daughter,” Ariel said when she’d drawn close to Lydia.

“Your daughter is beautiful,” Lydia said, turning to her. Her teeth were as gray as her hair, although Ariel couldn’t say she was unattractive. “Her x-ray, however, is cloudy.”

“Will you show it to me?”

In a room across from the nurse’s station, Lydia propped up Carla’s X-ray on a light table. “I had a look at this five minutes ago,” Lydia said. “Here’s the problem.” Lydia pointed to the bottom of Carla’s right lung.

“It’s in deep,” Ariel said, panic at the edge of her voice.

“I told your husband…” She paused, as if to consider whether she’d called Summit by the correct term. “I told him he should try to pound her back, to break up the mass.”

Ariel had given the parents of children with pneumonia the same advice. Had Thomas Bowers given this advice to Duncan Tibbs’ parents? And what did they think of it now? She felt rage and impotence—but whether on their behalf or her own, she wasn’t sure.

“It’s technology cave people might have employed,” Lydia said quietly.

“The amoxicillin you’re giving her,” Ariel said. “I’m concerned it won’t be sufficient. I think Carla’s been sick for a few days. I wasn’t paying attention.”

There was a pause. “As soon as I saw the X-ray, I ordered a more aggressive treatment.”

Ariel mentioned a drug, and Lydia nodded.

When Ariel returned to Carla’s room, two nurses followed her. The doctors called them Loveless and Light because one was always frowning, the other always smiling as if every day were the first day of spring. They explained what they were going to do, for Summit’s benefit, and Ariel explained it as best she could to Carla, who fell back to sleep.

“Summit, you’ll have to help hold down her thighs,” Ariel told him. Summit had been standing facing the television. He looked like he might cry. “Why are they using injections?”

“It’s Rocephin,” Ariel said. “It’s given by injection. It’ll start working fast.” She paused. Softly: “If it works.”

Summit stepped over to Carla’s bed and put his hands on her left thigh. His fingers, which she had first seen strumming a guitar in Harvard’s Freshman Union, seemed enormous, weathered, and red against Carla’s pale skin. Ariel gripped her daughter’s right thigh. She glanced at Summit, wanting to tell him something, something without bitterness. But she could only feel her little girl’s feverish skin and think, Please. Not her.

“Carla,” Ariel called. “It’s time to wake up. I don’t want you to be surprised.”

Carla’s eyes fluttered open, and when Carla saw the needles, which the nurses did nothing to hide, she looked ashen-faced at her mother before bursting into tears. “If you could hold her legs down better,” Light said brightly to Summit, “it would help.” Summit pushed Carla’s thigh into the mattress. “Like this?” he said, although he wasn’t looking at her. He was looking at Ariel. He murmured something. She wanted to ask him what he’d said, but she turned back to Carla. “Look at me, sweetheart,” Ariel said to her daughter. “Look at me. It’ll be over quickly. I promise.”

The needles were in her and she was screaming. Ariel hadn’t heard her daughter scream this loudly, or with this much pain, since she was a baby with colic.

“It’s over,” Loveless said in a voice so low Ariel doubted Carla had heard her. Ariel moved to her daughter’s side and pressed her face against Carla’s. “It’s over, sweetheart.” She kissed the tears from Carla’s eyes, but Carla continued to cry.

“Look!” Ariel said as cheerfully as she could. “Pink band-aids!”

But Carla didn’t want to look at her band-aids. She cried like she’d been betrayed.

“Oh, hell,” said Summit, who wiped his eyes. He looked at Ariel. Their gazes met, held, drifted. What did I just tell him? she asked herself. What did he just tell me?

Ariel hugged Carla until Carla’s crying subsided. Carla’s eyes closed, but she opened them to gaze at Ariel and said, “Where were you, Mommy?”


Outside of Carla’s room, Ariel told Summit she would sleep in the armchair next to Carla’s bed. Summit, who was standing under an arch of cut-out angels, didn’t protest. He was, as usual, willing to concede to her on matters of parenting. Before he left the hospital, Ariel thought he might say something encouraging about Carla. Or perhaps he intended to ask her again, “Where were you?” He nodded several times, looked down at his shoes—black high-tops, the kind he had worn in college, the left shoe untied—and said, “I’ll be back tomorrow morning.”

Ariel might have said, “I have it under control.” Or: “Do you think you’ll be able to wake up so early?” Instead, she said, “Okay. Good.”

There was a pause. “This must be hard for you,” he said.

“Only for me?” she replied.

“No. Jesus, no. That’s not what I meant. I meant it must be hard for you to be both the mother and the doctor. You’re used to all this, right? Machines and injections and pain. But this time, it’s Carla who’s sick.” He paused. “It’s fucking terrifying to me.”

Ariel felt like wrapping her arms around him and sobbing on his shoulder. But the setting, as well as who they were to each other now, fixed her in place. “It is hard,” she said. “Thank you.”

He nodded. “See you tomorrow,” he said, and he reached out as if to give her an awkward high-five, although perhaps he had been intending to touch her face but had thought better of it. She put her hand in his. They held on to each other, a spontaneous gesture of solidarity—if this is what it was—and then he released her and was gone.

Presently, Ariel glanced down the hallway and, for a moment, thought she might be resuming her day at work, with patients to see, colleagues to consult. It was a happy thought. But it disappeared, and she moved quickly toward Carla’s room.

Carla was asleep, and when Ariel felt her forehead, her hand burned. Loveless came in to take Carla’s temperature, which was 104.3, and wake Carla to give her Tylenol, in purple liquid. The Tylenol hadn’t done anything to lower Carla’s temperature before. Carla swallowed without ever opening her eyes. For the next few minutes, she whimpered, which sounded to Ariel like someone whose distress had given way to terrified resignation. She knew she wasn’t supposed to think this, but she did: She’s going to die.

She’s going to die.

She’s going to die.

Ariel stood up, wanting to rush into the hall and shout, “Help.” Or: “God.” Or: “Please, please, please.”

But this wasn’t the way a doctor was supposed to think. I know the odds of Carla’s recovery are excellent. But what were the odds in Duncan Tibbs’ case? He was dying when he came in, Ariel reasoned. There was nothing we could have done.

She thought about Duncan Tibbs’ mother sitting in the chair she sat in now. She had dyed blond hair with black roots and had a red stain on the shoulder of what might have been a waitress’s uniform. It was her eyes Ariel remembered most, wide with fear. Now here I am, no less afraid.

Lydia stepped into the room and sat on the end of Carla’s bed. She looked at Ariel, at Carla, again at Ariel. Out of a need to touch her daughter, nothing more, Ariel again felt Carla’s forehead. It was fire. “She was sick well before Summit brought her in,” Ariel told Lydia, although she knew she was repeating herself. “She was lethargic. I wasn’t paying attention.”

“It’s hard to keep your eyes on everything,” Lydia said. “Here.” She handed Ariel what looked like a tomahawk, with the point softened by cotton balls and medical tape. “I modified it myself.” Lydia smiled her gray smile. “It does help sometimes, if used with vigor.”

“I shouldn’t have let it happen,” Ariel said.

“You didn’t allow it to happen,” Lydia said. “It happened on its own.”

“I’ll never forgive myself,” Ariel whispered, turning to look at Carla, who hadn’t moved. Ariel wondered if the fever had put her in a coma. Irrational thought, she decided, but she touched Carla’s forehead again.

“If you would like a job,” Lydia said kindly, “you could encourage your daughter to drink. I’ll have the nurse bring fresh ice water.” She stood up. “If she can’t drink, we’ll need to put in the PICC line.”

Ariel nodded.

“I feel silly telling you what you already know.” Lydia paused. “Maybe I’m hoping you’ll find something comforting in the words I would use with any parent. Or maybe, after all these years, I don’t know what else to say.”

After Lydia left, Loveless brought in ice water with a pink straw and a cold compress, and Ariel tried to wake Carla. When this failed, she slipped the straw between her daughter’s lips and urged, “Drink. Drink, sweetheart.” She thought she saw Carla’s throat move, but her hope might have made her hallucinate. She turned Carla on her side and thumped her back with the archaic instrument Lydia had made. Carla coughed twice, then moaned. Ariel eased her back on the bed.

Ariel sat in the armchair, leaned back, and closed her eyes. Oxygen, she thought. They should be giving Carla oxygen. She remembered Summit saying, a month before he left their house, “I need to breathe. I’m suffocating.” If Summit never returned, she would be all right. But losing Carla would destroy her.

Please, Carla, you can’t leave me. Please, sweetheart. Please.

Ariel tried to keep her eyes open, but exhaustion stole up on her, her sleep carrying her down troubling corridors. She felt like a zombie, clumsy and numb, and when she at last found a room and stepped inside, the bed was empty.

She woke up shouting. Immediately, she reached to touch Carla’s forehead. It was cool, and this scared her into hyper-alertness. She’s dead, Ariel thought, and she felt the whole world grow cold.

But in the next instant, Ariel felt calm, as if her rational, professional double had stepped in to relieve the apocalyptic parent. “Her fever has broken,” she said aloud.

“Mommy,” Carla answered. How long had her daughter been awake and gazing at her? “Mommy, you’re here. You’re in the dark, but I see you! I see you crying. We’re happy, Mommy. Okay? Mommy, I’m thirsty.”