SUGAR | MARIJEAN OLDHAM
In the middle of the night, I awake to the sound of my name and follow it through the house.
Mom is on the floor in front of the open refrigerator door. Orange juice has spilled down the front of her nightgown and pools on the floor. She looks up at me, eyes glazed.
“I was trying to get some orange juice,” she says, looking around like she isn’t sure quite where
she is or how she got there, which is probably true. She must have reached for the juice, opened it, then passed out, falling to the floor. I wonder how long she was out, if it was just seconds, or longer, before she was able to awaken and call my name.
I reach under her arm with mine and help her to her feet. “I’m going to help you get to the table,
then we’ll get you some sugar, OK?”
She nods, a compliant child.
Once she’s in a chair, ignoring the juice, I grab a can of Coke and a spoon. A sugar bowl sits on
the table. I scoop up about a half a teaspoon and gently put my hand under my mother’s chin. “Open up.” I tip the sugar into her mouth. She makes a face as she moves the sugar around with her tongue. “Good job.” I open the Coke. “Here. Take a sip of this.” I hold the can up for her and she takes a small drink.
“Oh.” She says. “That tastes terrible.”
“I know, Mom, but we have to get some sugar into you.” I tip another spoonful of sugar into her
mouth and chase it with another drink of Coke.
Her eyes are starting to clear. She’s starting to come back to me. The adrenalin pumping through
my veins is dissipating. I look up at the kitchen clock. 4 a.m.
“I was calling you.”
“I know. I was sleeping. I thought it was a dream.”
“I’m sorry, I thought I could get some juice and I’d be OK.”
“It’s OK, Mom. You scared me a little bit.”
Another spoonful of sugar, another swig of Coke.
“I’ve made such a mess.”
I grab a dishtowel and dab at her gown, her arm, her face. I get up and wet a cloth, pick up the
bottle of juice, wipe the floor, close the refrigerator.
“How are you doing?”
“Better.” She helps herself to more Coke. “This tastes so terrible.”
“It gets the job done, though.” I say, taking the seat next to her and watching her. She’s not com-
pletely OK, yet, I can tell. Bits of pulp sick to the lace trim of her nightgown. I wait, the clock above the sink ticking into the morning. “I bet you’d like to have a dry nightgown on.”
She looks down. “I made such a mess.”
“It’s OK, Mom. Don’t worry about it.”
“Where’s your father?”
“He’s in Chicago, Mom. Remember? He’s not here.”
“I was calling you.”
“I know, Mom. I’m sorry. I was asleep.” I don’t tell her that I heard her. I don’t say that I heard her
and closed my eyes again and tried to go back to sleep. I think about how I have to go to school in a few