Persephone’s return – Paula Williamson

25. The diagnosis provided hope at first, but this was only March, and Winter is long fate had not finished.

27. She made another trip to the ER, where they dismissed her….. again. A few hours later, she felt a shift. It was time to call an ambulance.

10. The signs were subtle.

13. She went from working out three times a week to barely making the walk up the hill to the train without gasping for air.

5. Winter came.

12. She lost at least 20 pounds, but everyone just said she looked fabulous.

28. Her wife, burnt out from all the medical emergencies and perhaps losing hope that things would improve, shut down.

22. What the small local hospital had diagnosed as pneumonia were actually blood clots throughout her heart and lungs.

30. They sent in the doctor that had sent her home just hours before. Their eyes met. The doctor’s eyes filled with terror.

15. It was 11 pm on a Saturday. The tightness in her chest that had started days before had turned into a fiery blaze. She gasped for breath as her vision blurred. Huddled on the bathroom floor, for the first time, she acknowledged she was not ok.

14, She blamed asthma (something she had never had), allergies, and hangovers until finally, the excuses ran out.

9. She was broken and did what damaged, defective people do; nothing. Didn’t process or attempt to heal. Instead, she wallowed in her sadness, her melancholy. Spent 4-5 nights a week sniffing cocaine and drinking too much alcohol. She was 28, and there were always people ready to party.

18. She had read the research and knew to be a black woman in a hospital often means to be neglected, overlooked. Was this what her mother felt when she lay in the hospital dying at 43?

24. The cause: a raging heart infection triggered by dental work and without a doubt complicated by her overindulgence–

34. The anticoagulants they prescribed to unclog the clots had worked too well. Now there was a bleed in her brain.

7. All of the time alone allowed her brain to fixate on the things she had worked so hard to ignore.

35. Death was not here to play games; she had come to slay– and was not taking no for an answer.

33. A subarachnoid hemorrhage is what they found. This was the third major organ to fail her.

16. The closest emergency room gave her the news that her heart had stopped working. It was at 20%.

32. The look of someone that knew they had fucked up.

36. But neither was she…

11. She peed her pants in a cab ride home at 4 am

1.” Once in the midst of a seemingly endless winter, I discovered within myself an invincible spring.” Albert Camus

6. The prospects for new employment were few. Fortunately, it was a two-income household, and this was long before kids. So they would survive at least financially.

26. A week after the diagnosis, a blinding migraine hit. Doctors call it a thunderclap, the worst headache of your life.

31. It was the look of someone who thought they were responsible for someone’s death.

4. If we are to be truthful, the failing began a year before. It was not a physical failing but a failing of the mind. She was unemployed after almost 15 years of consistently working. It was a job she hated, but it was a recession, not a good time to be laid off.

8. Her biological mother’s untimely death, father’s decade-long spiral in and out of addiction, her family’s inability to accept her sexuality, and finally, the demise of her beloved Kitty Nyla.

19. Or perhaps it was the traces of cocaine in her system. Was this how her father felt, nothing more than another useless junkie draining the system?

17. In essence, it had given up much as she had.

29. By the time she arrived at the hospital, she had bitten through her lip and lost all feeling on her right side. She could no longer speak without slurring.

3. Death came for her on a rainy day in February after months of ignoring signs of her body’s deterioration.

2. Amid her coldest, bleakest point, she discovered a strength she did not know existed. Not many people face death at 29, but she did.

20. Whatever it was, the doctors at this small local hospital lost interest in diagnosing her. They sent her home with medicine meant for the elderly. The nearly dead.

23. Blood clots were slowly asphyxiating her, crushing the air from her lungs and blocking her heart from doing the work of pumping her blood.

21. After several more trips to the same hospital. Trips she made because she was taught to trust doctors and medical professionals even when they were failing her. In a moment of clarity, she made a decision that likely saved her life. She switched hospitals.

37. Simultaneously, outside, purple flowers bloom on the Jacaranda trees.

Paula Williamson

Paula Williamson is a Black queer writer in the Bay Area. She is currently an MFA Candidate at Antioch University and the Poetry Editor for Lunch Ticket Her work has most recently appeared in Manastash Literary Journal and the Chestnut Review.

Share your thoughts

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.