She almost kills us both that night. She tells her parents after dinner that she’s going to a friend’s house. Instead, she walks to a nearby gas station and enters a phone booth. “I want to do it,” she whispers into the mouth piece.
Ten minutes later, my mother steps into the back seat of a car that pulls up at the end of the block. The driver, gender unknown, wears a knit hat pulled down to the top of oversized sunglasses. Gloved hands grip the wheel. The only muffled words they speak are to tell my mother which car to get into next.
It is four stops before we come to our destination. The woman who lets us in is another nameless stranger with kind, large brown eyes and the lined face of someone who has cared for people all her life. Her apartment is dark, and the heady scent of incense and candles is everywhere. She has few words for my mother. She offers no hope and no guarantee. She takes no money when she gives my mother a bitter tasting drink and tells her to lie down in a darkened bedroom while the potion takes effect.
My mother does as she’s told. This is her last hope to be free of all of this. She knows it’s risky health-wise, and there could be jail time, but … she doesn’t know what else to do. Her experience earlier that day had galvanized her. She had to do something.
The toxic brew floods her system. I feel her body trying to protect mine from the herbs effects. My mother bleeds. Her heart falters. She closes her eyes but does not cry out for help. I feel her wanting to let go of life. That scares me more than anything.
When the woman returns, blood has soaked through my mother’s clothes. Her skin is cold and clammy to the touch. The woman tries to staunch the flow of blood, but can’t. Finally, she half drags, half carries my unconscious mother into her car and drives us to a hospital, where she leaves us on the curb.