3:30 AM – 23 – i don’t believe it

My mom goes back to work in November. I start taking freelance editing gigs in New York. Things are normalizing. I think about moving when spring comes. The economy is booming, and it will be easy to find a job, assuming Y2K does not destroy our national infrastructure.

Y2K comes and goes with few disruptions. I catch a stomach bug and spend the New Year puking while the rest of my family parties. I go to the doctor’s office to get medicine that will stop the puking, and I throw up in the sink. Five times. I am gasping for air, trying to explain that I have not thrown up in 12 years, and the nurse is stroking my hair and making soothing noises. They are glad to see me go. I take the medicine and settle down to sleep for several hours.

A few days later, I am coming home on the train from Penn Station. I clamber down the steps into the starry night. My breath forms a cloud of mist where I exhale. I get in the car. My mom pulls out of the parking space and drives toward the traffic light.

“I have to tell you something.”

“What?”

“You’re not going to believe this.”

I dread her next words, but she does not sound worried. She sounds bemused, bewildered, shocked.

“Your sister is in the hospital right now, having surgery for appendicitis.”

I sit in the car as we wait for the light to turn green, trying to figure out if she is joking. My first inclination is to laugh. Silence stretches out. I realize this is no joke. I start to panic inside, feel that sinking feeling inside my gut, but I force myself to be calm as I say, “Is she okay?”

“Yeah, they definitely got to her in time.”

I nod. We drive home, and I eat dinner. I think to myself that it’s a good thing Y2K was a bust, or she would have been a goner. I picture us huddled in our basement with a battery-powered flashlight, eating the tuna I have purchased because of an irrational fear that the whole world was about to fall apart, while my sister sobs in pain on the basement floor and expires with no one to help her. We wouldn’t even have been able to bury her; it is winter.

I pull my thoughts away and finish dinner, and my mom and I drive to the hospital to be with my dad.

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