I was sitting inside a yellow kindergarten van, going home. My teacher was in the front seat next to the driver. I could not guess from her smile if she was happy or sad. She was my role model, different somehow from my mom. She was the one who would show rather than tell, and I had learned a lot by imitating her.
I watched her clean the car window with a tissue and decided to clean a window myself with a tissue. After cleaning the two small windows on the right, I tried to clean the window of the van door. My left arm could not reach that far, so I stood up beside the door. My teacher was now busy reading a magazine. The car was moving quickly as it passed by a village.
I began cleaning the window of the van door.
Suddenly, the wind wrapped my body like silk. Yes, it was just like the silk towel that my mom used to wrap me in after my bath. I cannot remember what happened then.
When I opened my eyes, I found myself wearing new pajamas instead of my sundress. Then I saw two nurses and one doctor standing by the bedside. They looked serious and were having an “adult talk,” which I decided not to interrupt. My head felt hot. A nurse put lots of wet cotton gauze on my forehead. I thought perhaps she wanted me to stay cool. Then, my mom came in. I was delighted to see her amongst all these strangers. She smelled just like our kitchen — yogurt, peppermint, and blueberry.
She was looking at me with tears in her eyes. If this had been a normal weekday afternoon, I would be getting out of the van, at the front of our house. Mom would be there waiting for me. She would have a big grin and hug me lightly. This time, however, she sighed deeply. I told her all about what had happened in the kindergarten and its van that day. As usual, I kept making her say yes, yes, yes to assure me that she was still listening.
Later, I felt drowsy. Mom kept asking me to go to sleep, but I wouldn’t. I was afraid that if I did, she would leave me all alone. I imagined her sleeping without me on my favorite bed, a really big water-bed. I preferred that bed because I loved the sense of floating. I kept talking until late at night when my mom finally burst out laughing. “You’re just the same even when you’re sick. Our family’s talking bird!” Talking Bird had been my nickname for years at home because every day around six am, my parents and grandparents were awakened by my talking.
Doctor pulled Mom aside and whispered to her; nobody told me a thing.
Soon, I was moved into another room by orderlies pushing my bed, which was on wheels. I wished I had one like that at home. I felt warm drops of water flowing down one cheek. No, it was blood. I must be hurt. Blood meant hurt. I didn’t mind though. I had seen it all before — after rolling down a hill, falling from a tree, using scissors and colored paper, and scratching mosquito bites.
A nurse came closer and asked me how I felt.
She looked at me as if I was a weird kid.
I had no time to think how I felt; I wanted to sing my mom a song I had learnt in kindergarten. That was what I always did when I came home. I sang loudly. The room was like a little cave where every sound made echoes.
“The inky-dinky spider went up the water spout.”
I even tried small motions that went with the song, twisting my fingers to make the invisible spider web. The doctor and nurses looked at me surprised. Soon, they got absorbed in fiddling with stuff — wind-blowing pipes, water-absorbing pipes, drills, cottons, and needles. My mom patted my hair, my cheeks, my arms, my belly, and my legs. She even grasped my toes as if she wanted to make sure they were still there.
A few days later, the doctor told me that I would have to stay in the hospital for a long, long time. I thought, ´what have I done to deserve this?´ I knelt down on a chair next to my bed, clasped my palms, and prayed in a loud voice. “God, why should I be the one who is boxed in the hospital for a long, long time? I am too young to have my life caged. Couldn’t I free to go home and someone else could stay here instead? Someone pretty old.”
Then I went off topic. “A tiger tries to eat up innocent children. These children pray to God. As a response, a rope comes down from heaven. The children, holding to it firmly, escape to heaven.” It was a story I learned in kindergarten. Perhaps I was appealing to God, comparing myself to these children.
My mom, who had heard all this, asked the doctor if he could give me medication for a mental episode. She added that my constant fever might have caused it. The doctor hesitated for a while and said, “She’s too young to take that kind of medication. Let her rest.”
But I knew I was okay. I could think and see everything clearly. I lay on my bed again and looked at the white ceiling. I missed the moon and star stickers on the ceiling of my bedroom at home that shone when Mom turned off the lights. I felt as empty as the ceiling above me. I asked mom to hug me and then slept on her bosom.
Several weeks later, I was fully recovered and my dad came to take me home, sweet home. He, who was always quiet, seemed more serious this time. On our way home, he told me in secret what had really happened to me. He said that I had had an accident: falling out of the van onto the highway, because of a loosely-locked van door. I learned that I bled so much that I could not even get anesthesia while I was going through surgery on my head.
“Oh, oh,” I said as if hearing horrible news about someone else.
“Your mom was very scared of losing you. You could’ve-”
I was already running home. The front door was open, and there I saw my mom dozing in a rocking chair. I called, “Mom. Mom! Mom?”
“Mmm, my talking bird,” she murmured. She opened her eyes. Her face was lighting up slowly, slowly like the moon rising in the night sky.
I heard Dad´s voice. "Now she seems to have come alive again.”
I fell into her arms.
“What an extraordinary girl you were in that hospital,” Mom said. “Your spider song still rings in my ears!”