sand, 3

1999
Southern California

There was likely more that my father wanted to say about Lana being there. The fact that he didn’t say anything was an indication to me that whatever was going on with my grandmother was serious.

“Okay, I’ll be out in a second,” I said. Lana had pulled on her shorts. She still wore my t-shirt. It had an apsara on it that a relative had brought back as a souvenir from a trip to Cambodia some years before.

My father closed the door again. “Prabp ahwy weah thdew pdah weng.” Tell her to go home. His voice had that chill in it that meant he was upset.

“What did he say?” Lana asked, moving toward me.

I hugged her, but only for a second. “You have to go,” I said.

“But I want to come with you.”

“My dad said to tell you to go home,” I said, shaken by what conversations might come after Lana left. I didn’t know what hospital they’d taken my grandmother to, but I knew my uncle lived thirty minutes from us. We would be in the car together for at least that long.

“Okay. Just call me again as soon as you can?” Lana gathered her bag and stood close to me, wrapping her arms around me.

“Yeah, of course.” I kissed her on the cheek mechanically, my mind racing with anxiety. I moved to my grandmother’s bed and turned the sheets over, ruffling the pillow, trying to make it look slept it. I formulated a story to tell my parents if they asked about Lana sleeping over. Lana watched on until I finished. “Let’s go,” I said, picking up my bag and walking around Lana to open the door.

She followed me out. We found my parents sitting at the kitchen table, waiting.

“Lana, you slept here?” My mother asked, showing her surprise. My father had a grim look on his face.

“Yeah– it got too late,” I said quickly, “she stayed in Yey’s bed.” I looked straight into my father’s stern, dark brown eyes. I could see that they did not believe me, but I held his gaze.

“Let’s go,” he said, standing up.

“I hope she’s okay,” Lana said as we all walked out of the house. She was met with silence. My father locked the door behind us.

“Thanks,” I said. “I do, too.” Lana turned away with some hesitation and got into her car. The engine turned over and she drove away.

My parents and I got into the family car, a dark blue, compact, two-door sedan. The paint job was worn by years of use and acid rain, but the engine worked smoothly for the most part. My father’s brother was a mechanic and helped my parents maintain the car. Whatever it may look like on the outside, we could rest assured that all was in order under the hood. That was the most important part, anyway. I was not embarrassed to be seen in the car, even when people at school commented on how old and clunky it seemed. I liked driving it; I considered myself lucky to have a car to drive around at all.

“What happened to Yey?” I asked, breaking the silence in the car. If my mother had any negative thoughts about Lana appearing out of my room in the middle of the night, she did not show it. I was glad for that.

She had a stroke in the middle of the night walking to the bathroom,” my mother said, “Luckily Kelly heard her and woke everyone up. They called 911 and an ambulance came. This all happened less than an hour ago.”

Oh my gosh, do they know if she’s going to be okay?” I asked.

We don’t know yet. They said she fell and might have broken her hip,” my father replied, “we’re hoping it is not too serious.”

The rest of the ride was in silence. I sat in the back seat as we passed under street lamps, the town whizzing past. A box of Kleenex slid from the back of the car and hit my back when my father took a turn a little too fast.

“Prayat pong,” my mother said to him. Be careful.

“Chit dthal haiy,” he said. We are almost there. I stifled a yawn as we pulled into the hospital.

I already hated hospitals, but entering one in the middle of the night made it even worse. It was quiet, so there were no sounds to distract me from the chemical scent or the glaring fluorescent lights. I wanted to be back in bed, with Lana, cosy, asleep.

We met my uncle and his family in the waiting room. They all had dark circles under their eyes. I imagined that my parents and I looked much the same. My cousin Kelly was two years older than me and three inches shorter. She held her sleeping little brother Ben in her arms. My aunt-in-law’s hair was pulled back into a neat, severe bun despite the hour.

My father exchanged a worried look with my uncle. Do we know anything yet?

They say she bruised her hip very badly, but it’s not broken, my uncle answered. They think she’s going to be okay, but they are running some tests. The stroke was not as bad as we thought. She collapsed after tripping on the carpet. They think we got her here soon enough to make sure it wasn’t worse. 

My parents and I breathed a collective sigh of relief.

When will they let us see her?” I asked.

“I’m not sure how long everything is going to take. Maybe a few hours.” My uncle gestured to the row of waiting room chairs. Blue upholstered seat cushions stretched over cold metal bars. We all went to sit down. I found a row of chairs and attempted to stretch out in them. The hospital was too cold.

After a few moments, my father came to sit down in the chair next to me.

Don’t let Lana sleep over again, he said quietly. I laid there, waiting to see whether he would say anything more. A few silent moments passed.

“Okay,” I said, “I won’t.” I didn’t look up at him. I feigned a yawn and closed my eyes. The seats shifted when he left to go back to sitting near my mother.

My grandmother was able to come home the next morning.

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