A tube snakes down my younger brother's throat, forcing air into his lungs. He is ghostly pale, a soft fringe of lashes rests delicately on pallid cheeks. Black charcoal streaks are crusted around his slack mouth, his face; a Picasso of heartbreak.
I had sprinted into the hospital, a maze of white halls and fluorescent lighting, frantically searching for the intensive care a security guard has distractedly directed me toward.
"Where is my brother!" I shouted upon entering a massive area with a large, circular desk stationed in the center. A young man in wrinkled scrubs rose from scribbling onto a clipboard and rushed to block me.
"Hold on there! Wait a second. You can't come in here!"
"My brother is here! Where is my brother?"
"You're related to Jordan Bu****?"
"Yes! I just said! He's my brother!"
"Listen to me." His direct stare, the eye contact, it was disconcerting. Not a good thing. "Your brother is in critical condition. You can't go see him just yet."
"What? Where is my Mom?"
"M*nica?" In perfect segue to my question, I hear my mom calling my name as she has a thousand times before in life - only this time she holds the keys to the universe, answers to the most horrific questions a sister can ask.
I whirl around to see her striding onto the intensive care unit. Her 5'9 frame appears small, her body contradicting itself as she seems to be folding into herself while reaching for me. Her hair a bird's nest of browns and yellows, her eyes leaking mascara tears.
"Mom! What's going on?" I move toward her, anxious to comfort and receive comfort. But, as is always the case, our past swells between us and makes an emotional entreat awkward, even during such distressing times.
"I don't know. The police came to my house. Woke me up. Said I needed to follow them to the hospital because Jordan was in bad shape. I thought it was a car accident. But it was drugs. The fucking pills!"
"Did he call the police?"
"No. Some girl from Las Vegas did."
"Las Vegas? Who does he know in Las Vegas?"
"Apparently he had taken pills, as usual. He was on the phone with some girl he knows there. She was talking to him and suddenly he wasn't answering her. She thought he might have fallen asleep so she was just going to go to bed. But she apparently told police she felt something was off. She called 911. They sent police over to Jordan's house. Had to break down the door. They said he was on the floor. Had stopped breathing. Was this close to dying. He wasn't breathing! If she hadn't called 911 somebody would have found him dead tomorrow."
She's bawling. Shaking. We're waiting for news. Sitting next to each other on black, plastic chairs in an area designated for waiting. A television in the corner is whispering the sad song of lonely programming that rules early morning television. Weak attempts have been made to cheer up the sterile area where thousands of loved ones before us had clung to each other, anxiously waiting for word. As if decorators knew an intensive care waiting room was not a happy place and any efforts to disguise this fact would have been an affront to the pain of those who called it home for any amount of time.
"So some strange girl in Las Vegas saved his life?" I asked.
"Ms. Butler?" The young man who'd intercepted me upon arrival was hovering busily in the entryway of the waiting area. "Would you like to see your son now?"