The rainbow smiles

Through tears and snot on this cold Sunday morning just after sunrise, my brother and I found ourselves at a Starbucks drive-thru in our hometown. In the time it had taken to order the coffees and drive around to collect them, we had amassed an impressive pile of soggy tissues. My brother stopped a few yards away from the pick-up station. “Oh no! I’m not ready for the window lady!” We laughed through the tears while he tried to pull himself together to collect and pay for the drinks. 

We had spent the weekend in the hospital with our mom, who we were told on Friday morning was having a heart attack. We dropped everything at the news and scrambled to our childhood home as fast as we could. Within minutes the EMT, paramedics, fire department and police department filled up our parents bedroom, our mother in the center of it, holding on for dear life. They cocooned her in sheets and strapped her shivering pale body on the stretcher and plunged into the freezing temperature of February’s first bitter chill. Everything was ominously quiet and still. Frozen. Even the sirens were on mute. Thankfully, she is back home now and resting. A mysterious medical episode, which left us dangling with no answers. 

Clutching our to-go cups as if they were the only thing holding us up, we began the drive back to New York City. The sun was blindingly bright and the windshield was smeared and streaked with dirt and post-vortex muck, as if some strange metaphor for how we felt inside. Stretched, tired, dazed and hollow. We were now halfway into the trip home and while on the highway, my brother tried to clean the windshield with a frozen bottle of Pellegrino (we had used all of the windshield wiper fluid driving home to our father from the hospital on Friday night). Jamming the plastic bottle against the car, my brother tried to loosen the solid block of ice into (best case scenario) a seltzer slushy, which he would then try to splash onto the windshield. What little water there was came out quickly and jettisoned back towards him, raining on the clothes he had stayed up late the night before to wash. I retrieved a bottle of Windex from under his seat. The artificial bright blue slushy looked oddly cheerful in that moment and I found myself rooting for it in a pathetic “Come on Windex!” kind of way. One more haphazard splash to the windshield and the top left-hand corner was the only clean part. I remembered a dream I had on Friday night after leaving the hospital. I was driving a Jeep and I was alone. There was a tall heap of snow that slid down onto the windshield from the roof of the car. The entire drivers side (my side) was covered in snow. I leaned deeply to the right to try to see while keeping the lower half of my body steady enough to drive. It felt like an ultimate challenge where literally the only objective was to follow the lines and stay alive. 

Sailing over the Brooklyn Bridge, the sun beaming, traffic clear, the windshield now more streaked and smeared than before, we sat steeped in the profundity of it all. We found a parking spot right in front of the building and schlumped upstairs in the same clothes we had been wearing since Friday morning. I flopped down on to the couch and my jacket fell open just enough for me to see the hospital visitor pass still on my dress, crooked and curling at the edges but still very much attached. 

With tears streaming down our cheeks, we ventured into our Sunday of recording sessions and lice comb-outs and vowed to do the best we could. As we slid into the back of a cab, en route to our next stop, the driver asked how we were. “Aside from hurting heads, hearts and souls, we are doing well, thanks,” my brother said through a garbled laugh. Using a thick New York accent I tried to lighten the mood and said “Eh, life. Ain’t she a pissah?” I looked over at my brother and we squeezed each other’s hand. “But the sun is up and the rainbow smiles.”

maria carola