Writing & Photo Contest 2015 Runner-up — Non-fiction


Probability of Mom

“She has a 40% survival rate… I’m sorry, it doesn’t look too good, but we’re trying our best.”

I wept until dawn. It was the saddest day of my life. The second saddest was writing about it.

My mom was in her forties, diabetic, and slightly overweight.

In the living room, I was holding a plastic shopping bag as she puked inside it. It was the second bag.

“Why is she puking? What happened?” my older brother yelled at me, as he entered the house at two in the morning.

“I don’t know!” I felt the inside of my stomach gnawing and crawling up my throat, ripping the soft tissues of my esophagus. I can’t do this, I thought.

My heart felt as heavy as the bag of liquid waste I held onto, while my sister held my mom’s frazzled hair.

I can’t do this, I thought, holding my breath.

“Call the ambulance!” my mom screamed, sprawling on the floor. The liquid escaped my grip, and was quickly absorbed by the Persian carpet my mom had bought when we first moved here.

“It’s too expensive for a carpet,” my dad had said, when my mom first purchased it at a family friend’s shop.

“Everything is always too expensive for you. Let’s just get it for once,” my mom had argued.

My hand was soaked and the stench was choking me. My first instinct was to help her sit upright against the wall, when she screamed in agony. She started rolling around the carpet, as if her body were on fire.

The paramedics arrived.

They examined her as if she were a child.

“What is your name?”

“I need to you sit still! We can’t help you if you keep moving around.”

“What’s her name?” one of the men asked my brother, as I hid in the kitchen. I was wearing bright clothing that did not coordinate, but that’s not why I was hiding. I think it was the vision of the men gathered around my mother, poking at her and speaking to her as if she were a child. My mother, the one who had guided me throughout my entire life, punished me, loved me. They were screaming at her. “NOREEN, DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU ARE?”

My mom cringed, her arms flailed, and a female paramedic came in the living room, walking around the puddle of illness, and held her. She breathed heavily, I heard her lungs quiver.

“We’re gonna run an ECG on her, okay? Just tell me what happened?” one of the taller men asked my brother.

“I—I don’t know. She just. I came home and and my sisters were holding her and she was crying and vomiting,” answered my brother with his wet eyes on my mother as the other paramedics fumbled with wires.

“Do you know why? Did she eat anything? Or complain about a pain of some sort?”

“She ate yoghurt,” I chirped, revealing myself.

“She was walking upstairs. I was in my room and I heard her run into the living room. I ran down and saw her clutching her arm and throat while crying.”

“It might have been something she ate,” the man said, his voice getting louder as my mother’s cries became more and more deafening.


I stayed calm. The tears never left my eyes, because she was always watching our faces. Even when she turned hysteric and inarticulate, she still watched our faces and reactions. I felt it.

“The ECG is perfectly fine,” said the female paramedic. “Maybe it’s gas?”

“Yeah, I think she was having some gas issues and digestion issues. She went to her family doctor last Monday for a checkup,” said my brother.

“We’re gonna take her to the hospital anyways.”

“Can I come?” my brother asked. His forehead was glistening with sweat despite the chilly night.

“Yeah, we can only carry one person,” he said as he looked at me.

“Can you get her a jacket or something? We need her out of that shirt,” he asked my brother. My brother nudged me to go look for one. Going up those stairs, my feet weighed me down, as if anchors were tied around my ankles. Each step heavier than the one before it.

I found her thick black jacket that was decorated with red gems on the left breast pocket. I grabbed her health card from her bag too. I saw my little brother sleeping soundly in my mom’s room. I closed the light and ran downstairs.

On that day, March 20, 2014, she had a heart attack.

This was an entry in the 2014/15 Writing & Photo Contest.