Taking Notes

by Kerry Cullen Read author interview June 18, 2018

I wrote down every word the doctor said. I noted his throat-clearings with an asterisk, his pauses with ellipses; one interjection with an m-dash. When he ran his hands through his curly hair, I drew a series of spirals cascading down the margins. For good measure, I sketched some of his expressions: a grimace for “possible epilepsy”, a shrug for “inconclusive results”, and so on. He changed the bandage on your head, so I cut a square of fabric where a spider leg of hair was blood-glued to the gauze, and taped it in.

When he left we watched three episodes of an okay TV show on my iPad and I logged your laughs: two guffaws, fourteen chuckles, one ephemeral mix between a smirk and a sigh. When you yawned, you squeezed my hand and I expressed the pressure by tracing the outline of my fist over the page. You won’t remember any of this later. I hardly remember this morning: only that on the train ride, when I googled “mom hospital what do i do” the message boards recommended taking notes.

When you fell asleep, I roamed the fluorescent hallways, taking Polaroids of every nurse on duty to tuck in between the pages. I stepped out into the parking lot and took a graphite rubbing of the tire tread of the ambulance that brought you here while I slept. I spoke candidly with the stars about my sharpening view of passing time. I recorded their glum shine with a hole punch borrowed from an empty desk. I went back in your room with a bag of chips from the vending machine. You were still asleep, your mouth a dark gap. I salted your sheets while I read back over our day, making retrospective clarifications. I am keeping you safe.

About the Author:

Kerry Cullen's fiction has been published in Prairie Schooner, Indiana Review, One Teen Story, Hobart, Monkeybicycle, and more. She is an editorial assistant at Henry Holt & Co and a reader for One Story magazine. She earned her MFA at Columbia University, and she is currently writing a novel about queer teens and Christian rock.

About the Artist:

Marcelo Leal is a photographer in Rio Grande do Sul, Brazil.