I’m allergic to peanuts. I drop the wrapper like a hot iron but then realize, no, I’m not allergic to peanuts; my body is. Celeste’s body, at the moment. I must not have ever told her, and she ate some, and now she’s in anaphylactic shock and needs epinephrine. I have the EpiPen in the back zipper pouch of my handbag—which is Celeste’s handbag right now—which I normally take with me everywhere. It’s black leather, the size of a hardcover book with a cross strap; I start combing the car for it. How is it not in this car? It’s not anywhere. All I find is a huge canvas bag that I usually use for pastries and flowers when we go to the farmers’ market. Large enough to fit a week’s worth of produce, only now it’s full of wet wipes, healthy snacks, extra socks, a kid’s book, a tween book, a pack of markers, a raincoat—where exactly did this woman think she was packing for?! But there’s no EpiPen. It’s all spilled out on the floor of the back of my Jeep, every single item taken out and rooted through. No EpiPen. How can she be going around with a dangerous allergy and no EpiPen? Why didn’t she just stick to my handbag? Dammit, Celeste! Why did you always have to be so prepared?
She’s still making sounds, but now she’s getting quieter. Her eyes are wild when I come around to look at her. I tell her it’s all going to be ok. She’s having an allergic reaction to something I’m allergic to. Peanuts, I explain in the softest, calmest voice I can, even though I am freaking out. I don’t know if the EMTs can get here in time to administer an injection. I call 911, tell them my friend is experiencing anaphylaxis, and they ask me if there’s an injection pen around, and just as I’m about to say no, I realize—SOFIA! Peanuts, just like me, and her mother sews an injector right into her daughter’s softball uniform so she’s never unprepared.
I look at Celeste—her eyes are fluttering closed. Someone needs to give her CPR while I get the pen, but I’m terrified to leave her there, and the cheering on the field makes my shouting inaudible. My brain feels hot and my pulse is racing, and I just decide, Ok, I’m going to bring her with me. She’s in my littler body, and I’ve got the shoulders of a woman who still carries a forty-pound toddler everywhere she goes. The field is not even twenty feet away. I just have to run up there and get help, get someone to give her CPR while I get the pen, or vice versa. It doesn’t matter, but I cannot leave her here alone in the car. I grab her by the chin and say, “Can you hear me,” and she nods, and I say, “Stay calm and try to climb on my back,” and then she does; she gets right on my back with her front over my shoulders like a sack of potatoes, and her legs are standing shakily in the wheel well of the car. “Ok,” I say, though I am wincing under her weight. “Push!” and she gives a quick push of her legs, and we are off. I have her over both shoulders, her waist curled around the back of my neck in a fireman’s carry just like I learned in some emergency-preparedness seminar at some women’s expo whose details I can’t even remember, and I start to stagger toward the field, shouting, “HELP! HELP! WE NEED THE EPIPEN!”
And somehow I make it to the grass, and I see Sofia, so close, right there on the pitcher’s mound, and I know that pen is in her shirt, but she doesn’t seem to hear me shouting, so I unload Celeste gently, as best I can, and a few dads rush up to help me, and I tell them to start CPR, because Sofia is so close I feel like I can almost reach her. I’m going to get that pen right off her, and Celeste will be breathing fine before even another single minute goes by. So I run onto the field as fast as I can, beelining for the pitcher, for the pen I know is sewn into her waistband. And I don’t really notice that Sofia is letting go of a slider, and I completely don’t notice that someone’s bat connects with it before the ump sees me running onto the field, and then, in a startling starburst of pain under my chin, I don’t really know exactly what hits me until I, and then the line drive from less than twenty feet away, hit the ground one after another. I’ve dropped to my knees, the world getting very white and small, only a few inches from Sofia, and somehow manage to shout to her, as loudly as I possibly can, “GIVE HER YOUR EPI SHOT!”
I swear I see someone running toward us, or many someones, but I cannot be sure, because after that the entire world gets tiny, the size of a pinpoint, of a pinpoint through closed eyelids.
And then, just absolutely nothing.
What happens next is truly beyond my understanding. I’ve seen EpiPens before but never had one thrust into my thigh by an eleven-year-old girl. I’ve never been fireman-carried by my own body occupied by someone else’s brain. I’ve never had a peanut allergy, except it turns out that I have for the last entire week. I wish someone would’ve mentioned it to me. Before I demolished three snack-size bags of peanut M&M’S.
But within seconds of getting the pen, I stop drowning on nothing and can suck in huge amounts of air. My heartbeat races a bit, and the spot on my leg where I got the injection kind of pulses. There’s a teeny bit of jitteriness but nothing compared to, say, a shot of real espresso. And then, bit by bit, I start to feel better. In fact, I feel so much better and am so surprised by the whole affair that it takes me a very long time to realize that my real body is lying next to me, unconscious. Leaving me to wonder what happened to Wendy. I try to scramble to my feet to find out, but the act leaves me dizzier than I expected, and someone’s strong arms—Davis’s, I’m surprised to see—hold me in place.
“Stay where you are,” he tells me. “The ambulance is already here.”
“But what happened to Wendy?” I demand. “Did she freak out and faint?”
Davis looks around, panicked. “She’s out of it,” he shouts down to the EMTs. “She doesn’t know who she is!”
I force myself to think. Think about the last week. “I mean Celeste. What happened to Celeste?”
An EMT runs up to me, starts taking my vitals. I’m craning my neck to see where Wendy is. Why isn’t she getting up? Is that . . . is all of that blood?
“What happened? Is Hugh here? Can anyone tell me what’s happening?”
Davis turns to look in the direction I’m pointing and seems surprised at what he sees. He very nearly drops me into the EMT’s arms and rushes to Wendy’s side, where a crowd is forming. And Hugh is already there. Hugh and the kids. Wendy’s and mine, looking shocked and scared. Linus is crying.
“Bridget!” I shout. “What is going on here?”
She looks past the mask and blood pressure cuff and the EMT, confused. “Mom?” she asks quietly. Then she looks to Wendy lying on the ground and then back to me. “Something happened. Something really bad.”
That is the truest thing anyone has ever said. Something is very bad. It must be the epinephrine or the shock. It must be the stress of the week that has been. In my brain is a whirlpool, and in that eddy is a muddle of events. The switch. The sangria. Baseball tryouts. Softball tryouts. Wendy in the pantry yelling and me on the dais cheering.
“Where’s Joy?” I ask, but once again, air is failing me. “Where’s Hugh?” I gasp. “Can you help me breathe?”
“She’s going to need her second shot,” one EMT calls to the other, who is crouched over Wendy, and her hands are covered with blood, and she’s calling for backup, and she sounds panicked.
“It’s me who is hurt,” I try to tell them, but then, it’s me here, and that’s not me over there, and there’s so much blood, and Wendy’s not getting up, I’m not getting up, and suddenly not only can I not breathe, but I can’t understand. Is that me over there, dying on the grass? Is this me here, holding Bridget’s hands?
“Wendy’s not getting up,” I hear myself croak out.
“Ma’am, we’re going to give you another shot and wait for the next ambulance, ok? It’s going to be ok, but we need to get the other mom to the ER right away. You’re going to be just fine. Is this your daughter?” she asks.
“No,” I say, while she looks at me and says, “Yes.”
“Bridget, go find my daughter,” I ask her.
She looks at me like I’m crazy, and then I remember. She’s not my daughter, but she doesn’t know it. And her mother’s body is in some kind of awful shock. And my body is over there, not moving. Not even seeming to breathe.
Am I going to die and take Wendy’s body with me? Or—worse—is she going to die and leave me here forever?
“Ok, try to hold still now, ma’am. This is your second shot, so it’s not going to be much fun.”
“Baby, don’t be scared, ok?” I rasp out. In my mind I’m talking to both girls, to all our kids, but I only see Bridget there.
She nods, but her eyes are huge, and I swear I can feel her heartbeat in the squeezing of her palm.
“Tell Samuel don’t be scared,” I think I’m saying, but after that second shot, I have no idea if any words come out. Instead I’m just thoughts.
I lie back down flat on the ground. Davis is back, hovering just on the edge of my blurry vision. Bridget is still holding my hand. That strange quiet drowning sensation from before is back, but without the choking that came before it. And now, sirens. I hear sirens. More and more sirens.
I’m in the parking lot, even though I feel the grass underneath me.
I’m in the back of a truck.
I’m in an ambulance.
I’m still craning my neck, hoping I can see what happened to my body, and Wendy inside it.
But Wendy isn’t here, and if she’s not, then how much longer can I stay here myself?