I am eighteen years old, lying on my bed doing my homework, when my two-year-old nephew begins his seizure. He came into my room an hour before, fussy and red-faced, and fell asleep behind me, pressed tight against me for comfort. The heat emanating from his body grows intense. I do not realize anything is wrong until this moment, when he wakes screaming. Tears spider across his cheeks through the crevices created by his distress. I take him in my arms and hold him the way I did when he was mere minutes old, still warm from the heat of his mother’s womb. The force of the seizure nearly rips him from my arms. I feel that particular fear, when the body seems to eject the heart, or the soul, something essential, and you are in two places at once – like in cartoons, when a character takes off running so fast he leaves a facsimile shimmering in the air .
My nephew’s eyes lock on the popcorn ceiling of my bedroom. I say his name; he does not respond. His small body shudders in an arrhythmic electric dance. Then he goes still, frame elongated and stiff as if lightning-struck. He is like a pretty shell washed up on the beach, cold and hollow. I have the strangest urge to shake him to see if anything rattles inside, to see if he has left me. Instead, I carry him in shaking arms to the living room where my father dials 9-1-1. I sit on the couch. I struggle not to cry. When the ambulance is on its way, my dad tells me it’s okay, and he’ll be fine, and see, it’s getting better, and it’s over, you can breathe now. I have always trusted my father. I have always believed him. But I want to say You’re wrong: This cannot be undone.