Before I forget and too much time passes and the shape of the moment withers or disintegrates, or rests in the dull shadows of my brain, weakened in the space of night, only to show itself in the final days when I will remember everything before the nothing. Before I let myself think it was no big deal, the way I do with most things because that’s what we’re supposed to do, we’re supposed to suck it up, tell ourselves it wasn’t that bad, and sure I got sick and counted down the days, five days of feeling like you were hit by a Mack Truck, I was told. But in the end I got better and that’s all that matters and why dwell on the past, why not move forward, or rewrite the narrative so I become braver, tougher, that I was never really scared, never thought I’d die, never crawled my way outside to feel the warmth of the sun and rid myself of an aching chill, only to have my heart beat like a caged bird in a nest of bones, trying to break free, my hand rushing to stop it while my husband called 911. I sat by the geraniums, buried my head into their stems and leaves, unable to smell the earth, unable to smell anything, my senses gone, trying to focus onto the deep red I planted two seasons before, when the world made sense out of chaos, when the world wasn’t hoarding toilet paper and rice and people weren’t throwing fits about wearing masks, dangling them on their ears, strapped around their chins in a shove-it-to-science kind of way. No, that color was there, Calliope, a blood-red. The bees flew to their blooms, disappointed at their lack of pollen. I heard their buzzing frustration. I heard the birds, too, until it became a chorus, a pulse, a vibration that drowned out my husband’s voice on the phone, transferred to a COVID hotline, answering questions that took no shape as I began deciphering birdsong and buzzing. A nurse spoke on speaker, asking me for words when all I had were prayers. And how was I to describe something foreign running through me, racing my heart, filling my ears with a stampede, unlocking the left side of my body until I felt the life slowly come back to my limbs, releasing me in a violent shake and shove? I remember thinking I will die with half-written stories, stories with no ending, messy thoughts and prose, and why did I flirt with death in so many narratives? And that was the before, because what came after is everything, and what is everything but love and the raw desire to hold onto everything we have with everything we’ve got. We counted twenty minutes or thereabouts, from the time I felt the fever rage and my consciousness slip. Twenty minutes it felt like the virus could take me. Don’t call an ambulance, I don’t want the kids to see. You won’t be allowed to come and I don’t want to be alone. Twenty minutes for me to know what was at stake, to use my eyes in a way I could not use them before, like a thirst. So, before I forget, before I tell myself or others it was fine, I was fine, I want to remember what it was like to feel the slip, the possibility of losing everything, right down to the birdsong, and maybe if I can remember that, those twenty minutes, I will never lose sight of what’s in front of me, what I’ve had all along, everything that is worth the fight.

Sabrina Hicks’ work is forthcoming or has appeared in Best Small Fictions 2021, Wigleaf Top 50, Fractured Literary, Milk Candy Review, Cheap Pop, Split Lip, Atlas + Alice, Pithead Chapel, Pidgeonholes, and other publications. More of her work can be found at

Photo by Dinah Lenney