This is a familiar moan. Pretzeled up into knots, she writhes over pale sheets, exhaling in pants. You shut the door and pull the blinds-it’s loud, too loud, and you wince as Mom rolls over onto her stomach.

Today is better than yesterday; you know because this moan whimpers like a little girl instead of the sharp outbursts that echo through the quiet house when the pain paralyzes her.

Water, she croaks, her head grinding into the fold of her arm to escape the light you let in that still dances in her pupils. Fireworks, cracklers throwing punches. Red, blue, yellow. Hammering nails into her brain and the hollow behind her eyeballs.

You stroke her hair and tip toe out of the musty sick room. The kids are starting to argue, but you don’t have time to shush them yet. Mom is waiting with a parched throat and you hear her already muster up the energy to accomplish a rattling call for water, again. You thrust a glass under the faucet and turn sharply, too sharply, there’s noodles on the kitchen floor and you slip and you drop the glass and shatter, shards, the kids all rush to the scene. Stay back, you command. I’ll be right back. You grab another glass, it’s been too long and she’s thirsty.

You dash to the door and delicately push the knob. Mom’s spine jutting out in a fetal curve, one hand gripping the edge of the mattress with white knuckles. Here, Mama. You tip the glass to her chapped lips and a little dripples down her chin. You wipe it with her shirt as her head, too heavy for her to carry, drops back down into her arm.