The last thing I remember before I hit the jagged edge of mountain rock was falling backwards, my feet flipped up, shoes dark against the snowy gray sky. Perhaps that’s a way our bodies and minds conspire to protect us, screening out the moments of painful impact from our memories. When I woke I was in a small, dim hospital room. Next to the window there was a teenager perched on a high stool. She was looking outside, white light on her face. She could have been my daughter, with our deep set eyes, high cheekbones and full lips, but I never had any children.
I heard the soft chime of a monitor. She turned to me and put both hands on her knees, in a movement so familiar that I blushed with embarrassment. How could I have forgotten my mother’s face? Then again, this was her face before she was my mother. I never knew this younger woman.
“Yong,” she said, and I saw that her cheeks were wet.
“Oh, Mom,” I said, my voice a surprising rasp, “don’t cry.”
She hopped down from the stool to stand by the bed. “It’s all these hormones.” she said, wiping her cheeks with a handkerchief. “Puberty sucks no matter how many times you go through it.”
I reached out to her but my ribs shifted painfully at the movement, sending a stabbing jolt along my left side. “How bad is it?” I said.
She pulled her hair back into a high ponytail. “You cracked your hip, slipped a disk and got a concussion. They called me when I was in a business meeting.”
My emergency chip. I had never bothered to change the contact information. Stupid. The emergency chip didn’t know that I had stopped talking to my mother sixteen years ago. It didn’t know about the holiday where she demanded that I go to her doctor and where I yelled at her the catchphrases of the pro-aging movement, words I didn’t mean, words I regretted. The chip only knew what I had told it when I first entered it under my skin, that if I was severely injured, it should call my mother. I suppose I thought myself immune to injury. I had been arrogant.
“Hiking on a glacier?” My mother started to pace around the room. ” You are too old to go hiking on a glacier.”
“Mom, you’re 35 years older than I am.”
” Yong, if you were rejuvenated you could go hiking on glaciers whenever you wanted. Why do you court death? Are you really so in love with your romantic notions of a limited life?”
“It’s not about dying, Mom.”
She took my wrinkled hand in hers. “Then you are going to stop this,” she said with certainty, with a finality that seemed humorous on someone so young. “You are going to get rejuvenated.”
“Mom, I want to get old, I want to experience dying. It’s the way nature intended us to live.”
She shook her head, her ponytail bouncing. “I can’t believe you’ve fallen for that ridiculous argument.”
I blushed. “I’m sorry I brought you here.” I spat the words. “I’m sorry I dragged out of a meeting. I forgot to change my chip. It won’t happen again.”
I meant to her hurt her but she didn’t wince, didn’t pout. I saw then how old she was in her young skin. She touched my forehead with her cool fingers. “I hope you never remember to change that chip,” she said. “Because no matter what you believe, I’ll always come for you.”