I tell him all about you. I laugh at your attempts to set me up with a Starbucks barista who really just wanted to take our order and never see us again. I cry at your pain. It is all mine. Your moments of pure joy, were my moments of pure joy. Your pain cut through us both like a sharp knife. I tell him so I won’t forget. I tell him because one of the saddest things in the world, to me, is the fact you will never meet him and he will never meet you. He would make you laugh. He does that self-deprecating, underdog thing you would have rooted for. He would have admired you in every way because you are the literal meaning of the words ‘strength’ and ‘determination’. You would have debated and playfully argued. He would have feared you. And loved you. I tell him about your past. I tell him about your journey. I tell him about your final destination but I tell that story with tears strolling down my face and onto his.
I tell him because with each passing day you get further from me.
I tell him because I am scared.
More than anything I am petrified that one day I will wake up and I will forget how you would sip your tea.
I tell him because you were mine and now he is too.
Sometimes you just have to feel the pain.
Being raised by a woman with a chronic illness, you learn to be resilient. You learn to recover. When you are broken or defeated you quickly gather yourself, pick up the pieces and make a new plan. It’s how you survive. It’s how you make it through the day. I rarely let myself just hurt. Why? The obvious answer is because it is soul destroying. It takes you to the darkest pits of your mind. The places you almost never visit. The places the light doesn’t reach. The places you fear you may never get out of. Today, I stopped. I stopped recovering. I stopped trying to bounce back from the darkness. I lay down in her favourite room and I just breathed. My breath was heavy. It took mere seconds of letting my guard down to see her. I am six years old and she is chasing around the park. I’m wearing that big, red coat that you love. The air is crisp and has that fresh Autumn scent. Everything is brown and orange and the air is laden with Halloween anticipation. I’m screaming and giggling as I run away from you. You chase after me with a sparkle that your eyes only ever had in those younger years. Your skin is perfect porcelain in the cold air, just like it was until the very last day. I’m so happy I could burst.
Where did that all go?
Sometimes you just have to feel what you really feel because holding it back all the time is exhausting. If I just lie here, my eyes shut tight, my body perfectly still then at least I will have you here with me. If I just keep my eyes shut then you will never disappear. Don’t go because the second I open my eyes I have to gp back into survival mode.
Survival mode might be killing me.
I had my heart broken once. It was horrific. It was scarring. I thought I would never recover but I did. This time was different. This time I broke my own heart and maybe yours? You know all those clichéd break up lines? The ‘it’s not you, it’s me’ well I understand them now. You see, it really isn’t you. It was never anything you said or anything you did. It really wasn’t you. It was merely unfortunate circumstance. You and I were just two jigsaw pieces that looked very similar but just didn’t fit. It wasn’t anyone’s fault. Not mine. Not yours. The pieces just didn’t fit. They didn’t make a cohesive image, no matter how much we tried to make them fit and damn, we tried. We tried so hard, too hard. I see now that it shouldn’t be that difficult. My mum always said love is easy and I’m not sure it was easy enough for us. There was so much love and respect between us. Over those years we became best friends but that wasn’t enough. I want you to know now that I really wanted you to be the one. To be my one.
I went to R and M’s wedding this weekend. I thought of you as they delicately exchanged their vows. I thought of us and the life we had built together. The one I tore down faster than either of us ever anticipated. As I watched them, eyes glued to each other I realised something. They were all in. They did something we never could. You and I stood on the precipice at one point. We looked down at the scary, roaring ocean and instead of jumping together we just kind of danced around it. There was a time when we could have been just like them. We could have jumped P but we didn’t. Something always held us back. Was it fear? Or were we always vaguely aware it wouldn’t work? I have no idea. But there was a day when I stared into your blue eyes and I knew if I just jumped I could have everything but I took a cautious step back. For that, I am sorry.
I wanted it to be you. Just know that every man that comes after you will be endlessly compared to you. Your kind, gentle nature is my bench mark now. That day haunts me. The day when I saw the ferocious ocean beneath us and chose to stay on the cliff, looking down. I can never get that back and maybe that is for the best. Maybe not.
I hope you find a woman that makes you want to dive in, head first. I hope I get to hear about your sweet exchange of vows and be happy for you.
Sorry I haven’t written in a while, life kind of got in the way. I’ve been thinking about you even more than usual lately. I have wanted to write but knowing you will never write back destroys me.
Remember when you said ‘when you know, you know’? I thought it was just one of those meaningless statements. The ones people bandy around along with other, over-used clichés. I thought it was just one of those things older people say to younger people.
A few weeks ago, it clicked. When you know, mum, you know. A year ago I told you I didn’t know and you told me that was my answer. I didn’t fully appreciate what that actually meant. Or perhaps I just wasn’t ready to appreciate the gravity of your words. I always knew. You knew before I knew. How did you do that? How did you always know? Is that a gift that comes with time? Is it a mother thing? Is it just an Alison thing?
You were right. I sat on the edge of my bed sobbing as he packed up his things and left. All I wanted to do was run to you. I wanted you to work your mother magic and fix it. I wanted to see your face and know, no matter how bad it hurt, you would be there for me, with me. I lay in my big bed that night and begged you to tell me what to do. You didn’t answer. I was low. I gave it a few days and waited for the storm to pass. I imagined what you might say had you been here. You would have told me that it would get easier. I would have rolled my eyes and disagreed. But, once again you were right. Every day got a little brighter and the puzzle pieces started to slot together. He wasn’t mine. He was the one I wanted to want, so damn bad. He reminded me of you in some ways. His gentle nature and warm embrace.
Are all of those clichés true?
One last question, why is the right thing so damn hard?
P.S I spilled coffee on your favourite pink coat, the one you always told me to take off when I am drinking something. Sometimes, I hate when you are right.
Your best friend,
It has been 7 months.
Actually, I am not even sure if that is exact as I can’t bring myself to do a count. We have yet to produce an official memorial card. Everyone is always asking if they can get one and every time I have to tell them that I actually haven’t made it yet. The first question I get is ‘why?’ The answer is always the same ‘I have been too busy with work’.
Total crap. I could have made it anytime but I can’t. I just can’t. The prospect of looking through all of those photos, videos, letters and poems makes my heart sink. It is a feeling that takes over. Once you let it in, it drowns you and I have only just learned to swim again. If I let it in even a little the flashbacks flood my mind, taking up all the space. I go right back to that day, that awful, horrific day. The day I lost my best-friend. The worst day of my life (apart from the day I got that weird fringe that made me look like a young, German boy). It shoves out all the light and fills me with darkness.
I haven’t made her memorial card yet because I simply cannot bear to. Making it makes is just too real and I am not there yet. I am not ready to admit that this is forever. I am not ready to give up the fantasy of her returning and embracing me like she had just had a long hospital stay.
I hope one day I can open the photo albums with peace in my heart. I hope I can re-read her old text messages and recall the best and the worst memories. However, that day is not today. I don’t know when that day will be. Maybe tomorrow, maybe never. You don’t go through a trauma like that and emerge from the rubble totally fine. It takes time. It takes lots of things, things I don’t have yet.
For now, I will take it in bite sizes. Little bits here and there. Let the acceptance creep in. Let the grief creep in. Trickle in, bit by bit, drop by drop.
“When a stargirl cries, she sheds not tears but light.”
― Jerry Spinelli, Stargirl
That is how I see my twenties right now. For a long time I was an adult. A responsible adult. An adult who knew what time to administer morphine doses and antibiotic side-effects off-by-heart. It has been over six months since losing my incredible mum. At the funeral a family friend said something to me that I thought was unhelpful and useless at the time but now, I get it. He said ‘She left you with a gift. The gift of time’.
He was so right. I have that now, I have time. Now, I don’t have to quite as responsible for a while. I am only responsible for myself. It is such a strange feeling. It is a liberating feeling but one that is always tinged with sadness and emptiness. I am my own keeper now. I have imagined what this might feel like but I had never accounted for just how bewildered I would feel. What is a twenty-two year old supposed to be doing? I’m not sure just yet but I will figure it out. For now, I am still becoming accustomed to working on my own schedule. A schedule that I fix. A schedule that I create. A schedule that is not influenced by many other external factors. A schedule I have control over.
No matter how exciting this new phase may be part of me will always prefer to be there, with her, helping her, caring for her, just sitting with her.
Is that selfish? Probably.
She isn’t here though and I know what she would want. She would want me to hurry up and get to the party already because it started years ago.