I lay quiet and still within a dimly lit room. A new dawn is breaking from outside. I can hear the hum of air snaking its way through the heating ducts of my apartment, along with the muffled sounds of traffic passing from one direction to the next just outside my window. This may sound like a calm and serene wake-up, I assure you it is not…
I woke to my eyelids exploding apart from one another, thus freeing me from the torturous hell I had been manacled by. My body twiddled and jerked into consciousness. As I caught my breath, faint, childlike whimpers escaped from my mouth. My throat was dry and raw. My tongue cracked along itself as it struggled to find saliva. These are the morning hallmarks of surviving a night in hell. A nightmare. A night spent reliving the past. Akin to that of being an unwilling patron at the top of a rollercoaster – you’re just along for the ride.
This latest rendition of torment was not of one specific incident or call. It was a collection of the dead. A collection that I have accumulated through the years of my chosen professions. I saw their faces, and heard their cries. I even saw my fallen brother’s. They were just out of reach. I saw the dead girl and her onesie. Her tiny body with arms splayed to the side. A lifeless child. I smelled the burning flesh of the man trapped within his apartment. I felt his skin remain in my hands, as I watched the rest of him slide to the floor while carrying him. I felt guilt. Shame, and anger. I relived hellacious moments that had at one time simply been my job. My career. My calling. Each painstaking moment, replayed for me in the most vivid of detail. It’s not like a dream where you are left watching. It is time travel. I was right back there doing-it-all-again…
When my eyes shot open, my hands were held out in front of me. The last thing I remember before waking up to the present, was holding the body of a lifeless little girl as I placed her onto my stretcher. In my dream she was so clear. Right in front of me. In the present, I am left holding nothing except the burden of memory.
After a few restless moments spent trying to calm myself, I skulked into the kitchen, and placed the kettle onto the burner. I wanted a beer, or maybe even a whiskey, but I convinced myself that tea was a better choice at this young hour of the day. As the kettle hissed its way to a boil, it happened again – I reached for my phone, and was about to call my mum… Not because I thought she was alive, I know she is not. But because it was familiar. Habit. When in need, ‘call mum’… I won’t lie, knowing that I can no longer do that adds another shackle to the chains of depression. Eventually the kettle whistled at me, telling me that it was ready. I poured the scolding water into the cup, and watched as the steam danced into the air. I felt myself drifting away again. Back into memory. An easy thing to do on mornings like these. I stopped myself by grabbing my stress ball, and proceeded to punish it through vice-like grasps. In fact, I’ve given my stress ball a name – his name’s Graspy. It works on a few different levels…
The day is in full swing now. The sun has risen, and I am choosing to leave nightmares within the darkened corners of my bedroom.
I think I’ll go south today. Down by the water. I may not skip rocks but, maybe a thought or two. I like being by the water. There is something about its expansiveness that helps drawn things into perspective for me. Some days, the water is ravenous with rage. Others, it’s calm and inviting. Sometimes seeing the calm of the lake, and its glass-like surface, makes me feel hope. Hope that one day, my rage will give-way to calm. Peace. Clarity. That I can sail smooth. Until that day comes though, you’ll likely find me standing on the shore. Tea in hand, staring forlornly to the horizon.
If you do see me like that, it is safe to assume that I have just survived a morning like the one I have just described. Feel free to say hello, and remind me of the good in this world. Sometimes, a friendly smile, or gentle pat on the shoulder, is all it takes.
Cheers. Here’s to smooth sailing ahead.
… just to say… I’m hearing you. My heart was breaking for you, but knowing what it’s like to go to talk to a mum about this who isn’t there any more, made me cry. I’ve picked up the phone for years to talk to my mother who died a long time ago.
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Thank you Sue. This means a lot.