This is a short story that I spontaneously jotted down on my phone a couple of days ago. It was one of those random while-in-the-bathroom thoughts that just wouldn’t leave me alone so I ended up writing the whole thing right then. It resulted in a short night and a rough time getting up the next morning but I think it was worth it. (If you want to hear me rant more about inspiration and bathroom moments I would suggest you read my last post. It’s all in there.)
This one ended up, somewhat unexpectedly, meaning a lot to me, so I thought I would share it with you. Hopefully it will speak to at least one of you.
It’s both fiction and reality.
I’ll leave you to figure out which is which.
Breathe. Please breathe!
I try to tell my lunges to cooperate but in the heat of the moment it seems like they have finally forgotten how to do what they were made to. I can feel desperation creep in, no, run towards me, and I can feel it gripping my throat. I’m running out of time.
“Look at me.”
I hear the words, but they sound far away. And foggy, as if I’m under water.
Weight on my chest.
I’m addressing my brain this time, hoping it will listen better than my lunges did.
“Hanna, look at me!”
There! I’m sure I just spotted something. Or someone. Also far off and out of focus, but still. There.
I direct all the strength I have left into my eyes, trying to steady them.
My senses are returning. I know it, because of the pain I now feel in my head. Not breathing. And straining my eyes. Both things that do that to you.
But that’s not the only thing I feel.
I feel him.
I feel hands holding my face. His hands. I feel the absence of the distance I have always been fighting. I feel his breath moving towards me and I feel my lunges craving it. For more reasons than their current lack of oxygen. Crazy that I’m aware of that in my current state. Then again, it’s coming to an end. I know the signs. I’m approaching the surface.
I’m coming up for air.
Eyes closed feels better. Without trying to see I can focus all my energy on feeling him near. That will get me through.
This gasp for air is a lot more violent, a lot more loud, than the ones I’m used to. How long did this attack last? Why did I allow it to get to this point? I thought I had mastered this by now.
I take a few more breaths and wait for my heartbeat to settle a bit before I open my eyes again.
When I do I can finally see clearly.
See him. Still there, right in front of me, with his dark brown eyes stearing straight into mine.
I see how they for a split second question if I’m as present as I seem, and then relax when they realize I am really back. We won. Again.
“Han.” He doesn’t say anything else and I don’t need him to. His gaze says it all.
It’s not a worried one. The worry came out in his voice, as did his kindness.
What was being supplied through his eyes was a constant, unwavering strength. A steadiness. As I receive it, I am again reminded of why I love this man. He knows exactly what I need.
“You didn’t fail.”
What do you mean “I didn’t fail”?
I still wasn’t strong enough to speak the words out loud so they had to stay in my head. They were ringing. I wish I could let them out.
Not for him. Solely for me. He didn’t need me to say them. He knew me well enough to be able to tell that I didn’t believe him.
“You didn’t. It’s true.
Remember when you were a little kid, how you couldn’t sleep because you thought that someone was hiding under your bed, ready to strangle you at any moment?
Or when you were sixteen, how you woke up in the middle of the night and, because of how dark it was, convinced yourself that you had gone blind and tried to convince yourself even harder that there where worse things out there than being blind, and that you would be okay anyway?”
I nod and am, still silently, impressed by how well he remembers everything I’ve told him about me. If I didn’t know better, I would think that he had been right there to witness all of it.
“Remember how that murderer became more and more real and that blindness more and more tangible, every moment you spent in darkness? How your wild imagination, when fueled by fear, quickly ran off, coming up with horror stories and worst case scenarios, all without validity? How they didn’t go away, no matter how hard you tried to fight them?”
I nod again.
I can tell he’s pleased with how well I follow.
He lets a moment of silence pass by, not rushed by me hanging the way he left me. I’m not either because I know he isn’t done. He wouldn’t leave me like that. Especially not when he’s trying to take me somewhere.
He sits up straighter in his chair and takes a deep breath before continuing. I mimic the upward movement of his ribcage as he inhales. It feels good to breathe deep again.
“Do you remember what made those monsters go away?”
Monsters. I like that he called them that. I know monsters aren’t real and if he used the same words to describe the inventions of my fears; neither are they.
I clear my throat and am relieved to feel my vocal chords finally touch.
“Turning on the light.”
All this time he had been close, gently enveloping my face in his hands, but now he let’s go, leans back and smiles, clearly satisfied with what he just heard.
I want to smile back, but there’s one more thing.
“But, I couldn’t do it on my own. It was really dark this time, and I had no idea where to even begin looking for a lamp. I don’t know if I ever would have found it if it wasn’t for you.”
My heart rate has normalised by now so there is no longer anything preventing me from actually enjoying this conversation.
“You still did it. You didn’t fail. You were still the one deciding to fight. You were still the one who turned on the light. Needing help doesn’t change that.”
I can see the kindness move into his eyes now.
“We all need a little help finding the switch sometimes.”
I’m no longer hanging. This is the place I knew he wanted to take me to all along, even though this is the first time I actually see it. This is the moment he decided to pick me up and help me to my feet. Help me see clearly. I love that he’s never in a rush to get me there.
We did it. I did it. Again.
I get it now.
I am still looking at him, and he is still smiling.
This time I return it,
without a doubt left in my wild mind.