So He Returned

It was about this day, a year and two more before this one. In fact, it was on this day, exactly, three years back.

It was stormy then, too. The waves hit the stones and the rocks and the cliff with a force. The salt and the pearly fog of the surf sprayed high, drifted miles and miles into the land.

Foaming, raging white, grudging, furious grey, madly boiling black. The wash rushed ran roamed. It swooshed and slashed and smashed its body against the land, jealously, as if it wanted to take it back, as if determined to victoriously end that perpetual war of land and sea that day.

He sits atop that very same rock.

Staring blindly over the sea, to where there is no longer a distinction between waves, horizon and clouds, to where they become one greyish blue blend of turbulented tempest. To where there is no longer a me or you or they, not even an it or a that. Nothing but a milky exhaustion of contrasts, shapes, and figures.

He is numb to the cold salt water accumulating on his skin beneath clammy clothes, running down his face, into his eyes, his drenched hair clinging like seaweed to pale stone.

Rocks tremble under Poseidon’s roar. He sits, unshaken.

Gales bash violently against his indifferent frame.

The world around him is in a howling riot. Battling to stay afloat.

Three years.

It has been three years.

“already” is a lie.

“only” is a lie.

It’s not the years that matter, it’s the seconds that pose the challenge.

The minutes and hours, days and nights.

The weeks that pass, birthdays and holidays are tough. But the weekends, the normal day to day, the getting up and having breakfast in silence, the fights and pranks, the movie nights and the smell of freshly popped corn, the chemical sweet flavour of cherry twizzlers, the moments that bring so many memories back –

No one to blame, no one to hate for the loss, no such anger release. Not as if that were needed. Grudges feed on anger and the soul, they weaken and sicken the body as well as the spirit.

Three years.

Three years since his brother took his last breath.

Three years walking this earth as a single child.

Three years of being the one that is left.

Three years.

The gales spit in his face. He sits, motionless.

The salt of the ocean runs down his face.

He had escaped to the rocks that day because he couldn’t stand the way his parents had looked at him. Like they wanted to apologise to him. Like they were sorry, as if they had not lost their son just as much as he lost his brother. It was not fair to his parents to think this way and he knew it then as he knows it now. They suffered, they cried, their hearts were broken just as his. No parent should have to bury their child, right? It’s not natural.

Yet, the first thing they did upon the ceased heartbeat was turn to him, to comfort him, talk to him, ask him, too much, too fast

The walls narrowed in on him, the air was sand, he wanted to cough but there was no space for that, it scratched and suffocated him and, he ran

He ran out of the blinking, clean, glaring fluorescence. Out of the beeping and ticking and pumping and wheezing. Out of white and light blue and sterile green. Out of the etherized air. Down the squeaking hallway. Past doors and windows and counters and elevators. He flew down the stairwell. Feet barely touching down on too clean steps. Through the swinging white doors. Into damp air. No rain. At least the world could have had the decency to show some sympathy. What was that, rainy days are the only days one can walk tall down the street while crying? He didn’t walk, he didn’t cry, he ran. He ran until he could breathe again. Until his lungs disgorged cotton and sand. Until Oxygen pumped through his blood. His veins. His muscles.

He ran until he reached the rocks. Until he sat on this rock. Only then could he bring his aching body to stop. He froze to the slick surface.

Three years ago. Three years of dark and empty room. Of the cavity in his childhood home. Of a dusty museum. Of time-defying space.

Three years of moving on and looking back.

He had cried with his parents when he returned home that night three years ago. Nobody spoke a word as he walked through the front door into the darkened living room, drenched to the bone, shivering. The shared grief, corporeal, like a fourth person under the weak lamplight in the room with them.

Nothing could have prepared them for it. The weeks and months with the doctors and counsellors before that final day, three years ago. Nothing healed what was left. It isn’t true that time heals wounds. You just adjust to the pain. You learn how to live with that missing part. Like an amputated limb. In being gone it stays with you for the rest of your life. It is your challenge, your duty to them, to honour what you lost by learning to live again.

A response to the 1,000 words weekly writing challenge.

Inspired by the picture of Contemplation.

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10 thoughts on “So He Returned

    1. Thank you, as always, for your note. Grief is such an universal theme and yet it is the most individual and diverse emotion. One can find comfort in knowing that the lost loved ones stay with us in some way at least, or so I think.

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