Last night I woke up clawing the walls again, my nails broken, my eyes open but seeing nothing.
I must have been looking for you.
I don’t know why I thought you’d be there beneath the wallpaper, just as I don’t know why I thought you’d be under the desk, or trapped behind the fridge. It’s the logic of dreams, something unfathomable to me. That’s what you’ve become now too. Watching your stillness, I think: I used to know you; how you liked your tea, the sound of your feet on the stairs, what made you laugh like a seal. I knew your love of having your neck tickled and who your childhood heroes were. How can I have known so much, but not have learned how to find you and bring you back?
Today I brought a different book to read, a murder mystery. You’ve always hated them, but I’ve been thinking: if I only read you things you want to hear you’ll have no reason to wake up. So I’m trying this. I may even leave off the ending, taunt you with the unsolved mystery. It’s not nice, but it’s tough love. No other kind of love seems to work.
Watching your stillness. This isn’t you, you were never lazy. You must hate lying there for weeks on end. Affecting nothing. You used to affect everything, a whirlwind of trouble, causing havoc. Now the havoc is only in my head.
It’s time to get up.
I don’t know how to say those words so that you’ll hear them – should I shout? Should I whisper? It’s time to get up now, you’re late for the party.
Maybe I’ll find you tonight, I’ll grab your hand and pull you through to consciousness. You’ll be in the last place I look, and I’ve looked almost everywhere.
Watching your stillness, I wonder: do you even hear these stories I read you? They tell me you can hear, but maybe that’s a kind lie to keep me sane, to keep me tethered to the waking world. It doesn’t keep me sane and the tether is fraying. And I keep wondering, maybe I can’t find you because you’re hiding.
Maybe you don’t want to come back.
When I’m not dreaming about you, I don’t sleep. My restless brain ticks through scenarios, things I could have done differently, signs I could have noticed. I knew you weren’t looking after yourself well enough, but I also knew your pride, that you’d hate to have me interfere. I should have interfered. I let you down. I let you get lost. I let the fits claim you, cut you out of this world and steal you away. Watching your stillness, watching you lying there, day after day I wonder what it’s like to be so peaceful. Maybe I should be jealous, I think I am, a little.
Maybe I should come to you.
I’m not doing so well here. My exhaustion makes the daytime blurry and jumbled, my thoughts fractured. I drop things, I forget things. I put the kettle in the fridge, I’ve broken three plates and your favourite mug, I’m sorry, I cried about that for an hour. Sometimes I ramble on. Sometimes the only words I speak are to you, speaking them into this void. Waking life is a mish mash of frayed hope and bungled practicality. And then I dream, and the images are sharp and clear. I dream I’m searching for you, pulling apart our home, scouring the streets. One night I dreamt I was wandering the desert; I could feel the sand oozing between my toes, feel the heat of the sun as it sizzled my skin. I think I’m starting to cross over. Day by day I loosen a little from reality, maybe soon I can join you in nowhere, in the bone cage that holds you.
Would you know me there?
Can we carry on our lives there? I think I’ve changed, become brittle and vague. Maybe you wouldn’t like me now, maybe you wouldn’t want me tainting the peace. Maybe now I’m the whirlwind.
The nurse is pestering me, visiting time is nearly over and I’ve not even started reading the book I brought, too busy trying to explain everything to you. I can feel my blood humming, my breath barely skims my lungs. I don’t think I even replied as she fussed around your bed. She thinks you’re here, she thinks this is you, this lump beneath a blanket. She thinks this is me, with the startled expression and the shaking hands. She doesn’t see my stillness as I start to dislodge from this tacky world of sharp edges and bright colours. She wants me to go, but I’m not ready.
How can I leave, when I still don’t know where you are?