“The uncertainty breaks me every time.”
“I Saw Everything with Fear Back Then”
Fiction. Based on a True Monkey Mind.
This journal entry is inspired by true events. Some of the characters, names, businesses, incidents, and certain locations and events have been fictionalized for dramatic purposes. Any similarity to the name, character or history of any person is entirely coincidental and unintentional.
I know what it is to suffer; I know what it is to feel pain. But it is the uncertainty that breaks me every time, and the pain of not knowing. When will he come, when will he go? When will he text me or will he text me? Has the whole world seen a glimpse of this anxious, worrying self, and wants no part of it? If that’s the case, can I blame them?
It is the uncertainty that broke me in that cursed place, and the uncertainty that continues to break me now. Will I live the rest of my life like this? Am I doomed to wallow in anxiety derived from the constant shifting and rearranging of things? Must I ride every earthquake with my arms over my head, crouched under a desk, just hoping, hoping I will survive? Or can I step outside as Maite did, and open my arms wide to the hurricane?
The thunder wakes me. I am alone in my unfamiliar bed, in the room that I do not want, in the house that is now my home, and I wake, as usual these days, with that tight, breathless feeling in my throat and chest, as if I have already started sprinting a marathon, as if I have already left the house, turned the unfamiliar key in the lock, started jogging an unmapped route. It is the first morning I have awoken without my friend next to me. Those first few days I was in her bed. She had welcomed me without hesitation, even though we had not spoken for months. We had gone grocery shopping, I had tagged along like a lost puppy, exhausted, but still not too tired to feel. I had watched her sniff the bag of coffee and sneeze and exclaim, “Ugh! Too much sniffing around!” These are the things I love about her.
Each morning, she’d wake in her old-lady printed nightgown, turn towards me with her phone, and say, do you want to breathe? And we’d breathe together. And then we’d go to the kitchen, and I’d pace around trying to force instant oatmeal down my gullet. It was routine I was craving; routine I wasn’t getting. I would still go from her house to yours, where I would shower; I’d undress in front of you, uncaring; I asked you what you thought of my bra, asked you to save breakfast for me, as if nothing had really happened, as if we had not slept apart.
The first night, the evening when it happened. We are there on your couch, in the place where it all happened, everything: the beginning, and now, the end of our relationship . . . you offered me wine at midnight, so unlike you. We went to bed, and there I was, beside you for the last time. I couldn’t sleep. I was exhausted. I would sleep and wake and start sobbing and wake you, crying . . . I’m so scared I’m so scared I don’t want this I don’t want this, why is this happening? You put your arm around me and whispered, “It’s okay, it’s going to be okay,” just as you always did, but for the last time.
I hate you, now. I hate you because you took yourself away from me.
The thunder woke me that morning. I am lying in my unfamiliar bed, alone, but with familiar objects and strange space. The wall of ancient windows is next to me; the old, scratched, and dirty hardwood floor, covered with someone else’s hair, is beneath me; and behind me and around me and within me is my fear. Outside the windows I can see the storm. The rain is pummeling the earth, and the morning sun is masked by an indiscriminate green-grayness: rain and clouds filtered by tropical trees. The deluge is punctuated by mind-wrenching cracks of thunder and lightning follows almost instantaneously. It is on top of me like an unwelcome shadow figure, and I, the tiny, imperceptible victim.
I saw everything with fear, back then. Sometimes I still do.
The thunder is louder than anything I have ever heard in my life. Each time the lighting strikes, my wall of ancient windows is illuminated. I jump in terror; I imagine I feel the ground shaking, and it must be, at least a little, because twice while I am curled in my bed, frozen and unable to move, the thunder sets off car alarms. I am afraid of my ancient windows, afraid they’ll break, wondering if I should retreat to the bathroom, to the tub, maybe I should bring my mattress? My phone shouts an emergency warning of a flash flood in the area. Take cover. Retreat to higher ground.
This is the initial rain band of the first hurricane I have ever seen in my life. Torrential thunderstorms at eight in the morning were far enough out of my experience! There I am, alone, in the middle of it. I call you. I text you, I beg you to answer me.
You answer within a few minutes, as if you were expecting it. But what you say is unthinkable. Our dog died last night.
In a flash, I am outside myself. I am there, with you, aching for your pain. Do you believe me? I was wishing I had been there for you, for your family, for our dog. I should have been there when it happened. Did he die during the thunderstorm? Did he die when he was most terrified? Was it the fear that killed him?
You’re there with your sister, watching cartoons. Your power is out and the two of you are there, together, consoling each other, mourning for that sweet beast. It should be me, there with you. Yet another reason why I must hate her.
But still, I am so afraid. I know that you cannot comfort me, that I shouldn’t expect you to, because he is your dog, and I don’t know that you would ever say, even now, that he was ever mine. I am unsure what to do, and my little monkey mind, my little terrified self that is being chased around and around within my head by a big ugly monster of a bear, it looks outside the window. It sees my car, with the water encroaching upon it, threatening to flood. It feels the emptiness and unfamiliarity of the house I am in. It wants safety; it must have safety.
And so I leave my bed, heart already pounding, as if my feet are slapping the sidewalk on my route, down one street, right by the streetcars, turn with the streetcar, and right again on the street that leads to your house. One big box of safety. One series of segments of routine. I must enter the confines of my former life, the only life that felt safe. I leave my bed, I pull clothes on. I don’t bother to wash my face or brush my hair. I pull on my rainboots; I grab my purse, my car keys, my umbrella, and I step outside the front door into the maelstrom.
The water has flooded the sidewalk and entered the lawn. I am practically stepping down the steps into a swimming pool of tepid water, and my rainboots are barely tall enough to keep it all at bay. Despite my umbrella I am showered with droplets, becoming soaked quickly as I wade my way to the car. Somewhere in my mind I know I am putting myself in more danger, but it is my reckless animal self that has taken over. The part of me that will put myself through anything to find my person. I will wade through floods and thunder and lightning for you, my love. To my credit, the flash flood warning had ended. But as I start my car, the engine flips over and starts with a wet thump, and I begin driving slowly down the street, the tires creating wet ripples across the invisible asphalt, there are more lightning strikes, and another flash flood warning erupts from my useless phone. I tell myself I have gone too far to turn back. And, in fact, I probably have. The streets that would take me back “home” are probably too flooded to continue. My vector is erratic, driven by turns that take me down paths that appear from afar to be higher, less flooded. I wonder if my car will be swept away and me with it, or if it will be flooded, destroyed. I wonder if I tried to walk if I would also be swept away, struck by lightning, lost to the storm that is not even a hurricane yet.
I continue, heart pounding, ears flooded with a roar that has its origin entirely outside myself in the rain outside my windows. I have pulled the car up over the grass and onto the sidewalk as I have seen others do.
But I have forgotten, my love, and maybe you never knew. I had not climbed into the car to see you. I had climbed into the car and started driving towards the streetcar track. I wanted to go to my yoga class. I couldn’t bear to be separated from my routine. It was the only thing that was holding me together. And when I discovered that the water rendered this way impassable, I decided I had gone too far, and I knew that what I had really wanted was to go to you, to the person who had always kept me safe. Did I ever tell you I had been trying to go to my yoga class? Would you have rolled your eyes and laughed at me? I would have deserved it. But I was acting out of desperation. A more appropriate response would have been pity, and I think that’s what you gave me, anyway.
I pull my car onto the sidewalk. I remove myself from the vehicle. I wade my way across the street and towards the wooden slat fence covered with vines. I saw it as if in a dream. Nothing was the same, all was in a curtain of water as I passed the corner you and I had turned only days before on our daily walk with the dog that was no longer mine, maybe never was, and is no longer here. I march determinedly down the sidewalk. I open the metal gate. I don’t remember if I remembered to close it, but I remember approaching the door and thinking that I needed to knock loudly, so that you would hear it over the storm.
I hoped that you would be glad to see me, but I knock and the sound is filled with doom. I am a great big ball of anxiety; I am close to tears. I have fooled myself into thinking I am there for you, but truly I am thinking only of myself, only of safety, only of survival.
You answer the door with an expression of utter amazement, an unasked question of “are you crazy?” and “what the fuck are you doing here?” I could read it on your face. I don’t remember what I said. I think I stammered something selfish about “I just didn’t want to be alone, I couldn’t be alone.” Some such nonsense that was, in fact, a truth. “I gotcha,” you said. It is those words that haunt me still. Those, and when you accepted my apology weeks later. I hadn’t realized until you accepted the apology that you had thought I needed to apologize. Further proof of our estrangement.
It is your sister who asks me if I am okay. I think I said I was scared. Again, I speak only truth as I struggle out of my muddy boots, the towels I know only too well on the floor. An empty house, empty of the dog, tiles muddy, dishes in the sink, and she’s in Waldo’s chair. I am unwelcome, and oh, how I know it. I know it over and over again. I know it as you curl up away from me on the couch. I know it when your mom comes to the door and just looks at me, and when I get up and go to the bathroom and use your toothbrush, your toothpaste, your deodorant- all without asking.
I had thought that going “home” would make me feel safe. But all it did was make me feel guilty.