Except, perhaps, for the cherry and white chocolate muffins from Chase McPherson.
2.14 p.m. Too tired to talk about my emotions. Ready for this to stop coming at me.
How is this going to work? How can I be this exhausted when the ‘bad bit’ hasn’t started yet?
I can’t see any way I’m going to find more strength. All I can do is hope time will manufacture some strength for me.
We went to the mall to quickly scratch up some Christmas presents; normally I’m way into Christmas. Now Christmas is irrelevant.
Monique came with us. It just about killed me to leave them to go buy Cliff’s presents. I want to be with him all the time. I rushed through my shopping to get home to be with him. There is some tiny, irrational part of my being that fears he will evaporate or disappear if I don’t hold on to him all the time.
Tears are pouring down my cheeks, no sobbing, just a flood on my face. Must have hit a main valve with that last paragraph.
Since the diagnosis, it’s like he is a child whose hand will slip from mine in a crowded subway and be gone forever. The fear of losing him is paralysing. The thought of it leaves no oxygen in my lungs and no way to get it back. I have to think of something else for air to come in again.
We ate lunch together. Then I worked on my job, while he and Monique wrapped presents and listened to Christmas music. Kept trying to work. Kept not having the head for it. PJ picked up the kids from school because I’m still in the slump and can’t face anyone.
Cliff and I are walking in our best new clothes along a bright city street, holding hands, laughing, talking, looking in the shop windows at all the futures we know will be ours. We are smiling. Out of nowhere Toni Trenshaw appears and points to the subway entrance. We have no choice but to follow her. As we walk down the subway stairs, the bright helium sunshine slips up, away from us, and we are swallowed by the gritty, growing grey of the dark subway light. Toni walks backward, she knows these stairs, this path, so well. She holds our stare with her gentle, knowing eyes, collecting information from our reactions all the time.
She keeps walking down and down into the ugly air that blows upward from the pressure of the trains. We have no choice; still we follow her. We are frightened and stunned, not only by the storm-like air, but also by the deafening noise of trains and now the strangers we see moving around the subway floor in thick, fast, swarming crowds. Toni stands at the edge of the crowd, beckoning us in. ‘This way,’ she speaks. But I only see her words. The subway noise is so loud, my brain has sent its auditory processors home and without definition, the vast noise mimics silence.
But I can hear my own thoughts and feel the fear that is rising everywhere inside me. The fear coats the walls of my mind and the lining of my mouth; it makes my blood acidic and dissects my abdomen in maps of pain.
Cliff walks toward her. I freeze, pulling back on his hand with both of mine. ‘No.’ I won’t move.
Everything about this place is dangerous and foreign. I whip around, still holding his hand, to lead us back up the stairs, expecting to see at least a pinhole of yellow light to guide us out; instead, inches from my face, a solid, tiled subway wall glares imperiously down at me, ignorant of my knowledge that it wasn’t there a second ago and it doesn’t belong there now. I know what this means. It means; what I want doesn’t matter. What is happening to us is going to happen to us. Some unexplainable, evil horror makes the choices now. I want to slap my hand on the wall, show it my hate, how wrong it is, how devastating, but I don’t give it the proof it craves of my hand, acknowledging that it’s solid and real. Instead, I scream at it. For my own benefit. I scream and scream and scream.
Of course the noise is lost. But protesting gives me some satisfaction. I take that little tiny piece of something that is mine and turn to Cliff.
‘It’s O.K.,’ he nods. ‘We’ll get the next train out.’
‘What?’ I ask. Not for lack of hearing, but for understanding. This isn’t our commute. This is our end. Doesn’t he know that’s what Toni means by bringing us here? Is she wrong? Is there a way out? Can I believe it?
Cliff looks toward the train schedule board, planning our way out. Toni walks further into the crowd, backward, watching us. Cliff steps toward her. He is certain he can find our train home. He’s pulling me in, but I repel from the crowds, pull back with both my hands, pleading in a terrorized tug-of-war he won’t acknowledge.
He starts moving us into the crowd. Ripped from my protest, I fall forward because it’s inevitable; I follow him. It’s what I do. But I look back at the wall I hated four seconds earlier and long for it now. I covet its stillness, its closeness to the way we came in, its proximity to our old life and the fact that it’s no longer the new terrible.
Now, pushed and bumped by jostling strangers in the guts of this busy, bad tube, I bury my face in Cliff’s shoulder. Confused terror is all I feel inside myself, so I come back to reality, hoping for something else. I force open my eyes and see his hand. Oh, God … his hand. It’s the same. It’s what I know. A wave of heavy, warm, delicious calm settles me back and I realize — in this ‘nowhere’ I have something; I have him. I recognize his hand. It brings me home. I am home with him. It’s O.K. We’re together. I have hold of his hand. I will not let go.
And that is part of where this desperate need to just hold him, be near him, see him and touch him comes from. The fear, the feeling of certainty, that his hand will slip from mine and I will be without him in The Nowhere forever. Every ounce of everything I know and love … gone.