I’m not there. I’m here.
About to walk into a room full of people and explain why I’m exhausted.
Why I’m not smiling.
Why I can barely talk.
The music stops. They all turn.
Twenty-two pairs of eyes land on me, standing at the door, clutching my notebook.
I wonder if I look as bad as I feel. I’m not hiding it well. I can’t leave it at the door.
God knows I've tried.
I give my notes.
Then, I pause. I breathe. I can do this.
Heart hammering, I start.
I try to explain that he is dying.
In the hospital.
As I stand here.
I think I get three words out before my throat constricts and I have no words.
Defeated, my eyes close and someone steps up and finishes telling them why I’m falling apart.
I open my eyes, take a deep breath and look around.
My eyes catch on someone at the back of the room, standing perfectly still.
concerned. sad. silent.
Another sad face in a sea of sad faces.
There. It’s done.
I turn and leave the room.
Quickly, I pace up the stairs, turning the corner before anyone can catch me to offer support and make it worse.
Later that night.
Someone brought me nuggets and fries.
Food I can eat without tasting.
At break I take the small white paper sack to the back hall.
Slowly, purposefully, I set my phone on the steps.
Slowly, purposefully, I put my pencil on top of it, and my notepad next to it.
Slowly, purposefully, I set myself next to my pile of possessions.
I am freezing.
So. very. cold.
Will I ever be warm again?
The fries are hot and salty. They should taste good, but they turn to a gelatinous mess in my mouth.
Don’t think. Just eat. Thinking will make it worse.
It is so quiet. So still.
I hear laughter behind the closed doors.
I hear conversations around the corner.
I hear footsteps.
I don’t move. I close my eyes.
The soft footsteps pause.
The swish of slacks.
I am no longer alone.
I look over. He is sitting next to me.
on the step, his chin on his knees.
The concern radiates off of him.
Engulfing me in an unexpected wash of warm compassion.
There is no noise. Conversations have stopped.
I push my nuggets toward him. “I’m not going to eat them. You should.”
Without a word he takes one. We sit in silence.
Time stretches on indefinitely. Side by side, we sit.
With no words. And no tears.
My mind has been in a fog for days.
I look at him, I see him.
His eyes downcast, his hair slicked back.
In a suit.
“Don’t let Wardrobe see you eating in costume,” I say, with a small smile.
He starts at the sound of my voice and turns toward me.
His eyes speak volumes of words I don't comprehend.
Slowly standing, I brush off my jeans.
My whole body hurts with a deep, bone-breaking ache I cannot describe.
Now I’m standing below him, at the base of the stairs.
He’s still sitting on the top step, silently looking up at me, with those eyes.
I turn and walk away. Quietly I whisper, “Thank you.”
Back to work.
In the days that follow my eyes look for him.
He is safe, quiet.
A good place to rest my sadness.
How he knows, how he gives support I didn't know I needed - I'll never know.
He sees me, lost in grief he can’t touch.
Quietly I whisper, “Thank you.”
He doesn't hear me.
He doesn't hear me because I whisper it at night when I am huddled in my bed.
Curled in a ball, eyes squeezed shut seeking for that calm place we sat in on the stairs.
Desperately struggling to recreate that peace inside me.
Finding it, I pull myself into it, hiding away from the world.
I sleep. I sleep the sleep of the exhausted.
I wake, rested for the first time in days.