The glare from the light is almost blinding. How long have I been here? The memory of my reluctance to to enter this space is still fresh in my mind, yet it seems sufficient days and months have gone by for me to have grown accustomed to and—dare I say—comfortable in the dark of my surroundings. Oh the things I would’ve done just to have bypassed this state of perpetual night—to have skipped straight to the rainbows and sunshine. Yet now darkness is all I know, and to my mind, my only reality.
He’s standing a few feet from where I’m huddled in a heap, in front of door that opens into the light—a tall and lean figure, with one hand outstretched. Like a statue, he’s held that same pose from yesterday, and the day before that, maybe even in the preceding weeks or months. Possibly years. Unflinching, unwavering, unyielding. “Get up,” he says each time. “Let’s go.”
Today is no different. He’s calling out to me, and I hear him, but I’m not listening. I’ve been lying in a semi-awake state, my body curled in a fetal position, and my thoughts paralyzed by pain. All that crying has left a filmy residue over my eyes, and pretty soon even his silhouette starts to fade into a distant blur.
Go where? I’m exhausted and only want to go to sleep. Lulled by the soft splat of tears as they fall from my eyes to the floor, I imagine that these are magical teardrops that would, upon touching the ground, transform it to a mushy quicksand that swallows me whole. How I’d love to disappear beneath the muck and be put out of my misery.
“And sleep, that sometimes shuts up sorrow’s eye, steal me awhile from mine own company,” I say, reciting the lines of Helena from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Not that I ever played her. Shakespeare has always been, for me, more about literature and less about theater. From behind beat-up paperbacks, I’ve done a thousand dress rehearsals in my head, like I’m doing right now.
“Wake up,” he says, as I almost drift off. “Look, it’s a new day.”
As I lift my eyes to the bright and beautiful scene beyond the door, I realize the light no longer hurts my eyes, and I can even see him clearly now. He helps me to my feet and patiently leads me by the arm as I take slow, furtive steps toward freedom. But just before we cross that threshold between night and day, I freeze.
“Ignacia deserved a chance,” I say. “Why?”
He doesn’t say a word. There is a tender, faraway look in his eyes, and deep down I know even if he offered me a thousand answers, none would be satisfactory. Not in this lifetime anyway.
The moment my foot makes its first contact with the grassy earth outside the door feels almost surreal. If this is what hope looks like if it were a physical place, this is it, and it is breathtaking.
All around me are Douglas-fir—they look just like giant, unadorned Christmas trees, with their short, flat needles poking out from thousands of twigs, and trunks that are rough and deeply grooved. Birds are pecking away at several fir cones that have fallen to the ground, and overhead, the sky is a cloudless, magnificent blue. After having stewed for so long in the silence of my gloom—accompanied only by the sounds of my breathing and the cacophony of my thoughts—I now feel startlingly outside of myself amid the bristle and rustle of nature.
A strong momentum is edging me forward, but I resist the urge to run into the outstretched arms of this forest sanctuary. There is one thing left to do, and that is to say goodbye. Just one parting glance is all I need for closure.
What would the dark room look like, now exposed to the light? All this time I was in there, it was pitch black, and I never got to see what lurked within its walls.
As I turn to face the big reveal, I mentally brace myself for a horror-movie-worthy sight of creepy cobwebs and malevolent shadows. But reality is nothing of the sort.
It’s just a room. Sparse, hollow, nondescript. Plain and altogether unremarkable.
And in the middle of it sits a familiar pile of bricks.
[to be continued]