Everything Takes Forever: A Story of Waiting (Part 12)

"The threshold" by Angelo Amboldi via Flickr. Permission under CC BY-ND 2.0.

“The threshold” by Angelo Amboldi via Flickr. Permission under CC BY-ND 2.0.

[Continued from Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7,Part 8, Part 9, Part 10, and Part 11]

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]

Everything Takes Forever: A Story of Waiting (Part 10)

Image via Pinterest

[Continued from Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7, Part 8, and Part 9]

Veronica has kind eyes that are small and creased at the corners, and a smattering of freckles across her cheekbones. She looks to be in her early fifties and doesn’t wear a trace of makeup, but there is a youthful energy about her. A single silver pendant necklace adorns her nondescript ensemble of a white blouse and denim long skirt, but her disarming smile proves her best accessory. Veronica makes it a point to smile before she speaks, and that alone makes me like her.

I watch as she strikes a match to put a flame to a small tealight, then invites me to make myself comfortable, which isn’t difficult. The room is cozy and carpeted, and one of its walls features a painting of one tree depicted in four ways: from spring through winter. The brush strokes are heavy, the colours stark and vibrant, and I’m especially taken with Autumn’s dusky orangey tones. In white-cushioned wicker chairs, Veronica and I sit facing but also somewhat adjacent to each other, talking like two old friends and in such a forthcoming manner that surprises me. Actually, I’m doing most of the speaking, and she most of the listening.

“What would you say was the turning point for you?” she finally asks.

I pause to search for an answer. There and then, I cannot immediately pinpoint an exact who-what-where-how-why that might’ve triggered the quintessential a-ha! moment where one intrinsically knows, Yup this is it , I’m well and truly done. There were certainly times when I (thought I) heard a tiny voice in my head go, this can’t be right—though they were never so compelling as to constitute a key defining moment. But as I sit ruminating, a more concrete memory sets in.

I roll up my right sleeve and show Veronica a raised scar. “This,” I say. Continue reading

Everything Takes Forever: A Story of Waiting (Part 9)

Image via Pinterest.

Image via Pinterest.

[Continued from Part 1Part 2Part 3Part 4Part 5Part 6Part 7, and Part 8]

Obviously books have played a very central role in my life, and I look upon them like friends. As with humans, they come with a front and back, are held upright by a spine, and have character(s). They come to life at my will, and stay in my mind long after I’ve put them down. I am equally protective over my e-books, hundreds of them piled comfortably on the virtual shelves of my physical Kindle—formless, metaphysical creatures waiting to be illumined by the push of a button. Stories, nevertheless, waiting to be read.

I have never doubted the unique ability of books to take us across space and time, bridging worlds and transcending immediate realities. As readers, we are quickly thrust into the thoughts and lives of a book’s characters which, though seemingly disparate from our own, also give insights into the universal human condition. The deepest desires of our hearts aren’t all that different no matter the century, culture or context, but still we turn the pages, savouring the delicious descriptions each journey brings.

But all things given, have I ever considered books to be more than a distraction from the surfeit of sameness to my days? Better yet, have I once believed a single book had the power to dramatically change someone’s life?

SJ certainly did, and he wrote one that changed mine.

Continue reading