She lay there. Unveiled and motionless. My white t-shirt had ended its journeys on the dark oak floor. The window was slightly open, letting in a cool breeze that lustfully flirted sporadically with the draping mocha curtains.
Vanessa had a funny way of sleeping. One hand would be palm-up beside her naked thigh, the other would be venturing under her pillow in search of a comforting temperature and her body faced down with her head alternating between facing the window and her left where I lay. Whichever hand was not on a pillow expedition, it would find itself wondering toward me. Just to feel my skin. Just to know I’m there. I would feel the gentle stroke of the tips of her fingers. It was a comforting luxury.
She was a deep sleeper. But whenever I’d find myself encroaching in her territory, I’d be met with a warm embrace and a soft accompanying “baby… sleep”. I would tease her each morning and call her my Venus Flytrap. She had a big heart. Her emotions steered her quicker than her brain could keep up. Logic. Logic was an after thought. Well in most cases.
We were opposites. We weren’t the antitheses of each other but certainly dissimilar in our way of thinking. Everything I did was based on logical reasoning. The only exception, of course, was when there was alcohol involved. Other than that, nothing went past me without being thoroughly analysed. She hated that. But I couldn’t imagine being without her. She had become a part of my being. Life wouldn’t make sense without her. We shared everything. She had become the entity that balances my extremes. She was the last hope in a fairytale that gave my reality air in it’s lungs. She was my silver lining.
I rang the number back to find out what was so urgent. I don’t remember saying hello. When I really think about it, I don’t recall saying anything at all; from start to finish. My heart was racing. I stared blankly at the white walls. The call ended. I didn’t know what exactly to do. What to think. How to act. Vanessa woke up.
“What’s wrong hunny?”, she asked with her eyes still adjusting to the daylight, switching between an uncomfortable squint and closed. Mostly closed. She reached for my hand. When I did not clasp her fingers, she got up and rested her back against the headboard. Her hand was now resting on my chest as she stared at me pensively awaiting an answer.
“It’s – It’s… There’s been an accident”. I closed my eyes as I said it. Every part of me wished it was a dream. I wished it was a dream because I knew this is just the beginning. I knew it was merely the dawning of a storm that would eventually engulf my very existence. I wanted to open my eyes and wake up to just another plain, boring day. It wasn’t facing the situation that scared me. It was facing all the dark emotions, deep seated issues and psychological catastrophe this would unravel.
“Sam called, mum and dad had a car accident. He said the car veered off the motorway and into a tree. They have been rushed to hospital. Dad is breathing and just about talking but mum is still unresponsive”. My voice was monotonous and unmoved. I was still confused. Vanessa didn’t say much. She slid down from the headboard and laid her head on my shoulder. There is a lot I never had to explain to her. She knew exactly what this meant for me. She knew this would be far from a family problem and more accurately a personal battle.
It’s complicated. Growing up I was never truly close with my family. I had a normal childhood like most children, but at some point in the dawn of my teenage years there was a break. A break where everything changed. A break where life stopped being just life. What I once knew as family disintegrated into one distant memory of love, compassion and stability. I have a terribly vivid memory of when my mother washed her hands and severed her ties with me.
As a child you make mistakes and you hope to be judged as a child and bear consequences commensurate to your level of maturity. Well, let’s just say she thought different.
Through out this ordeal I was more concerned about my numbness than whether my parents were okay. I remember being disturbed by the realisation that I cared very little for whether they pull through or not. All I could hear was my mother’s voice telling me how much she was ashamed of me. How much she couldn’t stand the thought that she had given birth to this demonic child. How she was disgusted by the mere thought of what I had become. I was reliving the day I packed my bag and left home with no idea where I was going. I was just a child. I was a child bearing the weight of adult consequences.
I clasped Vanessa’s hand. Tears began to trickle down my cheeks. My heart was flooding with pain, pacing as if it was about to burst and spill all my emotions on this bed. A clasp turned into a clench as I grabbed her arm and fell on her lap. I cried like these tears would be the recipe to my antidote. I cried as if these tears would provide me comfort in my brokenness. I was a train wreck at best. I could feel droplets on the back of my neck. Seeing me like this crushed Vanessa. I tried to lie down on the bed thinking I would regain myself and take control of my emotions but it just ended with Vanessa and I now facing each other laying side by side both drenched in the bitter wetness of emotional anguish and seas of unforgiveness.
She kissed me. She stared into my eyes as our hearts decelerated. The way she stroked my face with her hand spoke a thousand promises. “Don’t worry, you have me. I am your family” she whispered, choked up by the nakedness of my heart.
Blood is thicker than water they say. Then you wonder, so what? So what if it is thicker than water when family has never lived up to the fairytale? Vanessa took me as I am. I was her everything even when I had nothing to give. And she always had the option to walk away when she wished. She never did.
Later that night, Sam called again. Mum didn’t make it.