The day was warm and the sky was clear but she felt cold. As her body trembled she felt the sun’s rays attempt to warm her, but still she was cold. Her hands held tightly to the rail on the balcony of her small apartment, her knuckles were white and her hands were beginning to feel numb.
It wasn’t supposed to happen that way, he was supposed to win...but he was gone. She had expected it, she had known it would happen but still she chose to hold on to hope...stubbornly held to it because in her own way she was just as stubborn as he was; different, yet so much the same. He told her to wait for him there, that he would come back when it was over, then he had kissed her in a way that felt final and passionate at the same time. He had looked into her eyes then gently kissed her forehead one last time; it was the closest thing to ‘I love you’ that she would ever get from him.
He never came back.
When she heard the news she walked out to the balcony and stood staring at the distance while seeing nothing. She had tried to will her body to move for who knew how long, minutes, hours, she didn’t know, it was all the same. There was a pain in her chest that made it difficult to breathe and a heavy feeling, it was so heavy that she could have sworn her lung tissue had turned to lead. The sounds of traffic and pedestrians seemed surreal, it was almost as if they were in a different world, the real world, and she was trapped in a dense bubble that she couldn’t penetrate and that made sounds muffled and sights blurry.
Suddenly her body moved of its own accord as her hands and fingers screamed for relief. She felt pain as her blood began to circulate properly again and realized that her hands had left the rail. Her feet carried her inside and her hand automatically pushed the door closed. She moved on bare feet noiselessly to her bedroom and softly laid down on her bed, she pulled the covers over her body but still felt cold. She wanted to will her body to stand and walk to the closet to retrieve a thicker blanket but her energy had left her completely and she fell asleep.
In her dream she was cold and she was alone. She suddenly felt his strong arms around her and shutting her eyes tightly laid her head on his chest soaking in the warmth of his body. She didn’t say anything and didn’t dare open her eyes because she knew that if she did he would disappear; but her brain betrayed her and she woke up from her slumber.
He was gone and she was cold.
Days passed and she walked in a daze, in a fog, there were no tears only the pain, the pain of knowing that she would never see him again. So many times she had heard people say that the pain of losing a loved one was unbearable but she found that it wasn’t true. It was bearable, that was what made it worse, she couldn’t lose herself in it but it was always there, unrelenting.
Sleep was her only respite, all day she longed for sleep because that was where she saw him, in her dreams. She saw him every time, they would be making love or simply sitting together saying nothing, sometimes she would feel his presence and nothing more, but he was always there.
She wanted to sleep forever but her body betrayed her, its survival instinct was strong. She found herself subconsciously succumbing to its needs, she would bathe, dress and even walk to the corner store when she needed ingredients to cook a meal that tasted like ashes. She walked in the sun and she walked in the rain but it made no difference to her, everything was monotonous everything was tedious; and yet it had to be done because her body felt the need to survive.
She was surviving, but the pain was still there, always bearable.
The weeks passed and her concerned loved ones drove her to a medical clinic, she wasn’t eating much, she couldn’t keep anything down and all she wanted to do was sleep. But that was the day that changed everything.
When she heard the heartbeat, so fast and so strong, she felt her own almost stop. She forgot about the pain for a moment but now she was scared, terrified; but all her loved ones were so happy. She smiled robotically as she felt her heart thump in her chest and the air diminish in her lungs. What if she failed this tiny life? She wished that he was there holding her hand, reassuring her, but he had not been the type to do that.
He would not have been there regardless.
Days turned to weeks turned to months and she felt slivers of herself returning. She was now back in her beautiful home surrounded by emerald hills and ancient cedar guardians, that towered over her, the sound of babbling streams was ever-present in her daily walks. But still she was afraid as she delicately put her hand on her growing belly. She could feel the tiny life moving inside her now and sometimes it brought a brief smile to her face. As much as things had improved she continued to long for sleep, she still saw him there, every time, it was the best part of her day.
She didn’t feel different on the most important day of her life. She woke up and ate breakfast then with her friend made her way to the open-air market to buy ingredients for a meal that she could finally taste. It had taken months, but she had regained that part of herself.
The pain started unexpectedly and was followed by fatigue and when she told the friend she walked her to the medical clinic telling her that it was time. She didn’t believe her even thought the pain was becoming more intense and the reprieve in between was shorter. When she was taken to the delivery room her mother walked in with her and held her hand, she wished that he had been there instead, but again she knew that he had not been the type to do that.
He would have waited in the lobby like everyone else.
She was offered something for the pain but she declined because she knew that all pain was bearable, if it wasn’t it killed you and she knew that she was not going to die that day. It was agonizing, excruciating, but there were short rest periods that made it bearable, she sobbed and grit her teeth as she held her mother’s hand. She was exhausted and thought that she could not do it any more, for a moment she panicked and was terrified that she was wrong and that she would die that day... Then there was euphoria, the pain was gone and she heard the cry and she felt tears stream down her face. She held him, her tiny bundle, she had been certain that he would look like him, but he didn’t. His features were generic, he could have been anyone’s child. With that thought she fell asleep...but she didn’t see him.
The sounds of her fussing baby woke her up before she could find him, it saddened her. She loved her little one fiercely, unconditionally, but there was a grain of resentment in her heart and she felt guilt nearly overcome her. She kissed his tiny nose and fed him as she watched his uncoordinated little body curl up against her chest and tried to sleep again only to be awakened shortly after, again before she could find him.
It became a constant pattern short bouts of sleep followed by long periods of wakefulness, finding him became impossible because she was not even dreaming anymore. She felt exhausted all the time and began to merely survive again; but it was different, tending to her little one’s every need, keeping him content was taking everything from her, but strangely she didn’t mind.
As the weeks passed she was enveloped in a fog and a daze once more. Her sleep, her precious respite, their meeting place was being taken from her and she began to only see him in her memories.
His face began to blur.
She felt it again, that grain of resentment toward the most innocent of beings and she was nearly overwhelmed by guilt. She heard him cry and went to him, kissed his tiny nose, studied his generic features, fed him and held him close as he fell asleep.
At midnight he woke her, he cried and cried and she felt exhausted but stayed awake comforting him, rocking him, kissing him. An hour later he fell asleep in her arms and she was so tired that she put him in her bed forgoing the bassinet and laid down next to the tiny bundle, sleep took her immediately. She was woken up as usual by her infant’s fussing, but she felt strangely rested after her dreamless sleep. She looked at the clock and was surprised to see that it was nearly six in the morning, five hours was the longest stretch of sleep that she’d had in a long time.
She kissed his tiny nose and fed him and when she was done he smiled at her. It was the most beautiful smile that had ever graced this plane of existence. She felt her chest tighten and her eyes fill with tears.
“I love you.” She told him for the first time, the words were out before she could think and she knew that it was the most honest thing she had said in a year.
Her son smiled at her again, their son, and she began to realize that his features were coming in, his face was no longer generic. She saw that he looked like him and it warmed her heart in a way that she didn’t think would ever be possible. She looked at the clock and saw that it was barely six-thirty, there was still time. Feeling the urge to go outside she wrapped her infant in a fuzzy blue blanket and left the house. She walked through the dew-laden grass and plants in her slippers and pajamas trying to find the clearing behind her home that would give her the perfect view.
She arrived just in time. She gazed at the horizon and watched as the sun began to peek from behind the darkened hills and slowly used its rays to caress the vegetation into the most vibrant, emerald-green that she had ever seen. She observed the bright oranges and yellows bathe everything around her in glorious light. As she looked up at the perfect sapphire sky, she held Jin close to her chest and let the sun warm her skin.
It was time to live.