“Death is a hard thing to deal with. Living is infinitely harder.”
I swam to the shore of the lake, absolutely exhausted. I turned back to reach for the little girl floating on top of the water. As I pulled her next to me, I tried to revive her, however could not bring my body up from off the ground. I could only place my hand on her tiny face, and stare at her.
“Help me,” she cried, though I was unable to move.
“I’m trying, baby, I really am,” I cried, trying to be of some comfort.
“I don’t want to miss you, Dad,” the little girl cried out.
“You won’t, baby. I’m right here. I’m not going to leave you.”
“I’m right here, baby. I’m not going to leave you.” I heard myself say, as the fog of my dream was lifting; as I was coming out of the space between sleep and awake. I threw myself from my bed, driving my shoulder into the wall in front of me. I fell to the ground, breathing heavily and collapsing my head into my hands. My heart felt like it was going to explode within my chest. I grabbed onto my dresser and pulled myself up from the floor. In an attempt to regain control over the fear and grief that gripped my entire body, I tried to focus on the sound of the ocean waters passing through the marina. I turned and looked outside at the moon, high in the night sky, shining through my window. I closed my eyes feeling the cool night air blowing in off the Atlantic Ocean. The images of my dream, however, were oppressive, and I could not find a sound place in my mind. Just the thought of her beautiful face sent the memory that was my nightmare flooding back into my head like a terrible plague.
My fist met down on my dresser as the sound of her cries replayed in my head. I slammed my eye lids shut in an attempt to undo the last horrific image that I had awoken from. When none of these things fled my mind, I slammed my fist down a second time, and then a third time. The heart ache was like a harmful malevolence in my veins, fueling the anger.
“Dammit!” I growled, with a savage grief.
Tears slid down my cheeks as I ripped open my dresser drawer, and grabbed a pair of cotton gym shorts. I didn’t even bother putting on shoes as I grabbed my boat keys, running out of my apartment, down the stairs, and across the street, until my feet hit the boat dock. When I reached the end of the dock, I jumped into my boat. I felt my chest tighten, and my lungs constrict, bringing me to my knees. Breathing was an impossibility, and my heart beat so violently, it felt like it was going to explode. A panic attack. I was familiar with those. I tried to breathe through my nose, as I crawled toward the front of the boat. Eventually, I was able to pull myself up on the front seat. I found the ignition, and with unsteady hands used the key to start it. I backed the boat out of the marina and sped through Taylor’s Creek, allowing the wind to help me breathe.
It worked like a slap in the face to somewhat steady my breathing and relieve the constricting chest pains. As I looked up at the night sky and all its brilliance, I finally felt a calmness wash over me. I searched the corners of my mind for a happy thought, a gleam of a memory that did not constantly remind me of the unbearable dread that was my tragic past. When good images were found of my leading ladies, I smiled in relief. That was what I called them, My Leading Ladies. They were the center of my life at one time, the space between the hole in the center of my heart. I found myself wishing that they had never existed, so that I would not be subjected to awful nights such as this.
At one time just the thought of them brought a peace, and calm to my mind and heart. Now their memory only tortured me.
Running and hiding from grief seemed to be working, until my most recent nightmare. I forced their memory out of my mind so that I could pick myself up, physically, and mentally. I continued on my feet while I steered the boat out of Taylor’s Creek.
The subjects of my nightmare were made to go away with the memory of the night I had just spent with Madalyn. I turned left past Lennox Road Point and into Davis Bay. I felt my heart bringing my stomach out of knots. Oxygen had entered back into my lungs, and I let out a sigh of relief. I didn’t know Madalyn, so why was her presence calming to me? Just the thought of her was enough to sustain. It was enough for me to remain standing. The thought of her gave me hope - hope and something to look forward to. It was as though I ached for her, but I owed my previous life my grief. I was completely torn between two worlds. In one life my plans had come to a halt. It was unhappy and filled with hate. The other life, the one that had just been opened to me, gave me purpose.
Before I knew it, I was slowly gliding my boat through the cove that led to the dock of Madalyn’s house.
What was I doing? It was dangerous to be there. The torment I had recently suffered was enough to make me go a little mad.
I killed the lights and the engine as I floated in. My boat bumped against the tires hanging off the edges of the dock. I tied off, and jumped out of the boat. I walked down the long dock and stopped where it met the backyard. I leaned against the dock post and looked up at Madalyn’s window. The house was dark, and all that could be heard was the water beneath the dock.
I decided to face it all right there in an attempt to gain power over the grief that controlled me. My eyes glanced away from the house and up to the stars.
I couldn’t go on like this. I missed the life that used to be more than anything. The grief was too much. And the way I had been living was not helping to suppress my anger. My anger was so vicious at times it would keep me awake for days. I would starve myself of oxygen by holding my breath when I felt that angry, in an attempt to make it pass. Knowing that I was close to Madalyn, however gave me room to breathe. I stood on the dock for a short while longer, and then departed.
Walking back toward my apartment after I docked, I hoped that I wouldn’t just lay awake for the rest of the night. I almost wished I could start work right then, though judging by the position of the moon, it was most likely around two or three in the morning.
I walked into my apartment and decided to take a hot shower. As I stood beneath the shower head, I lost all track of time. Once more I felt tired, and stepped out of the shower, wrapping myself in a towel. I walked from the bathroom into my bedroom and stepped into some boxer briefs. The clock said 3:45 a.m., and I collapsed onto my bed, entering a dreamless sleep.
When I woke up again the clock said 8:45 a.m. I must have hit the snooze button in my sleep. I jumped up and grabbed my jeans along with the blue button up shirt I wore the night before. I brushed my teeth quickly and jumped into my work boots. I looked at my five o’clock shadow that could almost pass as a short beard, and decided I’d shave it later. When I jumped in my truck, and turned the engine on, my adrenaline wore off. How tired I was hit me hard. Regardless, I knew that I was going to see her that day. That beautiful woman, who seemed to take me to a place far from my nightmares.