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What Would Have Been
It was what would have been a perfect day, the sun’s rays dulled and struggled to light the city. The clouds solemnly surrendered to the sky, and the bird’s songs echoed hoarsely throughout the town. It could have been a perfect day if everything was in its place. But, the meek foot steps that shyly touched the ground in a mismatched beat seemed to blemish the day itself. If you went into focus, you could even make the distinct details of each figure that was walking, one was of small stature though she was not a juvenile, she was an adult. Sun highlighted blonde hair boldly dashed down her back and brown eyes held a striking spark on her tan face; the only thing that was missing from her appearance was a smile. In her beauty it seemed that she had been pounded and withered as if she were a faded existence; she was barely hanging onto reality itself. Grasped in her mother’s hand, the girl showed a significantly paler complexion with orange hair that stumbled and spilled over her shoulders as her stubby legs struggled to keep pace with her mother. What scared me the most about this girl, this child, were her eyes; there was nothing wrong with them and nothing spectacular. They were a brown that were the same shade as her mother’s, but it was what was inside of them that put me in awe. Her eyes were crushed and broken into segments of pain that held an understanding far beyond her years. Those eyes only made me more aggressively believe in the fact that childhood should be pure.
The two executed their way to the car and awkwardly got in with not a word passing through either’s lips. As her legs dangled off the backseat, her mouth impishly pursed and tried to come up with a topic, for, in her inexperienced mind, she only knew silence as something that should be filled.
“Mama, do you-” But she was intercepted with a sharp nod that immediately directed her back to the empty void of silence. She took some time to watch the scenery around her, cities turning into suburbs turning to forests. For seconds, a thought popped into her mind on why the place they were going to visit was in a forest, then, other things began to seep into her mind. Why did the teachers give her such sad looks? What had happened? What exactly was going on? Before she knew it she was so out of sync with reality that her mom had to call her name at least three times before she was snapped out of her inquisitive trance.
“We’re here now,” the parent informed quietly and to her daughter her tone was cracked into an emotion that was impossible to identify, something exotic and strange. Her once melodic voice lay in a dull corpse and it worried the daughter.
“Yes, mama,” the girl replied obediently, with these times of hearing secret tears in the middle of the night from her mom’s room and seeing the comatose of the once bright character, it went to mute her voice altogether. She felt pushed into a state of confusion that seemed never ending, and at that thought, her eyes began to water with tears she knew she couldn’t let fall. She had to be strong, for her, for her brother, for her mama.
In the state of walking, the mother observed the white hospital, wondering when it had become such a familiar part of her life. She wished with all of her heart that one day she would forget this moment, banish it into a dark corner of her mind; this, she knew would never happen. The scars of these times already stained her mind with a bold presence that could never be removed but perhaps diluted. Echoes of laughter, the laughter of her children roared louder than life itself, blasting violently through her mind as she crossed the top lot with her youngest. When had this laughter become such an unimportant component? It seemed as if it was a sun filled day but all she saw was the hospital in front of her.
The automatic doors slid open as she walked in with her child, the stench of sterile air immediately invaded her senses; she began to doubt her actions as she saw her youngest make a face at the rather horrible smell. Was she too young to bring into this? Should she even see this? But, the mother knew deep down that this was not one of those things that could be evaded, she had to see her brother, at least once. They traveled through the generic gray tiles that appeared anything but warm and welcoming.
Annoying fluorescent lights cast an indoor light that seemed as dead as every other aspect of the lobby. A nurse who looked like she had seen too many visitors for her liking questioned the mother with a tone that carried no human emotion. As the clatter and clicks of the nurse’s nails resounded through the quiet lobby, the mother’s thoughts began to anchor away from the basis of reality. She drifted to a space in her mind where she was left to her memories of what had been and what had become. His first steps, his last steps, and all the years after. In the background she could hear a voice and even a tug on jacket sleeve, and in a snap she was immediately filed back into the organization of reality.
“Ma’am, you’re ready to go, visitor hours are from twelve to four p.m.,” the nurse informed dryly for what felt like the eleventh time. She had first felt an almost compassion for the mother and her child, but after all of this work and waiting, she was done with it; besides, a line was forming. The woman seemed to snap away from wherever she was and absentmindedly gave an empty thank you. She squeezed her girl’s hand and dragged her down the hallways and faraway. For a moment, she remembered them, but then, she looked back to the long line of the elderly, the adults, the parents, the people, all with the same broken look molded on their faces.
Hallways and rooms ran past her view nimbly as she kept on track to her destination, then, a change in her surroundings went to disappoint her more than the day.
He was tall, much taller than her small stature, and he seemed to tower over her immensely, his height in itself seemed as beast-like as his features.
“Go sit down in the chairs, okay, honey?” she asked politely as her glance stayed directed on the new addition to the hallway. The girl replied by silently nodding and took herself away to a different part of the scene. A smile somehow bloomed on her face as she watched the little girl walk off slowly; that smile only went to flat-line as she remembered why she was leaving. She put on a brave face and went to face him and her demons.
“What do you want?” she asked confidently although inside she could feel herself slowly ripping by the seams. She was nothing but a puppet that had been used too many times than the material would allow.
“It’s about James,” the man replied, knowing that their son was the only thing she’d talk to him about.
It’d be best to explain that the mother and the man were once upon a time married, but, disaster swiftly killed the failing relationship. It was never the same after the court settlement, he moved out, she had the kids for the majority of the time and he had them on the weekends. Though, on those rare occurrences when they would reluctantly give a greeting to one another, it did nothing but barely shade the bitter resentment they had against each other.
“What is it?” the woman explained reeling back.
“They’re saying the spinal chord surgery was a success but there’s not much left to do,” he began in a tone that seemed as if he should already be talking about his son in a past tense, “When do you plan on telling her?”
Outside of that conversation the little girl sat impatiently, quite scared of the nervous emotions that scattered in her heart. Around her a circus of the sick and ill and terminal danced and swirled in odd tragic beauty. She was not amazed though; not in the least, all she thought about was a dull pain that had been lingering in her heart for far too long.
Her mother soon entered back into her field of range and for just a little while things in the world felt in the normal, her warm hand and her smell of lilacs and tears. For once, things seemed to be a demented right. Of course, the tragedy laid in the fact that it was only for once.
The mother led her daughter into a room, the last room on the third floor and to the far right corner and it was when they entered you could tell that in that room was what meant the universe to them. The whole existence of the room was dull, the closed curtains only gave a morbid and somber atmosphere. Gifts, balloons, and teddy bears appeared awkward and lonely in such a lifeless void.
He laid in his bed, asleep on drugs as scars lingered along his back and an IV drooped clumsily into his body. Machines began to hum a sad melody of beeps and out of tune notes in a chorus that made it impossible for any type of smile to be found in the visitors. As the onlookers observed, a symphony of held back tears resounded through the visitors, the mother, the daughter, the grandmother, the grandfather, the father, the aunts, the uncles, the family.
Hours passed and the two made their way from the hospital and back to the car. They began to wonder why did they feel so happy to leave that place? Why did the mother feel so guilty for leaving her son in such a sterile Hell? But, it was all past them now. The keys already were in the ignition and the car was agonizingly eager to blow past the hospital and run back to its home. Reluctantly, the woman’s foot pressed on the gas pedal and the two were indeed on their journey home. The day peeled off its light exterior and was now beginning its transformation and currently held a mix of dark and lights, mysterious reds, cynical oranges, innocent purples, and secret yellows. Why did it seem that the conversion of the sky seemed to say that things will never be the same? The mother and her daughter exchanged looks throughout the drive to home, back to they place where all the normality of life had been destroyed and abandoned as if it was something you didn’t love anymore.
The sky had fully changed to a dark and musky scene as they exited the car, they retreated in their jackets as whispers of bitter cold chilled through their clothes. With its withering paint that barely clung onto the frame of the building, their house awkwardly clung onto the end of a row of nicer homes. Its lines of bushes ravaged and invaded the side of the building disgustingly. It made me question their sanity of choosing this as their shelter. I still can’t understand why they lovingly entered this building, this shell they called home.
The lights came on with a flick of her wrist. The mother didn’t bother to acknowledge any part of the house as she swayed and collapsed into a tired mess onto the couch. It was then when she looked up and into the form of her daughter, they way she was disintegrating into a character that she didn’t quite recognize. She saw the pain beating in her eyes as her body shook with a startling dismemberment. With acidic tears rotting through their eyes, they slowly enveloped together as they fell into the darkest corner of their own sadness. Tears dripped and it felt as though together they had what would have been a perfect day.