This is the fourth part of what will hopefully be a nine-part entry in the River of Mnemosyne challenge that’s going on over at The Tenth Daughter of Memory.
I've never really liked the dark. If the truth be known, I've always been a little afraid of it. Maybe even a lot afraid.
I've slept with the TV on in my bedroom every night for as long as I can remember. The quiet sound of the volume on low lulls me to sleep, and the soft light allows me to orient myself and focus when I wake shaking and sweating during the night.
On good nights, the light and sound calm me enough to end the possibility of a panic attack and let me go back to sleep. On bad nights, the light lets me dress quickly enough and quietly enough not to disturb Mike too much before I make my desperate escape to the outside world.
Now, sitting in the car, in the dark, in the parking lot of the funeral home with Mike, I find the darkness welcome.
Looking up at the clear black that forms the backdrop for the shining sprinkle of stars in the night sky, I feel strangely safe. I've forgotten how beautiful and awe inspiring the night sky can be.
Here, away from the city lights that obscure its nighttime beauty, I can lose myself in a multitude of emotions and feelings that really are better left in the dark, covered by a comforting blanket of pure ebony.
We pulled in here a few minutes ago, pulled into an almost empty parking lot and now we just sit.
The funeral home is really quite beautiful, lit with soft white light against the clear blackness of the night sky. A tall, white, Southern colonial style building that shines in an almost ethereal way in the darkness, exuding a calm stillness that seems to offer the promise of comfort to those most sorely in need of it.
It scares the hell out of me.
She's in there. Waiting for you.
I can feel my heart already pounding in my chest, the hammering rush of my pulse reverberating in my temples.
And I’m even out of the car yet.
I don't know exactly how long we sit there, but when Mike finally speaks, his voice is calm, quiet, and soothing.
He cocks his head to slide a sidelong glance at me, almost as if measuring my stability. "You ready, babe?"
He slides his hand to my cheek and strokes it gently.
I’ve always wondered where his endless supply of affection for me comes from. It seems inexhaustible.
I think about Mark. I know he and the girls are here, I can see his car in the lot. And I wonder who’ll be doing that for him now that Heather was gone?
"I guess so." I try to will the pounding in my head into submission.
I notice the fine trembling in my hands and knot them together in my lap.
"You know, I've probably passed this place hundreds of times before and never thought anything of it. Never thought anything about what actually went on inside of it."
Mea culpa. My bad.
One more item I can add to my list of sins and mistakes.
Sims of omission. Sins of commission.
Omit your mistakes.
I wonder if I’ll ever reach that state of grace.
Mike turns his head and looks at me full on. His eyes reflect the moonlight coming into the car as he slides a gentle hand over my own.
Good God, when had I become so needy? So fucking weak?
A tidal wave of anger floods me and I welcome it. It’s better than the lethargy, the wasted feeling that I’ve been wrapped up in for way too long. I might not be able to feel or express grief, but I can do anger.
I can do it very well.
Do I really need so much fucking care?
"All the times the parking lot was full, someone was going through this and it never even occurred to me.” My voice is so low and harsh I don’t recognize it. “I mean, it's not like this is a grocery store or something."
"It's not like this is something people like to think about, babe."
"I know.” My fingers rub hard at my temples. “We should go. Mark and the girls will be waiting for us."
And so will Heather. She'll be waiting for you.
I reach for the handle, open the door, and step out into the night.
My body’s frozen, cold to the core, and it seems my feet are planted where I stand.
Mike comes around the front of the car and waits for me, his hand extended palm up.
A silent invitation. A silent promise.
It forces my feet to move and I take his hand.
I look up at the perfect stars shining in the perfect velvet blackness of the perfect sky.
It steals my breath.
I may not have flown in a while, but I have always loved flying at night. I want to be flying right now.
Panic pools at the base of my spine, spills out of my gut, squeezes my heart.
I want to be anywhere but here, doing anything but this, but Mike’s guiding me across the parking lot toward the well-lit entrance.
I try to let my mind fade to blank as I walk toward where I know my sister is waiting for me.