~a guest post by Sunny at Fordham University Honors Blog~
The Half Brook has always reminded me of the River Styx. It begins at the edge of the Georgian suburbs, specifically past the Windsor subdivision where the pavement ends and the countryside begins. As I walk beside the current, Charon thanks me for walking instead of making him row me all the way to the gates.
I don’t think I was ready to commit to a word like love. There was so much I hid away before our marriage. Things that you wouldn’t want to hear. Things that would make you love me less. How each embrace was my choice to run myself into the blade protruding from your chest. How each kiss, freely given, tasted of arsenic. How I savored every moment of it. Because dying isn’t simply the end. If it’s the end of a wretched life, it could be considered as a beginning. Being with you was my choice to die, to shed the past and begin the future. Or so I wished.
There’s a shriveled apple tree around thirty minutes off from the beginning of Half Brook. This area used to be large expanses of farmland owned by various families. With the new housing developments, I wouldn’t be surprised if new subdivisions covered this place within the decade. The apple tree serves as a memory of better days, when its fruit must have livened the days of farm children with its sibling trees.
We saw pre-marriage counseling before our wedding because you were concerned about my health. The counselor recommended seeking external help. I knew the problem; perhaps I knew so well that I had covered it up during the past 24 years. In the end, you were more convincing than my lies, and I began to see a psychiatrist. But medical professionals can only do so much before the money starts to dry up. The doctors called it depression. I called it a financial liability.
But I thought we were happy for a while. We worked our damnedest to make ends meet and keep me from going under. We entertained the idea of expanding our family once the economy recovered and our living conditions got better. We lived in the hope of a better future. Maybe it was a couple years. Maybe I’m just making it all up because I’m just crazy like that. I don’t know when it started falling apart for you, nor can I pinpoint when you finally broke. I don’t know what made you chew yourself off of the leash of my impairment and run away. I do, however, know when I shattered into a million mismatching puzzle pieces that ceased to form a coherent picture. If it ever formed one at all.
It’s a cloudless evening and the sunset is beautiful. A red horizon signals the waning afternoon and the incoming onslaught of darkness. The sun is a bloodied mass of yellow light that has fought the entire day to illuminate its surroundings, and now it retreats to prepare for another day.
They say if you think you’re insane, if you’re aware, then you can’t be. Rarely do insane people believe that they’re abnormal. Little thoughts like these buoy me above the unrelenting waves of emotions.
When we lost Thomas, I cried a lot, not because of possibly dying. I’d put a gun to my head in high school and magically came out unscathed. I’d seen my life in the balance.
I cried because I was afraid that you wouldn’t, or couldn’t, love me anymore. How could someone live with a woman who’s not right in the head and now can’t even control her body? We woke up from the dreams of our family into a new nightmare. We lost Thomas and we lost the hopes of future children from the complications that night. I didn’t want to lose your devotion that had kept me alive in a second life, a second chance after I chose to die to the past and live for the future. What would be worse? Following the fate of the child within me? Or dying from despair while clutching onto the shackles of life, watching you and those I loved fade into the abyss of my own mind?
I must have changed a lot. The illness only got worse. I stopped taking the medication months ago. I didn’t feel like myself anymore, and I didn’t want a drug to fuck with who I was.
And I didn’t know what I could do to keep you from leaving my side.
You left two words: I’m sorry.
When I found out, all feeling left me. I’m still surprised to this day; why wasn’t I upset or furious? Why did I simply sit on the floor and let the silent tears feel the emotions for me? Maybe I had internalized the possibility after the surgery, the possibility of losing what anchored me to this world. In the end, my greatest fears had become my reality: I wasn’t worth being loved. Did I want to go through the same steps to recovery, did I want to try to salvage what I still had left? Memories of the past began to wash over me like a shower of nails.
I’m almost here now. Almost.
There are memories that make you cringe. Then there are memories that you want to bury deep within your own corpse so you can seal them away in death. And you have to cover that corpse with a figment of self-constructed memories, hastily put together to look happy. I remember my family spending a beautiful afternoon at the park. I remember the sun shining and I can almost see it smiling like a cartoon, but I guess that’s another product of my imagination. I see smiles on my mother, my brother, my father. That’s how it should’ve been, a happy family. A loving family.
But I know that I’ve painted over the real experiences. I never went to the park with my family. I’ve simply taken an idea of a park and pasted pieces of my life onto it with crazy glue in the hope that the pieces will never fall off. That if they stay on there long enough, it’ll be enough to become my reality. And now the pieces are falling off like a first-grade drawing on the refrigerator, held up with a small alphabet magnet. The sun falls to reveal a starless night, the people fall away to darkness. The park fades to my old bedroom. And I’m almost alone.
I think I’m alone until a rough hand runs across my small frame. My eyes open but they haven’t adjusted to the darkness yet. I see nothing but I feel everything. My body heat being sucked into his cold hands. The stench of stale gin on his breath. And I can hear myself repeating, “I love you, Daddy,” until the words are senseless syllables on my tongue and everything blurs to a meaningless image of a man I trusted. Now that those words are echoing in my head again, I can’t help but slam my fist into the ground and let the tears pool into a well of sorrow.
Half Brook ends here. I can see a large oak tree to the northeast. They say that my mother gave birth to me beside this tree. Unlike the apple tree, this strong oak has weathered drought and suburbanization alike. It is what remains of my rural home after an errant wind took one candlelight and burned the entire structure to ashes. If I came from this tree, I have returned to meet the end. If everything began in that long-gone bedroom, everything will end there as well.
It’s a short walk. I tie the rope firmly on the branch.
At this point, I suppose an apology is due. I’m sorry how I kept you hostage in my own torment. It wasn’t your fault. I don’t blame you for leaving as much as I blame myself for being so ill. You dedicated your life to me, what could have been our family, what could have been the happy monotony of our normal lives.
It wasn’t enough.
~Check out more content from other Fordham University honors students at http://lincolncenterhonors.blog.fordham.edu/~