Break glass in case of emergency.
It is a truth universally acknowledged that actually, sometimes life isn’t happy go-lucky. Sometimes it is terrible. Sometimes it is hard and harrowing and just horrendous.
This is a post for and from those times.
It was meant to be a normal afternoon.
It certainly looked like one; sporadic clouds lined the sky – insignificant dabs of whitewash, powerless to the spectrum of blue.
But when I turned the corner everything changed.
What? What is happening?
No. But this doesn’t happen in real life. Not mine, at least.
I desperately seek tears. Where? Where are they?
I’m sure we’ll find them somewhere. But I shouldn’t have to search for them in the first place…
I can’t find them. I can’t find them anywhere. The adrenalin envelops my emotions and freezes my tear ducts.
And now I am composed of equal parts steel and lambswool and filigree lace and broken glass.
But I do not have the time to analyse my new composition; I have to make sure that everyone reaches the life raft before time runs out.
It is easier to pretend that nothing has happened, but it just causes more ruptures. But if I’m to acknowledge what has happened then it is going to be real. And I don’t know if I can deal with “real” just yet.
Linoleum floors. Fluorescent lighting. Under other circumstances I would recoil at the thought of the number of bacteria colonies on this plastic chair.
An attractive emergency worker walks towards us, setting a series of waves in motion. The guilt pummels me, taking me crashing onto the sandbank with it. I am left clutching my pressed powder and various lip products in a pathetic attempt at normality.
I think my facial muscles have been paralysed. There is no movement. They can’t lift up out of their darkness. Why can’t they find any strength?
I play scenarios through my head to fill the minutes with something, whilst desperately gasping for air. It hurts.
Hours have passed and I realise I need to be at work. Now.
The taxi driver politely turns his face away from his rear-vision mirror and the girl who has finally found them – she finally found where the tears were hiding.
Wiping mascara off inky, watercoloured cheeks doesn’t really equate to a “daytime smokey eye”, but I pretend that this was the look I was going for this morning. This morning was so long ago.
The regular route, the regular turns, the regular streets descend into a blur and a fight against the sting in my eyes. My lips tremble, quivering in an attempt to suppress this for just one more minute. Just one more minute of pretending and then I can be alone.
Eventually I find my way back home. The keys and chords tear through me; the raw cuts and grazes that are stinging so badly ooze onto the monochrome notes.
I do not know.
I do not know how to act. I don’t think I’d know how to behave normally even if I tried.
I’m just trying to make sure that this life boat stays afloat for each of us.
So much has changed and we’re pretending that there has just been a slight rearrangement of the furniture; whereas, in fact, we’ve moved house, state and country in the space of minutes.
Chocolate. I need something real and normal and safe and sweet.
I can’t remember the last time I cried myself to sleep. I think the shock is wearing off and the reality is beginning to settle in.
I wake up to bleary, puffy eyes and hugs; drifting in and out of sleep.
My dear friend is a welcome comfort, thawing these frozen rooms.
I’m still trying to process it all. I still don’t know which words could possibly describe how I’m feeling.
We sit in the sunshine in our pyjamas without sunblock.
It’s 2pm and I clumsily go through the motions; the motions of normal people on normal days in normal supermarkets.
Elton John accompanies me on the bus that evening. Blue jean tears are sewn down my cheeks and waltz over my lips. The elderly couple diagonally across from me look on at that twenty-something girl who is crying on a packed bus headed towards the city. And the makeup I’ve just done becomes redundant.
The helplessness envelops me. I just don’t know how to support everyone else in their pain. I just have no idea what to do.
And I still don’t know how to express how I’m feeling.
My body responds to the torture with a sore throat and blocked nose. Evidently I was not having enough fun before this.
I have the idea to do Stuff – all of the mundane stuff that needs doing in an attempt to help everyone else and to try and stop my mind from remembering.
We’re eating our favourite comfort food and the Elephant is dining with us, too.
I have no air; I can’t breathe.
Everything’s spinning whilst remaining still and I’m swaying back and forwards in synchronisation with the shock, not knowing what has hit me.
All I can register is this foreign, yet familiar pain seeping through me – stretching from inside, searing and reverberating into nothingness.
I go to bed in the hope that there will be many hours between now and dawn.
An editorial aside: I am not presently in “crisis mode” – this happened a while ago.