“The fall is going to hurt more if there is no one to catch you.
So, find someone, find the person who will always be there at the bottom of the dark starless abyss waiting with their arms open, ready to hold you and take you back home. For that is when you will know that they are your home.”
Two doors. Both of equal build, similar coloured, a small viewing window on each.
The view was what mattered. Always.
Everyone favours the safe view, the view with the escape route, the stripes of popping colours with a pot of gold in the end, the view which doesn’t make your insides writhe with pain.
So, was it any surprise that I favoured the safe view too? Was it any surprise that I was sitting on the first step of the darkened stairwell, the only light coming through the very window that had guaranteed safety in the first place?
Oh, I’m sorry for disappointing you. You were probably expecting someone else.
Someone who could have cheeks soaked in salt and still be okay. Someone who could look at a person lying on a hospital bed and sit next to them, holding their cold hand in their warm, life-filled ones. Someone who could talk for hours without minding the lack of response from the other, comforted by the convenient lie that they could hear all of it.
Someone who would know exactly what to say to make everyone feel better.
Anyone but me.
I pull my knees closer to my chest, wrapping my arms around them like I should be around her. Fitting my chin perfectly in the space between my knees like my chin should be placed at the crook of her shoulder.
I close my eyes and breathe in. Instead of vanilla, I smell dirt.
I know that it’s from the stairwell, but I can’t help but wonder whether it’s from her grave, the space that has already been assigned to her in the cemetery, the newly dug up earth waiting for its next occupant, its next companion.
The real question is whether the grave is going to be filled up by me or Mom first. I’m feeling quite close to it right now.
Two doors. One leading to a stairwell, another leading to my dying mother.
It should not come as a surprise that I went with the easy option, the one where I end up alone.
Loneliness is assurance.
I have never questioned it before, and I won’t question it now.
My father left us alone, my sister ran off with a girl and left me alone, and now my mother is going to die and leave me alone.
Being alone is my default setting.
The fundamental unit of every group is a single person. But a fundamental unit is called so because it can function on its own. It needs nothing from anybody, and it never will.
Then why am I sitting in a stairwell with tears streaming down my face? Why do I wish I were on the other side of the wall, the side with my worst fears written all over it? The side with the once beautiful woman waiting, her frail body unable to hold on for much longer, the same body that had brought me into the world. The side where I would watch her leave me, just like everyone else.
Did I want to watch her go? Was I going to get any kind of pleasure from being left alone again? Was being proven right going to bring me any self-satisfaction? Or was it going to leave me feeling worse than ever?
Two doors. Loneliness in one and a companion in the other.
A feral scream is pulled out of my throat, echoing in the stairwell and ringing in my ears.
Why am I not strong enough? Why can’t I just go there and tell her I love her? Is it really as difficult as I fear it will be? Or am I just stalling until I don’t have to do it anymore?
I wrack my brain, thinking of the last conversation I had with her.
I’ll get the milk.
Do her last words really need to be profound? Isn’t there a simple beauty to an everyday phrase?
Getting her milk is obviously not the first thing I’ll remember about her. I will only remember finding her on the ground, clutching a phone in her white hand with another pressed to her chest.
So, does it really matter? I will remember her running her fingers through my hair, trying to take out the knots gently. I will remember the sizzling oil in the kitchen, and her hair tied up in a bun. I will remember the lullabies, the arguments, the naps on her lap, and the warm hugs.
But I will also remember her lying on the hospital bed, reaching for someone who isn’t there.
Two doors. One filled with shadows threatening to strangle me, and the other filled with regret that grows stronger every single moment.
I pull open the door, blinking as my eyes try to adjust to the fluorescent light hitting my eyes.
Two steps. The second door.
The door that opens into my past and my future, and the time in between. The door that will always taunt me in my dreams, even if I get the courage to open it. The door that will become a fond memory, or a memorable obstacle.
I look through the window.
She is there, all the wires and tubes attached to her, keeping her alive, just long enough for me to make things right.
My hand lands on the knob, and I turn it, pushing the door open.
She opens her eyes, the whites whiter than ever before, and the corners of her mouth quirk up.
Through my blurred vision, I smile back.
“Our biggest regret is always the time we didn’t get to spend with someone we love. It is always lingering at the back of our minds, threatening to spill out through our tears.
We can’t change the past. We can’t bring back who we lost. But we can make sure that we don’t make the same mistake again.
If you love someone, let them know before it’s too late. Spend that time you’ll never get back.”