I float in the void between the living and the dead. Between memories and actuality, with no identifiable time, space or purpose.
It’s cold, I think, but I cannot feel the shivers as they run up my spine. It’s quiet, I think, deafening maybe, but I don’t hear the usual ringing in my ears. It’s empty here, and isolating, I imagine, but I feel nothing.
As I float, or maybe walk, through this abyss, the darkness around me begins to lighten. Growing larger and brighter now, I can make out the familiar white frame of an approaching doorway. I glide, or maybe run, towards the door until it is directly in front of me.
This doorway, or portal, is murky and glistening, like a wall of translucent liquid suspended in air and time. Blurry images dance on the other side of the melted surface in flashes of light and colors of bright yellow, deep red, and pink.
I approach the dancing liquid door and reach my hand toward the trembling surface of the portal. My finger makes contact and I feel a rush of warm, tingling goo envelope me, spreading up my fingertips, over my arm, across my shoulders, and my body. Suddenly, I am encased in a warm, sticky goo from head to toe.
A pulling sensation starts in my chest, and I’m hurled from the comfort of my portal womb onto a hard, scratchy carpet.
Disoriented, my body still sprawled across the floor, I readjust to the gravity and sensations of this time, or place, and pull myself into a seated position. I pat at my clothes, hoping to actualize the goo from the daunting transition, but my shirt is dry, and no residue remains on my jeans or shoes.
When the vertigo from the fall, or maybe rise, subsides, I recognize my surroundings. The burgundy carpet, the white door frame, the toys on the bed and glow in the dark stickers on the ceiling, I’m in your room.
The colorful shapes dancing through the portal were glimpses of you, dancing around your room in a tattered, pink tutu. I hear your voice now, growing louder, more recognizable, but still easy and animated. You skip and dance, singing along to the CD Dad got you for Christmas. Your bleach blond hair coils behind your ears and frames your pudgy cheeks, which grow flusher with each twirl and hop.
Your shirt is a size too small; it inches up your belly, but you don’t seem to mind. You don’t stop to adjust it or worry that your stomach is out while you spin and twirl.
You dance between rearranging your dolls and feeding your Tamagotchi. You stop to color for several minutes, then hop over to finish your Capri-Sun on the other side of the room. You float between activities, humming or singing without a care in the world.
I hear a deep echo in the distance, but I cannot make out the voice.
“Okay, Daddy.” You shout over the music. “Be right down!”
You pause the CD player, rip off your tutu and sling it over your pink bedsheets. As you open the white door, covered in doodles and stickers, the pulling sensation is back in my chest.
I reach out for your hand, and try to call out “wait”, but you skip away, and I am sucked back into the void.
Floating, or maybe falling, again in darkness in the world between lives, or memories. I cannot feel the tips of my toes or see the end of my hand. I don’t know if this is a room the size of a closet or the vastness of space, itself.
Nearing now, I spot another familiar frame. This one is smaller, not a doorway, but a window, maybe. As it spins closer to me, or I move closer to it, I identify the swirling, shimmering liquid goo of the portal and embrace it, plunging my hand into its surface and diving into another moment, another memory.
While I fall, or maybe float, I am surrounded by the blurry flashes of blues, greens, brown, and cream colors. I feel warm, hot even, and maybe sick, but the sensation passes as I land softly on a messy mattress.
This is your bed. Your room. No longer the bright childhood bedroom, but the untidy quarters of a teenager. The stickers and art have been peeled off the door, replaced by hanging belts and scarves. Your toys are packed away and bookcases line the corners of your walls. Your black quilt is crumpled atop the mattress, blue jeans are flung carelessly near an empty hamper, and posters of bands stick with tacky to the walls.
And there you are, working at your desk. Your hair is darker now, and tied in a knot at the top of your head. You are wrapped in a hoodie and sweatpants. You are focused, studious, determined. Nothing can distract you. Your life is planned, college is in your future, and you work hard to make it a reality. You open a book, highlighting phrases and tap your toes along to a beat in your head.
Your door flings open, and a large, blurred image appears in the frame. They mumble something I can’t make out and you jolt upright.
“No, I swear, that wasn’t mine! Please Dad, you have to believe me!”
The mumbles increase in volume, the voice is deep, but I cannot make out the words. You start to cry, and I run, or maybe glide, to you. I throw my arms around you, but you cannot feel them. You continue to sob.
The figure disappears, closing the door behind them. You throw your book at the door and crumple into a ball at your desk, and I am, once again, surrounded by the darkness of the void.
I fall through portals of time and time again. A window in your first car. A door to your college dorm. Each time I see you, I miss you. I reach out for you, but you cannot feel me, you cannot hear me. Someone calls for you and I jolt back into darkness. You cry, and I fall away into the void. You leave, and I am alone again.
Until the final moment, or portal, or memory.
A sterile hospital room. Flashes of people pass in the hallway outside of the door, but inside it’s just you and Dad. I can’t see him, not the details of him, but I know he is there. I remember this room. This moment. This was the last time I saw you.
You sit still at the edge of his bed while blurs of faces and white scrubs come in and out. They remove his IV’s, and detach the heart monitors and breathing tubes. They close the door and pull the curtain. More people come and go, visitors, friends, maybe family. Unrecognizable faces, echos of people who were there, people we have forgotten. But not you. You are clear to me. I see every tear, hear every sob.
I watch this moment as your full-toothed smile turns into my stoic expression. I see your shoulders soften and slouch into my poor posture. I hear the rasp in your throat as it deepens into my voice.
We call out, “Dad?”
He doesn’t answer.
We stand up and straighten his bedsheets. We bend down and kiss him on the forehead and hug his stiffening chest. You stroke his hair with my hand, I leave tracks of your tears on his shirt and together, we plunge back into the void.
As I continue floating, or living, through the darkness, I see glimpses of you, but recognize them as shadows, or memories. The person who lived in that world before grief is gone, and I am all that remains.
I am stuck in a cycle of grief for my father and for the person I was before he died. Floating through life between memories and actuality. I linger in the void between the living and the dead.