My fingers run over the material that hangs loosely from my neck, a scarf that feels both new and old. It has a familiarity that makes it feel cosy like a warm summer breeze. It also has an element of mystery, disguised by a lush, soft, luxerious feel. My fingers play with the yarn and I wonder how much time has passed since I put the scarf on, hours or minutes? I wonder what color the scarf is. There's no way to be sure.
The house smells of oranges and lavender. It's the kind of smell you'd expect the model homes of 'House and Home' magazine to smell like. It's a pleasant smell, but I find it overwhelming today, an assault to my senses. I have been feeling this way a lot lately, assaulted, overwhelmed, just lost. Merely a lost sailor at sea with no means to reach the shore once again.
I feel a hand on my shoulder and I jump. I feel the nervous breath of air behind me, the regret. She's hard on herself. It's not unforgivable, I know. It's normal to forget. Some habits take time to install. I smile, although I'm not sure if it's seen or missed. I feel sorry for her, my dear sister. She really has stepped up. It's not fair to expect anyone to announce themselves whenever they enter a room. It's unjust that she feels like she's failed me everytime she forgets to.
Laura, my lovely Laura, you have never failed me, but you have become a stranger to me. Not by your own doing, not by anyone's. Everyone has lost their identity. They're merely voices, touches, breath.
Old friends come to visit me sometimes. Not because they want to, but because they feel like they have to. They'll reminisce about the old days. Old memories are mentioned and forced laughter follows. The truth is the old days are gone, erased from my brain. I'm just a skeleton of the Jess they shared those memories with. I smile as they ask, "Do you remember the day..?" It's the polite thing to do. No one wants to feel like they have been forgotten. I'll never tell them, the strangers that they've become.
I'm forgetting the perfect curves of his lips. The way his hair hung over his eyebrows. Oh, how I long to cling on to the memory of him. Day by day I feel a little bit of him slipping away, like a photograph lying in the sun. The picture of him is becoming faded. My willpower isn't enough to make him stay.
In a way I'm grateful that I lost my sight that night. I never saw my husband's body bleed out as he sat in the driver's seat next to me. I never saw the life draining out of him, the last glimmer of love leaving his eyes. I never saw his casket or his gravestone. I never got to see my mother-in-law fall to the ground and break down. Hearing it was already more than I could bear. I don't know what flowers decorated the living room during the repast in our home. I don't know what the grieving guests ate. I don't know who the grieving guests were.
Living in darkness is lonely. I am stuck with my thoughts all day, everyday. The people around me have become foreigners. They feel unknown. The sad reality is, though, that I'm the foreigner here. The one who is out of place. They are simply doing what they can to help me pass through the void that has already consumed me. Laura clothes me, bathes me, feeds me. I've become such a burden on her, I know, but she'll never show it. She always speak in a voice that's a tad too high. The unnatural way that some people sometimes greet babies.
I'm aware of her now, scuffing around, loudly, messily. She wants me to know that she's here. I feel her hands take mine. Her skin feels warm and soft. Her fingers intertwine with mine. They are gentle and soothing. I wonder if she's wearing nail polish. Did she ever? I can't recall.
"Jess, I've made you your favorite: crumpets and a cup of Five Roses tea. Why don't I move it all outside for you. You can have your tea on the deck. You used to love sitting out there. It's a lovely day," she says softly and then adds with a nervous giggle, "it's a sin to be inside, really."
What she is really asking is if she can move me outside. I've become that person. The person who needs to be moved around. The person who needs to be reminded of her favorite things. She means well, and I must love her for it. I only wish I remembered her face.
I smile and nod. I wait for an indication that she has seen it. "Good," she says and it sounds like she might be smiling, too. We get up and she places my arm on her elbow. She bends down and I hear the teacup and I smell the crumpets. We make our way through the corridor slowly.
The chair outside is comfortable. It's warm when I sit down, sunkissed. I feel the warmth on my cheeks and I sit back taking it in. He comes to me. I see his beautiful smile, his strong hands, slim fingers, and his blue eyes. How I could get lost in those eyes. He rides his bike, gliding smoothly as the wind plays with his hair. He laughs and calls out to me, begging me to join him.
Laura is there, too. Her long, ginger hair hangs loosely around her gorgeous face. She smiles an honest smile. Her green eyes display pure happiness. She dances in the long grass that we were always too lazy to cut. She laughs and calls out to me, begging me to join her.
Tears run down my face, tears of happiness. These are the moments I live for, the moments when old faded photographs come back to life.