I woke up with a start, my heart racing so hard my ribs hurt. I slid from the upper bunker of the double bed and raced to the window. The window was made of just brown wood, wire mesh and the green net that was treated a few times a year to keep the mosquitoes out. I could feel the breeze swipe gently at my cheeks as I looked out with such deep hope that it was his voice.
He always came to my window when he arrived. I slept lightly, a habit born for defence. Maybe a couple of dozens over, he had tapped lightly at the mesh and said my name quietly. The neighbour wouldn’t be disturbed, but I would hear the soft call and run to open the front door.
But even as I ran to the window, I knew. I knew it was a hopeless dream. I knew he wasn’t there. He was gone.
Still, I stood for a half moment, staring out at the full moon that almost taunted me. I hoped. But hope was crushed in the silence of the night, silence interrupted just briefly by the lazy ssshhh of the palm frond on the tree just outside my bedroom window.
I collapsed onto the floor, the cold of the vinyl carpet hardly cooling the waves of hot despair that crushed my chest. I didn’t cry. I hadn’t cried in the weeks since my cousins walked into the living room and told me that my big brother was dead.
He didn’t know. How could he? He was just a man. A man who was not blessed with many words.
He doesn’t know. I never told him. I, the one who knew how to weave words into magic carpets, I never told him.
The pain was so bad I wanted to go to sleep and never wake up; at least not wake up in this world where nothing worked right and my big brother was gone.
He treated me like one of the boys. Boys are tough right? But this one time, he paused, the sun dancing a sock hop on his golden hair. His eyes narrowed, and I lingered a little longer than I normally would on his face.
When he said it, I understood.
“No one can ever understand how much it hurts. It’s your hurt. But you are strong. And you’ll make it. And someday, when the scars don’t hurt as bad as the wound hurts now, you’ll be glad that you held on.”
When I got home later, I cried.
I’m almost there. I say those words every morning when I wake up, like a march chant on boot camp.
I don’t hurt so much when I hear my brother’s voice in my head. I have accepted my loss. I miss him terribly. But I’m glad I held on. I wouldn’t know the wonderful people I know now if I hadn’t. I wouldn’t have figured out that I am strong enough to survive the ice sheets life hurls at me. I wouldn’t be here.
And I am. If only I could tell the one who gave me that pause I needed back then. If only I could tell him my tale of survival. If only I could thank him. Maybe I will.
© Juliet Maruru 2010 http://www.jmaruru.wordpress.com