Things feel patently unfair.
It’s nothing, of course…. just a cold, I’m just a bit sick. The doctor says acute bronchitis, which may have developed into pneumonia if I hadn’t come in when I did.
In my life Before, being sick sucked. Because that’s just what it does. Being sick for over a week would have sucked more. But I think I would have managed OK. (I work not to romanticize things. My mother reminds me, succinctly, that even if Tony was here, he did not make a good nurse, could be impatient and frustrated when I was sick… crying that if he were here, he would take care of me, that smacks of rose colored glasses and wishing-things-were).
But now, in the After, everything, anything… it’s all feels disgustingly unfair.
I finally get to meet Mr Enigma, and it’s… such a relief. I stand on my front lawn and hold him, lips pressed into the skin of his neck, feeling my body relax for the first time in months. It feels like coming home.
Maybe that’s partly to blame for what came next. You know the feeling… you’ve been working so hard, looking forward to your holidays so much. As soon as your released from your mundane workplace duties your body revolts, protests, shuts down, collapses in a slump of illness and fever. All the germs, the illness, the exhaustion… everything your body has been pushing back so hard over the last few months comes simmering to the surface, and you find yourself sick. As sick as you’ve ever been.
The first week with Mr Enigma, time passes in a blur of sweating sleeps and fevers, green mucus and Ventolin inhalers. My body is racked with pain. Unable to take care of my kids, I call in the cavalry, and it is five night before I’m well enough to have them home again. (I want my mother. Of all the things he took from me, the five year old inside weeps for my mother most of all. Because now I need her in a different way- when I am sick, I don’t call her to comfort me, but to take my children, protect those most vulnerable first. I want my mother for me again, but time is scarce and what she has goes to my kids.)
And all through this, the Enigma, he stays. He brings me soup and cold facewashers for my head. He takes me to the doctors, rubs my shoulders, kisses my skin where it aches. He is amazing, and I start to wonder if this is why I am sick- that holiday relief, my body feeling safe and allowing itself to be vulnerable.
As I said, it’s patently unfair. I don’t want to begin a relationship this way. This isn’t how things are supposed to go. He is supposed to come and go, we should miss each other, be excited to see each other… it feels like me being so sick, him having to take care of me… that first week or so of sweetness has been lost. I hate being so needy, all the time. I hate crying, screaming, ranting at the universe…. and still nothing changes, I feel no better, and that chasm of need- physical, emotional, mental… it doesn’t close up any. As the months go by, and more and resources are thrown into, that chasm just gets bigger and wider and greedier, and it swallows more and more.
But that’s just grief, is it not? It exhausts you. Almost twelve months later the physical reaction to it is still enough to cripple me, bring me to my knees. It’s just grief. And the way it takes, and takes, and takes.
It’s nothing, after all. Just the flu, a cold… a grief sickness, still, a fever I just cannot shake.
“I understand suicide.”
And she does. She understands, as well as I do, and she is doing something with that knowledge. Raising money, raising awareness, speaking out, being brave, and encouraging others to do the same.
And on top of all that, she is quite literally running marathons.