It’s okay to feel a little off. It’s okay to ask for help. It’s okay to start the conversation. Be okay with not being okay.
To sleep no more
“If I die, I won’t blame you, I promise,” Amelia said earnestly.
Dipender flinched and he stared at her for a long moment before walking over to her and kneeling down so they were eye-level.
“Don’t say that. Don’t even think like that, you can fight –”
“I heard you talking to the nurse earlier,” Amelia said taking the oxygen mask off her face, “and I just want you to know that I don’t blame, just don’t lie to me.”
Dipender blinked a few times, swallowing the lump that was forming in his throat, he told himself that crying in front of patients was wrong especially children who looked at him with eyes aged beyond their years.
“I’m going to call your parents. I’m going to make sure they are here.” He promised taking her hand and he saw her try and hide a wince as the monitor beeped, Dipender let go immediately.
“You don’t always have to be so strong, it’s okay to tell me when it hurts,” He said, annoyed at himself for letting his voice break, angry at the world for wanting to even try and take this little girl’s life and powerless in his need to save her.
“It hurts all the time, so I have to be strong all the time.” Amelia said her voice modulated her gaze unwavering.
Dipender felt the moisture build in his eyes as he held her gaze. He carefully put the oxygen mask back on her face.
“It’s okay, it really is,” she said reaching forward and patting him on the arm lightly, as if he needed reassuring, as if the action didn’t cost her everything.
He didn’t even want to imagine the level of pain she would have endured to become that resilient.
“I’m going to call them, I’m going to…” he trailed off as she shrugged as though it didn’t matter to her.
A woman thinks she might be living next door to her grandson.
Cecelia glanced at the time it was almost time for Theo to come home, Theo, short for Theodore, short for Theodore Asante, she didn’t know if he had a middle name. All she knew was that he had the same slightly uplifted brown eyes of her daughter. The daughter who the police had urged her to be declared officially dead when she’d gone missing almost three decades ago.
She glanced out the window as Theo parked on the street and got out of his new car, a hybrid of some kind, she had heard one of her neighbours commenting on it, said he worked for the UN, was very environmental, all Cecelia knew was that from the first moment she had seen him his smile had triggered a memory and even though her friends told her she was being stupid, she couldn’t let it go, his eyes, those were her daughter’s eyes.
She had wanted to go over there so many times, invite him to the neighbourhood, apologise for the one and only time she had seen him, and had been tongue tied. He had been part of their neighbourhood for almost three months and she had been waiting for an opportunity, today finally she had one, a package had been delivered and she had all but rugby tackled the delivery man, who had looked like he was debating whether to drop the parcel off to Father John or Imam Yousef who were always the natural choices for undeliverable items.
Now she waited patiently as Theo walked into his house, then back out again several minutes later, his gaze on his cellular device. He knocked and Cecelia went to the door after a few moments, making sure the smell of cookies was prevalent throughout the house; her daughter had loved chocolate chip oatmeal cookies, always dark chocolate never milk.
She opened the door and her voice deserted her, as Theo glanced at her, an exact copy of her daughters beautiful brown eyes.
“Mrs Vandervu?” Theo said waving a hand in front of her face a small smile on his lips
“Please call me Cecelia, and do come in Theodore,” she said finally finding her voice.
“Sure,” he walked in and looked around, “this place smells delicious,” he said his gaze going to the cookies she had strategically placed on the counter, the part that could be seen from the front room.
“Please help yourself!” Cecelia said delighted. “Chocolate chip oatmeal,”
He walked past his package and made a beeline for them.
“Delicious,” he said as he ate one and reached for another.
“My favourite is actually blueberry like my mum; my dad loves chocolate, not dark though,”
“Does your mum like dark?” Cecelia said eagerly.
Theo shrugged; he was very tall, well built, most likely from his father.
“Did you paint these?” He asked looking at the water colours hanging on the walls.
“Yes, my daughter and I used to love to paint together,”
“My dad is into art, my mum prefers her books,”
Cecelia nodded and noticing that he had finished his cookies and was eyeing his parcel rushed to ask him more questions.
“Does your mum like spaghetti with garlic sauce and sprinkles of cheese?”
Theo raised an eyebrow but answered anyway, “No she can’t actually eat cheese, lactose intolerant.”
“What about watching movies on mute and guessing what the actors say?”
“My mum would hate something like that!” Theo said laughing.
Cecelia was undeterred and kept firing questions at him but the more she asked the less she wanted to know. Finally she ran out of questions.
“Thank you for humouring me Theodore,” Cecelia said unable to keep back the tears that had sprang to her eyes.
“Erm, you welcome Mrs Va – I mean Cecelia,” He said slowly, “look I can come by and help out with something’s if you want, I mainly work at home anyway.”
“No, that’s fine, take care now,” she said attempting to usher him out.
He hesitated at the door, his eyes so like her daughters, similar, but not the same, blinked slowly before he nodded and left.
Cecelia burst into tears, the pain of losing her daughter overwhelming her, it felt like the first time she had found out Monroe had gone missing whiles kayaking, the grief more than she could bear. She spent the next few days in bed, her head pounding, her eyes watering every time she saw Theodore.
Her friends came around to cheer her up, but it didn’t work, and she told them that they had been right; she shouldn’t have gotten her hopes up.
Almost a week later a knock came at her door.
“Cecelia? Mrs Vandervu? It’s me Theo please open up, I really need your help,” he said slowly.
Cecelia stood there wiping her eyes before setting her shoulders back, this young man may not be her daughter’s child but he was a good man, and if he needed her help she would help him. She opened the door.
“Please come in, is there anything I can help you with?” She said softly.
“Those chocolate cookies, my girlfriend loves them, do you think you could show me how to make them, I have some ingredients,” he said gesturing to his backpack.
Cecelia smiled, “of course, follow me.”
Despite his eyes still triggering painful memories every time he looked at her in a certain way, she spent the rest of the evening with Theo, he was kind, just the kind of man her daughter would have raised.
She had just taken the cookies out of the oven when his phone rang, he was using the toilet and she glanced down at the screen.
She almost dropped the cookies – an image of her daughter, of Monroe, older, but still the same stared up at her, she touched the screen with shaking fingers. Tears in her eyes.
The phone stopped ringing just as Theo came back; Cecelia had the phone in her hands.
“Mrs Vandervu?” He said hesitantly.
“My…my daughter,” she wordlessly went into her bedroom and took the last picture she had taken of Monroe, she showed him a picture of Monroe and he jumped.
“That’s, that looks like…” his hands went to her eyes.
“It is your mum, my daughter,” Cecelia said.
“You’re my grandmother?” Theo asked his voice breaking.
Words failing her again, Cecelia nodded and embraced him.
This generation is apparently, impatient, well connected, but still so incredibly lonely, which is why despite the multitude of social media platforms and dating website, true love is still an elusive dream. It’s why we no longer fall in love, but the truth is we never really did, not really. We fell in lust, mistook it for love then coasted into friendship, but true love, the kind that is whispered before it disappears. Most of us don’t know what it is, and what is worse is, though we search for it, we don’t really want to find it, not really, we wouldn’t know what to do with it. Or we would convince ourselves it wasn’t real before letting it go.
Do we fear something so special that it is easier to convince ourselves it doesn’t exist instead of looking or believing, and belief is a difficult thing, because suspending our analytical overly critical and sceptical minds is beyond most of us, we want proof, and even if we are presented with it, we dismiss it as a fluke and ask for more. I would liken it to if 99.99 per cent of the population was blind and that 0.01 per cent could see, convincing the masses that there was another sense, would be challenging, almost all would be sceptical to the point of disbelief, others would be cautiously optimistic but in their heart of hearts still not believe such a thing were even possible.
I didn’t believe in love as a teenager, I thought it was good for stories, poems and films, but in the real world there was no space for something so fanciful, that was until I saw it. A couple changed my opinion almost instantly, and I knew as I saw them together I was witnessing something magical, my heart was racing and I was only a witness, stepping in to their bubble of happiness for an instant so I could taste Heaven and be assured of its existence. I believed and for the next few days I was euphoric over my find, energised by the couples love for each other and I wondered if that was attainable why wasn’t everyone clamouring to take a piece of that extraordinary experience for themselves? I realised that love was like a fairy, you need to believe in love in order for it to appear to you, but unlike a fairy, love doesn’t require your belief in it to validate its existence – it will exist with or without you.
Most people want to believe but they simply don’t and the others that do, are delirious in their happiness and their fortune and despite this they still find it difficult to validate and proof it to others. Why? Because it sounds far-fetched, a fantasy, fantastical, too good to be true, they wouldn’t believe it themselves if they weren’t living it.
But I believe, so why wasn’t love immediately available to me. I came to the realisation that love exists it’s just not available to everyone. The reasons for this varies from person to person but the prevailing one that I have seen time and time again is that we are afraid.
It is this fear that holds most people back from even trying, or giving it their all when they do try. Love like everything else in life has to be fought for. Coming in with pre-conceived notions, or a dossier of demands is not going to work, there is no list or winning formula, it’s abstract because you fall. Like Dr Seuss said it is like falling asleep, you have to work towards it and allow a little bit of uncertainty to enter your life in order to fall, there is no safety net or harness a certain level of trust and openness must be had.
We are afraid of being open because it leaves us vulnerable. There is safety in sadness and misery or even indifference. Love is chaotic, complete with fluctuating feelings, differing attitudes, it is messy, but more importantly it is fragile because your happiness your wellbeing is no longer solely yours to control, your happiness is in the hands of another, and though you say you trust them a part of you doesn’t want to hand over the reins.
We don’t fall in love anymore but we should. Falling in love requires falling. It doesn’t always require some serendipitous moment, though that can happen. Most of the time true love is slowly building a foundation of trust, respect and companionship to reveal the diamond that is love underneath. It doesn’t sound as sexy as love at first sight, but it’s by far more beautiful and sustaining.