Attention: slight trigger warning for parts 9 - 12. Trauma, injury.
She's trying to be good, I know, but still, that's not enough, is it? Playing this out in my mind, I wonder, is it in this moment that everything changed? Was it in this moment where my childhood ended? Where I started being more a person than a son? Where I began to look with clearer eyes? Stronger eyes that were able to see all the dimensions of the world, from the richness of the colors of the trees to the pureness of a setting sun. But also, these eyes that saw through the masks I once ignored. Those pains which once walked inconspicuously among me, they could not hide from me anymore, and when I looked to my mother, standing before me was no longer a renowned Renaissance sculpture but merely a carefully crafted lump of limestone, porous and fragile and admirable only from afar.
"Stop," is all I managed to say, taking great effort to pronounce each consonant clearly and loudly enough to be understood despite June's continued shushing. What was she even shushing? I wasn't talking.
In these memories, this is the moment the ambulance comes, but logistically, I know it was probably much later. Its arrival was accompanied with a boost in the chatter of the crowd. "They're here!" "Finally!" "Clear a path!"
A man's voice pierced through the rest. "Can you hear me?"
I looked up to see him standing over me. I couldn't see what he looked like, the contours of his face blurring into a singular shadow which casted over the sun, but his voice was strong, and it made me want to feel relieved.
He did not give me enough time to respond to his question. He was already placing his fingers into my palms by the time I opened by mouth. "Squeeze my fingers if you can hear me." I did as he said. "Do you feel any pain? Do you remember what happened?"
I hurried to answer these questions as well but still took too long to do so. My mother's hand was still pressing into my chest, maybe even harder now, and it was making it increasingly difficult to speak. I took a deep, painful inhale, arming myself with the breath I would need to fire out my responses, but before my chest was even filed, the man spoke again, calling over his team to come to help and beginning his instructions on how they would lift me from the rocks.
They worked over me as if I wasn't even there. When they spoke, it was only amongst themselves, to decide how best to move my arms and legs, or to my mother, if ever they had questions about the events leading to the accident. The only of my sounds that they seemed to notice were low moans and sharp winces, involuntary reactions to their pulling and pushing on my limbs and to the stinging pains left behind each time a rock separated from my flesh. When they were finally able to pull me up completely, my mother gasped at the sight of me. My backside had been decorated in its totality in cuts, and the blood that trickled from them stained the water where I had been the deep red of roses. I remember thinking that it was such a beautiful color.
As they carried me away on the stretcher, I looked back at the collection of blood that stagnated in the waters, a marker of the body that once lay there, and I expected at first to see it be pulled off by the ebb of a departing wave. But, alas, I was reminded, the ocean was completely still that day. I continued to watch this bloodied spot in the water, as I was carried farther and farther away from it, locking my gaze onto it and not allowing myself to let go. I felt no relief to be free of the rocks' grasp. The wounds they made now only hurt more, and I missed the soft breathing of the ocean.
Inside the ambulance, there were none of the comforts that I had found in the water. The warmth, the white noise, the soft shine of the sun – subsequently replaced by chilled air conditioning, the electronic hums of machines, and a blinding light from long bulbs that hung overhead spanning the length of the van. Over me, the adults continued talking and arguing and raising their voices each new time they spoke.
I began to drift in and out of consciousness, and this, by my own choice. It was nicer to dream that I was somewhere else, somewhere other than this cold, noisy, artificially bright world.
In one moment, I could be riding along in the car, my mother grasping my hand tighter with every turn of the vehicle, and in the next, I could be standing on the top of the cliff again – staring out at the vast and limitless sea. With every breath, smelling and tasting the salted mist of the ocean that lingered in the air.
With a jolt, I am brought back to life, shaken awake by the harsh passage of the car over a hollow pocket in the road. Luckily, this only lasts for a second before I am back in the dream. I'm no longer on the cliff this time but already in free fall. I feel the chillness of the air as it rushes past my cheeks. Adrenaline accumulating inside me, and a smile paints itself across my face as I eye the salty stillness of the approaching water.
Another jolt awake; I heard the endings of a tense conversation.
"So you have no idea what happened?"
"I told you! He fell! How much more am I expected to know?"
Back to my visions. This time, no longer inches from touching the water but instead finding myself miles away, staring out to it – just a blurry blue line that hardly distinguishes itself from the sky, tucked away behind the town and forest that sat before me. I was the tallest thing in the world, somewhere up in the mountains, perched on the top of a tree with a clear view of whatever I wanted to see. So I looked out and saw everything.
In the distance, the town bustled on, but the people and cars seen roaming the streets made no sounds. Just beneath me, the creatures that lived in the woods scurried about from tree to tree. A family of robins sat idly by while one of them swooped down to collect fallen twigs to add to their nest. I could see their little beaks opening, arms flapping in excitement, but again, not a peep to be heard.
Just past them, I could see the top of my house. None of the lights were turned on, and the dusty green paint of its walls nearly completely blended in with the leaves it hid behind. I knew my family was inside. Through a west-facing window, I saw a shadow dashing in and out of view, and I attempted to call to it.
"Hey!" I wanted to say, but to my surprise, the sound that escaped my body more resembled the squawk of a bird.
I looked to myself for the first time and saw that my skin had been replaced with thick, brown feathers. My arms were now wings, and I had talonned feet which wrapped themselves completely around the branch upon which I stood.
I immediately forgot that I was in a dream, and in believing this, believing that reality had actually transformed me into an eagle, I probably should have been scared. I should have asked why or how or what would that mean? Maybe I should have taken a moment to mourn for the human body that I had lost, but no. I was elated. I was powerful and beautiful and strong, and I immediately began asking myself, where should I go first?
I could fly home, to the shadow that waited for me in the window. Or I could fly to another city, in another state. Better yet, just fly straight upwards, becoming taller even than I was. Or – and with this thought my elation grew fuller even – wouldn't it be nice to go to the horizon? Chasing the sun as it forever attempted to set.
YOU ARE READING
Everything that Can Never BeMystery / Thriller
Following the death of his little sister, Jaime spends his evenings staring at the family next door in their nightly ritual of watching the sun set, but in his attempts to learn their secrets, what he discovers might be more than he can handle. *** ...