a pain that she called healing

I woke to the sound of my own name, calling me. From where? I did not know. But I heard it, speaking softly, inviting me to enter into the day.

Opening my eyelids felt a lot like ripping off a bandaid – quick, but painful. I found that the wound had not yet healed as blood dripped from my eyes into a pool of my sweat from the terror that the night had bestowed. 

“It needs to breathe,” she said, hesitantly, “your wounds need exposure to the air and the light, to breathe and to heal.”

I looked at my surroundings. They felt murky, damp, cold. I did not know where I was and I began to forget my name. I wanted to shut my eyes tight, to cover up the damage that only my eyes could reveal. 

“Remember,” she pleaded.

I was done with remembering. Remembering was all I seemed to do these days. I could not bear to recall what had brought me to this place, this place I could not seem to locate but it felt eerily familiar.

“I need you to remember. I need you to come back to us.”

I was done. I didn’t have the strength to find myself, to name my residence, to search for this voice which was relentlessly crying out for my attention. Yet she did not stop, she was determined to be heard. She demanded to be seen. 

The louder she cried, the closer she felt and the more I tried to close my eyes, for I knew I would soon see her and I would have to remember. My eyes were already too pained. My eyes could not take the onslaught of her image, her knowledge. 

She felt like an imposter, trespassing on this place I wanted to call home, but with her near it felt like a prison in a land far, far away.

I fought and I fought and I fought. 

With each sound she made I attempted to cut off my ears and when she threatened to come into view I scratched at my eyes, cutting deeper into my bleeding scar, trying to eradicate all that I could not yet see, for I knew seeing would cause a greater pain. A pain that she called healing.

The fight was bloody. I began sinking in a sea of red as my breath became laboured.

As I drifted further and further into the abyss of the light that was rising from afar, I heard her gentle plea, 

“Please don’t leave me.”

I couldn’t breathe any longer. My eyes craved the darkness but they were now too pained to be covered. I writhed in agony as I felt my blood rise around me. I was drowning.

Suddenly I saw her, quickly moving towards me. Had I retained more strength I would have fought her further, but there was no strength in me now. She was here. I could see her.

I looked at her tiny face. I knew her. I had carried her as my own for a lifetime and discarded her when her memory was too much to bear. She was small, but heavy with the weight of her agonies. Her eyes shined, lighting up her face while burning her truth onto my skin. 

I remembered. 

I remembered the nights she cried herself to sleep alone and those when she held back a thousand tears. I remembered the pain she hauled around in her tiny hands as she tried to hold up the heavy veil of our lies. I remembered the scars she had covered and the words she had buried. I remembered her desperation, her terror, her ache. I remembered how she hurt, how they hurt her, how I hurt her.

I remembered. 

I felt her arms begin to lift me. I had grown much bigger than her but she was strong, stronger than I had ever been without her. She held me as I began to weep, this time pouring tears down my face, diluting the sea that she was holding me above into a pink haze of memories.

And I remembered. 

She started to breathe for me, as I still could not find my inhale and soon we were breathing together. 

Air began circulating around my face, helping my eyes reach momentary relief before they began hurting more. The pain was real, it hurt beyond all measure, but she gently reminded me that this was where healing began. And her light, her light warmed my heart so I could hear it beating, pumping life around my weary body. 

image © Mariann Martland

I had believed she was mine to save. I believed I had failed her, leaving her alone to carry us and our memories, to keep my secrets hidden. I believed she would kill me if I held her close or others would kill me if I exposed her.

I had believed that healing began by fighting to erase her from my life, by forgetting, by pretending she did not exist. I believed it because they had told me it was so. I believed it because hiding her was the only way I knew to keep us safe.

Yet here she was, saving me. Giving me air to breathe and light to see through my broken eyes. 

I embraced her and she became my healer, my saviour. And as she began to save me, I began to save her right back. 

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