|My Journey Into Memories
Long Since Past
© Copyright 2002 by Hannah Woodcock
So, we’re back to her again. My sister. I think I might even bring her up as a subject matter while talking to my therapist Darlene. It might be a good idea to let it all out about her. You know, be a good girl and talk about my feelings. All that goody goody, touchy feely shit. The first time I went to see Darlene; I was high up in my defensive mode. As a result of which, I felt that in order to protect myself, I should tell her that I remembered nothing of the night of Sarah’s death. Well, it was a lie. A good one too, since a large percentage of people who witness a traumatic events block out their memories, in order to deal day to day, or just to keep their sanity from taking a run for it. But, a good lie was all it was. Because I remember and all too well. What I remember? Hmmmmmmm…. Dare I? I guess the time for stalling has long since passed me by.
Nine years ago, I was a happy child, pampered, you could say. On this beautifully cold, brisk November day. I was excited. I could feel it in the air on each breath I took. Trying to hold as much of those feelings inside me on each inhalation as I could. It was wonderful. I was to spend the day with my mother, stepfather and sister. As well as my best friend Megean’s family. We were to gather at Whitefish Lake, which had just been stripped bare of it’s snow covered topping. For a fun filled day of skating and jubilation. It was to be a day of laughter, fun and family.
As I stood on our walkway, happily revising my plans for the day. My hands clasped tightly in front of me, to keep in the already suffusing warmth. I could feel a flurry of energy start as they exited from the house behind me. We were going at last. I was very impatient for our excursion to get underway. I turned and faced the voices coming from the front door. ‘Are you sure you wouldn’t like to come with us?’ It was my mother, Ellen, asking the question. Which was being asked of my sister Sarah. Unfortunately, so busy in my excitement of getting underway was I. That I neglected to hear her answer. Little did I know, at the time, that it would be the last thing I would ever hear my sister say.
We all piled into the car, which had been warming up for some time, so was warm and cozy inside. Secure, is how I would describe the feeling. Pulling out of our driveway, I remember looking back and Sarah was standing in the open doorway on the unfinished side of our house. She was waving Goodbye. I remember I smiled and waved happily back, though slightly confused as to the reason why she wasn’t joining us. Though with my young mind, attention is hard to keep, especially on the long drive out to Whitefish Lake, Though in actuality only took twenty minutes. The day was spent in good times and rivalry. Skating and playing games, that day was made of dreams. Afterwards, with teeth set on chatter and fingers too numb to unlace our own skates. We retreated to the Bowey’s house, since it was closest. Megean and I withdrew to the shelter of her room. Holding steaming mugs of hot chocolate directly under our noses. Trying to warm our frost bitten skin, while watching our mini marshmallows as they bobbed merrily on top. Our parents, stayed in the kitchen, crowded around the well-beaten table, their hands wrapped around ‘Buds’ and playing cards. Which we could both see clearly through the peephole in the wall of Megean’s bedroom. Newly discovered, it turned out too be the major focal point of all our fun.
When it got late and was time to go, Megean and I had already tired ourselves out in our exertions on their couches. Where a wild game of ‘the floor is lava’ had ensued. While saying our farewells we put on our warm coats and bundled ourselves up to the bitter cold awaiting us. For we had forgotten to warm up the car and that means the first fifteen minutes of the ride home would be spent sleepily shivering. Feverishly, cherishing any and every wisp of heat that reached me in my permanent place in the back seat.
I was wakened by a sharp jolt, as the car rolled to a stop. Awareness dragged over me in the continued silence. Broken only with my momentary confusion, of where we were. I undid my seat belt, straining forward too search in the headlight’s beams, for a sign of our house. Glimpsing it more too my right, I stared in contemplation of the object. Cold and dark, it loomed there like a spectre rising in the night. The bleakness of the vision sent pre-monitions of foreboding shivering down my spine. My imagination was snapped away by the click of my own door opening. My mother reached in and helped me out with both hands. She whispered comforting words of ‘we’re here, we’re home’ in my ear. The security within her voice was a ray of sunlight in a darkened room. I latched onto the safety in her voice and relaxed.
I liken the rest to a bad dream. Everything blurred and unfocused. It terrifies you, this unknown. But no matter how hard you pinch, you just won’t wake up. When you do wake, dazed and trembling, you remember nothing except for a sense of loss.
With my mother on my left and a guiding hand at my back, I managed to make it up the treacherous stairs to the curtain divided bedroom my sister and I shared. I pointedly remember the night, enfolding me like wet wool blanket. The weight of it comforting, but at the same time, letting the deep cold of alarm seep into my frail bones. Sitting there silently, half on half off my bed. Where my mother left my side, and made her trip back down the treacherous stairs. My mind wandered silently into the damp night. Unsettled still by the feelings that resided there, it began seeking out the voice it had known to dole out comfort before.
When I found the voices though, I noticed that instead of the comfort I sought. Their voices were sharp and laced with panic and anger. The garbled words floated up to where I sat, listening intently as a nine year old can. “Sarah! Where is she?” I think it was my mother asking the question no one really wanted answered. “Let’s split up!” This was Frank my stepfather; that stark command could come from no one else. I could hear their footsteps as they vibrated through the hard wood floors, and up the beams too, again, where I sat. Their steps hurried, rushed. Like their feet already knew, they were to late.
Their voices reach up to me again. This time the words slap at me, “She’s not here.” the fear in the tone of my mothers voice, strikes at me. Felling me from my precarious perch on the edge of my single bed. Sliding off the side, slowly falling, the friction of my clothes bringing the blanket down with me until I lay breathless, and tangled with a ferocious monster on my bedroom floor. Floating back from my trauma induced reverie; I lay with my head on the half of my comforter still on my bed. Something was wrong, I thought, “Where is she.” The thought slid out along with the tears of despair and fears of the unknown down my face.
I realize numbly, that the frantic searching in the house has stopped and their voices shouting her name are muffled now. They’ve moved outside, I realize. I stand up slowly likened too an old man. I stare out the window, clutching the sill like it’s my life support, in a world of pestilence and disease. Trembling violently, my head ringing. I press my face to the glass, mashing my nose flat against the pane. Vainly trying to see anything in the ocean of black out side. I imagine myself outside then, staring up at myself from on the front lawn, watching myself search the darkness for a sign of life, of Sarah. I catch a flash of light from the side of my vision, and in a blink I’m back inside with my face mashed against the glass.
The light, towards the garage. I strain forward in that direction. Bleakly listening. For what, I have yet too discern. As I listen, I hear the house creaking as it settles around me, the trees as they stretch, their arms rubbing into each other. Producing what could only be called a spine tingling noise. But nothing from towards the garage. Silence radiates from it, commanding respect in its adage. For only the direst of circumstances would the forest ever stop it’s comforting chatter. But tonight, is the night for a world of exceptions. I listen in failing hope as the breeze slows to a gentle stop, the frogs sluggishly stop their croaking, the trees and their leaves come too a stand still. The whole forest has halted, as if time for but a moment of eternities has ceased. The forest radiating unearthly silence. Not a leaf rustle, not a waving blade of grass.
I realize then, like a sharp stab too the gut that your mind is slow too follow. The shouting has stopped. No more calls of “Sarah!” reach out into the night. Like bells into the fog the sound would ring, stretching over the hills in an eternity of echoes. A pinpoint of light on which too focus my attention, a flashlight. Bobbing comically on its route back towards the house. The light disappears almost on cue, as the front door slams shut. Hurried footsteps make their way haltingly through the darkened hall of our main floor. As they come to an end, I hear shaking fingers as they punch violently into the buttons on the phone. A one sided conversation ensues. Harsh bark like directions are given and the phone is dropped unheedingly back into its cradle. An unwanted babe it lies unattended, alone.
Now I know something bad is going on. I can feel the wrongness of the situation building with each beat of my heart. It feels wild and loud, screaming in my ears to be let out. By then, the footsteps long since grown cold and stale on the floorboards. My fingers weak and cramped, but still they violently maintain their chokehold on the sill. Time passes in a flurry of black wings as they beat their way through my chest. Like bats flying through my mind, aware of nothing but dark despair. Light and sirens soak into my senses, bringing me back. Me eyes refocusing to the scene unfolding below me. I watch from my crow’s nest, as police cars, and an ambulance fill our drive. Close too the point of overflowing. The back doors of the ambulance are open, and like through the gates of hell, red light spills out unto the ground. Staining the dirt the rust colour of dried blood. Two medics, take out a gurney and hurriedly, but with purpose push it too the garage where it disappears inside. A while later the gurney once again comes into veiw, being pushed back too the ambulance, and packed inside. The only detail my eyes take in is the unmoving form, strapped to the top.
I do not remember whether Frank or Ellen or both accompanied it, too town. I remember nothing but the dark, the confusion and the despair. ‘What is going on? Nothing came too me from that single moment on. Nothing with the exception of a few blurred pictures. Like an old movie, seen one too many times. Black and white pictures flash through my mind. But nothing registered. A ‘no vacancy’ light was flashing behind the corneas of my eyes. How long? A week , a month, years I could’ve stayed in this state.
The only memory I have that stayed slightly more vivid than most was close after ’Sarah.’ We were standing downstairs, all three of us surrounding our tall stereo. Staring at it as if worshipping a God. I stood, listening intently to the disembodied voice of my sister, on the tape that was playing. Telling us things like, which Christmas present was who’s and how sorry she was that she didn’t get too finish them for us. It ended with her voice breaking down into sobs and trailing off hopelessly into silence. The tape once heard and never understood was never to be played in this world again. Flames reduced it to a pile of smouldering plastic and ash shortly after.
That memory is just a brief surfacing in the lake that was drowning me in its despair. Invading my body with every breath I took. At the end of the tape I could feel the cool comforting waves as they licked gently at my face and then embraced me back into it’s depths. Floating in the murky black waters I was safe behind my curtain, able too watch as the world went by. Not being, not doing, just sitting at the bottom of the lake in my mind. Silently waiting in my deep retreat too someday be re-awakened. Like a volcano after eruption, not even the strongest of tremors could move me now
I live in Thunder
Bay, Ontario, and for those of you who have no clue as to where that is,
it's in Canada.
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