The most terrifying day of my life was 63 hours long. It began on April 25th at 3:00 a.m and ended on the 27th at around 6:00 p.m. In between those two milestones, I learned the definition of the word rescind, what it feels like to know nothing, how fleeting emotions can be, and the one Universal truth with a capital U: no matter what a person does, they will always find themselves suckling on the same sultry air. All of us, I learned, are just smokers stuck in a glass waiting until the oxygen goes out.
I look back on that day, if it can truly be called that, and I wonder if I’m still waiting. Maybe instead of 63, it has been 9,300 hours. Every day has just been a chaotic line stemming from April 25th, and now I’m just lingering until morning comes again. When it does, I’m sure I’ll hear the birds chirping constantly, but for now, my substitute is the sounds of my bones cracking and wearing bit by bit by bit.
On April 25th 2012, I began my last day on Earth. Eyes anchored by a series of lost, incomplete dreams searched into the darkness for an alarm clock. The room looked foreign as if stuck somewhere in between a gross exaggeration of shadows and something bearing actual form. This darkened place, though it didn’t quite look like it that early morning, was the lifeblood of my childhood and the harbinger of the many memories reserved for the best of times. It was a place where Velcro shoes, grass stains, and Lego blocks ruled. Walls were adorned with the physical proof: pictures of people smiling, puerile accomplishments, and harebrained stories not yet written.
Today was to be an accomplishment of the much more mature variety. In six hours, I was to write an exam that I had just started studying for. Academically, I wasn’t always so lazily lackadaisical, but the course – biology – seemed so decidedly boring that I allowed myself to seep into the unknown territory of not caring. Perhaps out of divine irony but as I stretched myself that morning in a nomadic hunt for an electronic clock, I bumped into things unrecognizable, items I had long forgotten: a second study chair and a half-opened textbook. In the thick mist of night, I stubbed my toe on the biology book.
The exam wasn’t any better. After a blur of cramming, rapid anxiety, and general poor hygiene, I was faced with 100 multiple-choice questions to which I could only guess the answers. Couple this with emotional exhaustion and bitter disappointment, and one will find a unshaved, unwashed twenty-year old picking at his bum for hope.
True to myself, however, I laughed when I finished it. I told a friend, “I’m happy if I got one out of three correct.” They laughed back, surprised that I said it. To them, the exam was easy. As it turns out, it was. I got 1.9 out of 3.
I don’t remember a sun that shone as radiantly as it did on April 25th. It was one of those spring days that smelled of chlorine, sun tanning lotion, and hot sand, a suggestion of the carefree days of summer sure to come. As the sun warmed my skin as if to reenergize it, the blue skies mixed with the endless glow of light. With each ray of sunlight illuminating my step, it felt like this place and this lifestyle, both of which were home to both disappointments and happiness alike, was a wide, grassy forest where no winter had ever been.
Of course this wasn’t the case, but I still drove home singing blissfully, the music only barely travelling the same speed as my aspirations. My brother was in the car similarly overwhelmed by the budding promise of summer. A tuft of hair, unkempt and disordered, the single mystery of split ends and unfruitful studying, bobbed freely. Open roads melting into the moving scenery behind him gave an air of absolute relaxation; no matter how things were moving around him, he seemed at ease, constant, like an improbable, solitary, intact building after a firestorm.
Great minds may think alike but it is the genius that thinks differently, and my brother thought wonky most of the time. A single discussion with him would lead to the conclusion that he was slightly off; many would suggest that despite being caught in the small problems of everyday, he had this otherworldly aura over him that wasn’t godly, but so perfectly human. Each of his ideas were riddled with holes, inconsistencies, and grand oversights. He was flawed, and he knew it. He was a circle with a hole in the middle, a mere straight edge for a line that was happy for not having a center.
As we road home, I saw that circle, that edge, and I remembered how his unusual thought had led him to where he was now. In the unseen, he saw; in the useless, he found use. And after the trip to San Francisco, I saw how both were reflected in his early tan and smile. He looked at me, and I at him, and we knew it was going to be a good summer. There was no way that it couldn’t be.
Tears fell exhaustively.
Rescind. I had to look the word up myself. To revoke and appeal. My eyes looked back at the email, then to the dictionary, then back again. It’s not because I couldn’t believe what was in front of me that my eyes bounced perpetually between these two sentences, but because they didn’t know where else to look. I think that’s because the definition I saw on April 25th was wrong. Rather then revoke, I will tell you that rescind means the end of the world.
The sun went out like a match. The room was a little dark hole with its gray blinds wrinkled and closed. I sat on the bed, guessing at which point claustrophobia became an eventual acceptance.
Pictures swarmed the walls, but in the unlit room, their details – hard labour evidenced by intricacy – could not be seen. Instead, there was only the vignette of a student house. Left in the black, it was a place blurred by comfort and nothing more.
I tapped my hand on the walls, walls too permanent to ever be changed. I forgot what colour they were when I walked in. The room would always be claustrophobic, I thought.
But I said nothing. My tongue was flat, my hands were heavy, and my legs moved because others were moving, not because they wanted to. They followed those eyes, his eyes, eyes that I had spent a life looking into and seeing myself. Today, though, I saw neither myself nor him.
Where did they go? Where did I?
In their place was a world hued black and grey, right and wrong. Globes of white speckled by black, his eyes were not light refracted, but absorbed. They were a forgetful mistake wondering whether it was the nuanced colours of this world that brings about sight.
I’m sure he still saw, still internalized. He tried to crack a joke even. But in front of him was not what he wanted or expected to see.
On April 25th, my brother was blind.
I tried to remember what I once sounded like and I babbled on like an echo. It’s alright, it’s alright.
The voice of death answered. Is it?
Yes. It will be alright soon.
I was talking to myself, words reflected by my largest insecurities. The creaks of a mouse, those little, stupid words afraid to leave my mouth, were what I wanted to hear. To others, they meant anything at all.
I think it was still sunny outside after. I can’t remember exactly. I’m sure somewhere, it was.
I spent the night drinking. I can’t remember much besides the fact that morning came, the sun rose, and I asked for a flashlight because I needed to see my way. It was cold outside and my breath froze as if I were breathing dust.
I was dying.
That night, on April 25th, I spent it locked with two sets of lips. The relationships were quick, ephemeral. Hot stains of sweat on a spring day. Looking back, I think I was trying to find something meaningful in a place full of strangers, that one person who would tell me it was alright.
There was one person who I didn’t notice until a while ago. That night, I asked if she wanted to come to where I was sleeping and she said no and I said okay and she said nothing and I looked away but she didn’t know because she was on the phone and I said okay again and she said she thought it would be best if she left and I said okay but it really wasn’t and I think she knew it because after she hung up, she promised to never see me again.
We saw each other again and she has since told me that it is okay. I sometimes believe her, but most of the time I don’t.
I came home on April 26th at 12:03 p.m. I remember the time well because I went to my room and tore down all my childish accomplishments. My room was barren, the floor was a mess, and I sat in a whirlwind of manifested memories, a devastation of apparent reasons for happiness. For four hours, I stultified there, neither moving or breathing if I remember correctly.
I convinced myself I had nothing to breathe for anymore.
I wasn’t tired. The rest of the day I spoke to my parents. I can’t remember what they said. Something prophetic, most likely. I think I was hoping for them to fix all of this, things like rescind. When they heard about that word, they cried. After everything, I hadn’t even cried yet.
I started to then, though.
Somewhere in between muffled moans, I told my parents that tears won’t help anything but they told me that that doesn’t mean they can’t help them from coming.
It is funny. Everything that happened afterwards, I am led to believe, was inevitable. They couldn’t be helped. Cause and effect, someone would later tell me. That’s what this is. When he said it, his eyes were tired, crazy, wretched.
Days later, he’d see the end of a rainbow through a darkened rope.
I came back to my room on April 26th, still wide eyed and awake, and I realized that it looked more like a graveyard. Even when everything was up and glimmering, it was just broken glass. There was no life, only death; no breathing, only waiting. This room was the place where my childhood suffocated.
I was an adult now stuck in a funeral home. Like an adult would then, I would eventually have to clean up the mess I made. Until then, no more counting sheep. Instead, I began to count hours.
One. Two. Three. Four.
Five. Six. Seven…
Sometime in between, I fell asleep.
I’m still waiting to wake up. Maybe I’ll be a child again.