Saturday, February 17, 2007

Intertwined, Part 3

When I woke again, it was light outside, and the storm had passed. The bed was empty, save me, so I got up to eat breakfast and look for him. I made my way into the kitchen and made some toast, then wondered out onto the porch to sit and enjoy the crisp air and beautiful scenery brought on by the morning. The air was damp, from the rains the night before, and cool. The ground was damp, too, and the rocks glistened with a slippery grin. The bark on the trees was dark, making the contrast between the brown of the trunk and the green of the canopy even more picturesque. A slight fog seemed to rise over the forest in the opposing side of the valley, and it seemed to tumble lazily into the valley below as if it was on a stroll to greet me good morning before the sun stepped out from behind the mountain and burned it away.

I had sat on the porch for maybe five minutes when I heard a familiar voice urgently calling my name. I casually walked down the narrow road, following the sound of his voice, and found him high up on the embankment. He was obviously excited about something, and as soon as he caught sight of me, he started saying something rather quickly that I couldn’t quite make out. Staying on the road below him, I walked over to where he stood so that we could talk, and as I did so the steep incline of the embankment and the narrowness of the road forced him to step closer to the edge to maintain eye contact with me. When I finally stopped walking and could concentrate on listening I could tell, despite his rushed speech, that he was talking about the waterfall, that the storm the night before had caused it to swell, and he wanted to know if I wanted to hike back with him to see it. Waiting for my reply, he stepped a little closer to the edge. I paused for a moment, trying to decide if I should go back and change clothes first, and in that brief second the ledge up on the embankment collapsed. My companion toppled, almost twenty feet straight down, and landed on his back in the rocks with an audible thud.

I am certain that my heart skipped a beat in the instant panic that seized me, and I rushed over to him as fast as I could. He was lying precariously off of the edge of the rocky cliff, with his right arm and leg dangling, and his left leg millimeters from slipping off. He was trying to pull himself back onto the road when I reached him, but something was wrong. He wasn’t moving right, and he couldn’t make his arms work to pull himself back onto the cliff. I grabbed his left arm with one hand and put the other under his shoulders to try to lift him back onto the road, but I was weak with fright, and his body was limp, like dead weight. I simply couldn’t do it. I decided instead to hold him there for a moment and stabilize him until I could run back into the cabin and call for help on the radio. I stopped and looked at him, and gazed into those eyes that were this time a flinty grey. He was bleeding from his ears and nose, and his breathing was hoarse and ragged. He blinked his eyes once or twice slowly, and each time he opened them, they were more glazed and flinty. I started to cry. “I’m going to the radio to call for help,” I told him. “I’ll be back as soon as I know someone is coming.” I tried to get up to leave, but his left arm held me tight, and I couldn’t pull myself free. I struggled and pulled and cried and begged him to let me go for help, but he would neither let go, nor could I pull him off of the ledge. I sat back down, drained, and held him in my arms. His breathing stopped and started, and then he caught my eye and attempted a weak smile. “I wanted you to have this,” he whispered, and he pushed his clenched right hand into my chest. I let go of his left arm and held his hand there. “I love you,” I murmured. He gave me a weak smile that I could barely make out through my tear filled eyes. He exhaled, and his eyes glazed over and lost their focus.

His body went limp and he started to slip off of the edge of the cliff. I moved to catch him, and as I did so I let go of his right hand that I had clutched to my chest. His arm swung downward, off the edge of the cliff, and his grip released, and all I saw was a brief glimpse of gold and a glitter before the contents of his hand spilled into the valley below. Somehow, I pulled most of his body back onto the ledge, my tears raining drops of sorrow onto his body all the while. I went to the radio and called for help, and after what seemed like an eternity a helicopter and a small truck arrived on the scene. They asked me questions and shined lights in my eyes and took my pulse and blood pressure. I was cold, shivering as a matter of fact, and they gave me a blanket and put me on the helicopter. As we were leaving I caught sight of them loading a stretcher blanketed with a shroud onto the truck.

I cried for days after that. Nothing seemed to fill my loneliness or ease my grief. I would sit in the rain and cry, and for those few minutes it seemed as if the whole world was mourning with me. I wondered in and out of our café, almost feeling like I was looking for something, but I could never bring myself to sit or to buy anything. Everything seemed so bland and grey and.....pointless.

I called and talked to the people who came up the mountain to help me, looking for some answers. They said that the rain from the night before must have loosened the rocks on the embankment. That is probably why it collapsed. Also, the doctors told me that he had sustained severe blunt trauma to the head, and had shattered several vertebra, so he was more than likely paralyzed for the last few minutes of his life. The trauma to his head was so severe, they said, that there was a large amount of bleeding into the brain, and that even if they could have gotten him to a hospital in five minutes, they still couldn’t have saved him. But even the answers to my questions didn’t quiet my grief, or help bridge the giant chasm ripped in my heart. Nothing but time did that.

It took a lot of time. Time to learn how to get out of bed every morning. Time to learn how to interact with people in public. Time to stand on my own without waves of grief striking me down. Time to learn how to be happy just with who I am. It took time to learn how to do all of this with a gorge through the softest part of me. But time wears down the sharp peaks and smoothes out the jagged edges until, eventually, the land is flat again. Different, but flat. And as I learned to be a whole person again, I realized that I kept a part of him with me. The parts that were subtle and rule bending and spontaneous and adventurous are part of me now; his enduring presents to me. I get to wear them, and while I may not be able to wear them as well as he did, they are mine, and they are all that is left of what he had.

Sometimes, now and again, I think that it is about time to start over. To begin again. To share some of these new things that I wear with someone else, in the same selfless way that he shared so many things with me. But I’m scared. My pain hasn’t killed me, but I’m not sure that it has made me stronger, either. I’m different than I was before. I enjoy my solitude, because I know that no one can hurt me that way. But what kind of life is that? What kind of life is it to sit here on a park bench with the pigeons on a gorgeous Sunday afternoon? One that I’m content to lead alone, I suppose. Maybe it is time to start over, to learn how to become intertwined again. Things will be different this time, as each time always has been, but the journey is part of the gift. Maybe it’s time to sit down in a café again and discuss coffee beans with someone, and find out just how far this human heart can go.


The End

5 comments:

lorri said...

how sad. i totally didn't see that coming. i don't typically like sad things, but i am trying to be objective so i would have to say it is good-- even if i would have given them a cheery "live happily ever after" life. good writing ben!

Stacy said...

that was depressing. couldn't you have let her hold on to the ring at least??? i will still read your stuff should you get published but i must confess i'm a fan of happy endings...

Benjamin said...

Aww, c'mon. You don't have to like it. I'm a big enough boy to take if you say it didn't float your boat. Most of the stories I have floating around in my head have similar endings - though I'm not sure I consider them "sad" endings...

In any case, thanks for at least reading it. We'll returned to regularly scheduled programming sometime soon.

alethia said...

are you big enough boy to post again????? your audience awaits you.

Melissa said...

In Ben's defense, he is VERY busy right now! He is finishing up his 2 classes of winter quarter, working essentially 2 jobs (that he is only being paid one salary for), and trying to be a present father and husband. He will be back to posting soon, I promise.