Nina (Part 4)
1:05 a.m. I pick my phone from Nina’s bedside table, and scroll through my emails, careful not to stir too much. It is a habit I have made these days; checking my email every time I cannot sleep because I am waiting for something. Except this time, it is the sadness in my heart, and the anxiety in my soul that keeps me awake.
Nina lies beside me, the duvet covering just half of her body. She snores, softly, like a baby. Her face is calm, despite the loose strands of hair caressing her forehead. Occasionally, she stirs, utters inaudibly, then regains her calm. I watch her chest move up and down, rhythmically, and wish I could get her kind of sleep.
I hate being in people’s houses, because there is a little bubble I have created around me that I am afraid exists only in my house. What if I want to pee? What if a fart comes pressing against my muscles, threatening to burst out? What if they have triggers lying all over their place? I wouldn’t know where to place my hands, or my eyes, or my feet. What if I suddenly want the lemon grass candle that burns in my bathroom?
So when Nina asks me to spend the night at her place after the burial ceremony, I freak out. Where will I sleep? In my bed. What about you? In the same bed. Will you at least let me sleep on the couch? No. Are we going to sleep in the house where…? Yes, the house where both my kids were murdered.
My heart sinks. But Nina holds my hand, calmly, and pats my back. “It will be fine. I just want to be near someone I can trust. Grief is lonely, you know.” She says.
When we get to the house, Nina pushes the door open and before I ask, she volunteers to explain.
There is no point of me closing the door. What is there to lose that I cannot replace. What else lies in this house, with my blood flowing through it? What else would shock me if it gets ripped from me? I have lost the most important parts of myself in this house; what else can life do to me? How farther along the drain can this life drag me?
I understand her words, just the same way I have come to understand grief. That when it hits you, it takes the most essential parts of you. It rips your heart open, and feeds on the blood. It darkens every ray of hope you ever had. It slashes your will to live into two, and watches as life ebbs away from you. It forces you to bend your spirit, and rejoices in your tears and sadness.
And just when you start to push the thoughts away. Just when you get the strength to get into the bathtub. Just when the taste of tea on your tongue starts to make sense. Just when you wash your hair and let the cold rejuvenate your will to sleep; the memories come back like a flood, and knock you unconscious.
I walk into the house after Nina, careful not to speak a word. Not even when she hurls a thousand curse words to her absent husband; the killer of her children. Not even when she smashes her phone against the wall. Not even when she attempts to smash her head against the wall. Not even when she finally lets out a loud scream and collapses onto the sofa, sobbing.
I remain silent because I know just how meaningless words are during grief. I am sorry. I am praying for you. I understand how you feel. It will be fine. With time, the pains lessens. It was God’s plan. We are all going that way. They are useless; these words are useless. Because they keep reminding you of the finality of death. Of your helplessness, and the hurt that will forever stay with you.
When the sobbing stops, Nina undresses right in front of me, then walks into the bathroom. As the shower sounds fill the room, I try so hard to not think of my own grief. So I walk into her bedroom, still afraid, and change the bedsheets. I find a baggy T-shirt among her clothes, slip out of my black dress, and throw the T-shirt on.
Minutes later, Nina enters the room and slips into the bed, next to me. We lie there in silence, each to their own thoughts.
“Do you think of her?” She finally asks after the silence starts to get awkward.
“Who?” I feign ignorance, mostly because I do not want to talk about death.
“Bree. Do you think of her?”
She turns to face me, places a hand on my shoulder and says, “It is normal. It is the way life is. Grief has no formula. Grief has no timeline. Grief has no schedule; it wants what it wants.”
So when the clock strikes 1:05 a.m. and I am still awake, my mind wanders off to Bree. The way I have to fight tears every time I see best friends taking pictures together. Looking glam. Laughing together. Sharing heartfelt secrets, and finding the joy in life. I fight tears, every time, because it reminds me that I will never have that kind of life; at least not with the one person I loved with my whole heart.
I look at Nina and wonder how on earth she is going to survive the storm that awaits her. I wonder how many kids she will see in her lifetime. Daily. Everywhere. I wonder how many women will walk past her in the company of their husbands; all these are triggers. I wonder how many men, ignorant of her past, will try to make a pass at her. I wonder how she will manage to stay still, and block the sounds of the universe.
As I stare at her heaving chest, I wonder why this monster called death chose her. But then I remember that I have been there before, and no amount of questioning brings you closure. So you drown yourself in your tears, and hope that at the end of the road, the sun rays hit your face, and give you the strength to carry on.