The Worst Day

I thought I had survived The Apocalypse.

I thought I had lived through the worst.

I was wrong.

Yesterday, in the early afternoon hours, I received an email that would forever change the course of my life.  It would, I think, change the very fabric of me.  Permanently.

I was standing up when I read it.  The words instantly became more than black and white letters as they lept from the monitor and seered themselves into my brain with an electric shock.

I stopped breathing.  I pressed my palms into the wood of the table top to steady myself.

And then I started breathing.  Kind of.  I inhaled.  Over and over and over again I inhaled.  Quick, sharp, stabbing gulps of air that never reached my lungs.

I could hear myself gasping for air.

And then I heard the pathetic sound of my own voice.

“Oh God, Oh God.”

It started as a frantic whisper, mixed with the pounding woosh of air I was still desperately trying to suck in.

“Oh God, Oh God.”

I let go of the table.  I paced around the enclosed porch I had been working in, looking for more oxygen in each corner.

“Oh God, Oh God.”

My breaths came faster still, and louder, along with my pleas.

“Oh God, Oh God.”

I collapsed.

I screamed.  It was the blood curlding noise of a wounded animal, and with its release, the air returned to my lungs.

I kept screaming.

“Oh God, Oh God.”

I screamed as hard as I could, hoping the pain in my throat would overcome the hot, tearing, cutting in my chest.  Hoping to get it out of me.

I began to rock back and forth, like some horrible victim in a horrible Lifetime movie.  It was pathetic and cliche and I was powerless to stop it.  I could hear the screams, I knew they were coming from my body, but I couldn’t stop the surge.

In the distance, I heard the muffled sounds of another voice.

“Britt?  Britt!  Britt?!”

“Oh God, Oh God,” I wailed more.

“Britt!  What happened?”

“Oh God, Oh God,” I couldn’t see.  I couldn’t talk.  I could do nothing but cry and scream and rock frantically as wave after wave of pain rose up out of me.

“Britt,” the voice was in my ear now, “Britt, please, what happened?”

“Go see,” I screamed.  “Go see.  Oh my God, go see.  I can’t… I can’t” I flailed my arm in the direction of my still open computer.

“Oh… God…” it wasn’t my voice this time.  And just like that I knew someone else knew and it was bigger and hotter and more real and dear God there was even more pain than there had been just a moment before.   There was still so much more.  How, HOW could there be more pain?

“GET MY MOM!” I screamed.

“Ok, Ok,” Adam was quiet and scared.  I felt him pat my back as I rocked back and forth, screaming and crying and gupling for air.

“GET MY MOM!”

“OK… OK…”

“NOW!”

White hot, the pain ripped through me again.  It hooked into my chest and tore down my insides.  I clawed at my flesh, desperate to rip it from my rib cage.

“Get it out… please… take it out.  GET IT OUT!”

I heaved.  My body lurched until I was on all fours, wretching nothing but invisible grief and anger into the nothingness in front of me.

“Get.  Hilly.” I sobbed.  “Get.  Faiqa.”

“Ok… Ok…”

“NOW!  Get them!  Get them RIGHT NOW!”  I hurled all of my rage at him, willing them to come to me.  Now.  Right NOW.  It needed to stop NOW.

And then there was her voice.

“Britt.”

I wretch again.

“Britt.  Britt, I’m right here.”

She chiseled through the war that raged on all around me, inside of me.

“Britt.  Britt… shhh… baby.  I’m right here.  I’m here.”

“Oh, God.  Mom.  Mawwwwwwwwwwm,” and the crying was back with the rocking.

“I’m right here.  Baby, I’m right here.”

I sobbed.  From my toes, I sobbed.

“It hurts.  Oh, God, it hurts.  It hurst so bad.”

“I know, Baby, I know.”

“Please make it stop,” I begged.  “Please, please make it stop.”

“OK.”

“I can’t do this.  I can’t feel this.”

“Shhh… you can, Baby.  You can.  I’m right here.”

“I can’t.  Kill me, Mom.  Please.  Please let me die so that it will stop.  Pleeeaaaaase.  Pleeeeeaaase let me die.”  The tears flowed from my face.  My whole face cried, because my two eyes alone were not enough.

“Honey, hang on.  Shhh… hang on.  You just have to get through the next 60 seconds.”

“I can’t.  I can’t.  I-”

“Yes.  You can.  60 seconds.  Just hold on for the next 60 seconds.

It was like she was beside me.  I was trapped in a smothering cloud, but she was pressed up against me, her cheek against mine, rocking in time with me.  Her voice was her warm hand pushed tightly against my face.

“Hold.  On.  You can get through the next 60 seconds.  And nothing will ever, ever hurt this bad again.”

“It will,” I whimpered.  “It will.  It will always, always hurt like this.”

The weight on my chest was heavy now, crushing, but not cutting.

“This is the bottom, Baby,” she cooed in my ear.  “This is the bottom.”  We rocked back and forth.  Slowly.  Slowly.  We rocked.

“It hurts so bad, Mom,” my voice was so small and weak, like that of a child.

“I know, Baby.  I know.”

“What do I do?  What do I do?”

“Do nothing,” she said.

I don’t know how long she rocked with me.  It was at once forever and an instant that I had been there on that floor, heaving the pain from me.  There was everything and nothing, nothing but me and her and her voice.  And the pain.

But it was heavy now.  Just heavy.

I could lay under the weight of heavy.

I was just breathing now.  Quietly crying and smoking and breathing, free floating in something that was numbness and not at all numbness.

“Give the phone to Adam,” she said.

“OK.”

I handed the phone to Adam and layed down on the river rock.  I pressed my face into the cool hardness and stared out into the grass just beyond the screen.  Their voices mingled with the nothingness a million miles away.  I pushed my body deeper into the ground beneath me, willing it to swallow me whole and hanging on to the blunt pain of little rocks digging into my skin.

Hilly would come.

She would sit on the ground with me and hold me as I cried again, the pain being new for a moment with the new face in the room.  But it was just for a moment this time.  Her arms were soft and I could smell her lotion when I buried my face in her chest.

They would pack up my things and lead me out to a car.  She would talk, and I talked back.  I would shake my head, confused and bewildered now by all the things that were no longer true or real or right.  She would drive and I would watch familiar roads and signs float past me out the window.

I would lay on her couch and throw things at her TV.

I would eat.

I would wait for the all clear and glide up my driveway and through my front door.

And then, I would hear Emma.  Awake.  Needing me in the next room.

And I did not glide anymore.  I walked to her room and sat on her bad.  I breathed.  I smiled.  I wrapped her in my arms and pressed my life into her through the layers of blankets and oversized stuffed animals.

“I’m here, Baby.  I’m here.”

And her face glowed in the dim light.  Her smile pushed beyond her cheeks and her eyes squinted from the overflow.

My, God, the love.  It filled me.  The caverns and empty spaces swelled with warmth and I could feel my fingers again.  I smiled, hard.  I tucked her in and closed the door and breathed the deepest breath of relief that I had ever known.

I plied the contacts from eyes, smoked another cigarette, and layed down in my bed.  In my hand, I held a child sized set of rosary beads.  I closed my eyes and wrapped my fingers around the tiny green beads.

“Our Father, who art in heaven…”

My brain whispered to me.  The glass and delicate metal links slipped through my hands.  One by one.  Slowly.  Again and again.

“Holy Mary, mother of God…”

And I slept.

Today, I woke up beside two children who had crawled into bed with me.  The ache in my chest was dull, small in comparison to the comfort of their sleeping bodies.

I did not die.

There is so much to do now.  So much to feel and say and think and handle and do.

But for now, there is just this.

I did not die.

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