This story is by Chris T.N. Jenson and was part of our 2019 Summer Writing Contest. You can find all the writing contest stories here.
The place that I am is kept from me. I am not permitted to know it. Somehow, I am found at the center of it. And even though there is some kind of life around me, the center of it, where I have been set, is utterly void of any of it. I am forbidden to speak, move, eat, leave. I feel I have become void of anything relatable to life and living, true life and true living. For now I can do nothing and am just a distant and unfulfilling variation of being.
The tones, sounds and noises I do not comprehend,. They are not understandable by my own capacities. My inability to decipher any part of them alienates me further. I only sense a coldness. They are cruel rhythms which have come to torture me in my current state of isolation and despair. I do not belong in this world and I long for my world that I am no longer a part of and not able to reenter. I don’t belong here! Wherever here is. I don’t know where I am, how I got here, or most importantly, how to get back home. Is anyone looking for me? Am I even still me?
Thoughts and memories of home are the only thing that keep me going in this dark sinkhole with no conceivable way out. I remember the details of Momma’s voice calling me down for dinner and her never being able to hear my response, because, as she always said, the fan over the stovetop was too loud. Pfsh. It was so unfair that she was allowed to not hear me but if I didn’t hear her and respond in a way she could receive, it was my fault. How unfair and frustrating!
As I walk myself back in time, I can see the expression on my face, complete with furrowed brows and eye rolls, and I am overwhelmed by the tsunami of irony that floods in. The contrast between the things that had once bothered me and what I am forced to endure today are impossible to reconcile in my young mind. My brows today, are too weary to furrow themselves. “Paige, stop it,” I think to myself, realizing I cannot let myself sink deeper into this dark hole of blackness. If I do, I instinctively know that whatever light remains in my mind’s eye, will also be taken from me. I force myself to think about Momma getting dinner ready again, and this time, something unexpected happens. …
Her inability to hear me because of the fan, somehow becomes beautiful. Her words, her tone, her excuse….all of it….becomes beautiful to me.
What’s this?! This wretched experience has undeniably changed me! How can this be?
Oh, how I long to hear Momma call me down for dinner again….even if she never heard me respond back…ever. I would not waste a moment to focus on the trivial things that had stolen my attention in the past. They are far too small, temporary, fleeting and entirely unworthy of a moment of my time in the midst of such breathtaking life and beauty!
This empty abyss has opened my eyes to the truth that in my old world, there was beauty in everything, if I had only cared to see what what really present. Like mining jewels. I look back and see sparkle in her words reaching my ears and sparkle my words not reaching hers. There is a unique beauty in the imperfect ebbs and flows between any two people; just like two currents intersecting that create new ripples by their own unique currents. Momma and I had lots of ripples, only I didn’t realize they were simply an invitation to try a different way with each other. To enjoy the detour our currents brought on each other, or create a beautiful new current of our own. To grow through the fruction, be different, better, for ourselves and for one another!
All those dinners she prepared for us…why hadn’t I chosen to come down the stairs and look into her big, bright blue eyes and thank her from a place I had never given her before? Why didn’t she or I make an effort to connect with one another in a new way?
We were always avoiding those stairs for some reason. Not just Momma and I, but our whole family. The stairs separated us in more ways than we realized. They were a boundary no-one wanted to cross. Those who were on one side of it wanted to stay on their side. I know Momma and I acted as if those stairs led right into the black hole. The place that I am in now. Even though they didn’t, it was how we both acted.
Just then I could hear her call me again, only it was as if it were real. Really REAL!
“Dinner!” I heard Momma chirp.
Could it be? Or was my mind becoming more imaginative as a way to save me from this despair I was in? I wondered. Had the old world I missed and my new world collided? I didn’t understand what was happening. I felt out of sorts but wanted to be pulled back into the world I missed. The world that I would now hope to live different, better in.
Momma’s voice called again, “Dinner!!!” she yelled louder this time.
The darkness seemed to be lifting. Slowly I could feel myself coming out of the hole and back into…my room? Had I been transported back into my world? Granted reentry because of the transformation that was downloaded into me while there? Wait…was this a dream?
I didn’t hear Momma call out again and started to panic. I wasn’t sure if where I was was even real. Was I going to have to back to the abyss? I heard movement, louder and louder, coming closer and closer. Then, a door opened.
It was Momma!
“Darling,” she said, “I didn’t know if you could hear me and decided I would come upstairs and make sure you were okay. Everything okay? How was your nap?”
A nap? I was relieved to hear those words.
“I am fine. Um, was I sleeping?” I asked.
“The drool on your pillow and big sleep line on your face say yes,” she joked.
“Momma, I would love to help with dinner . Do you need?” I happily asked, thankful to be back to my world and life. Only some things felt different.
Momma smiled as if she knew the lessons of the dark abyss had all come back with me.
“I would love to have some help” she said and gave me a hug. It was the best hug in the world. And this was the best world ever. And dinner smelled delicious.