Fiction by Patience Boyd

It’s the middle of the night and I wake up in tears. Everything is bathed in blue moonlight, but there’s no comfort. I’m tired, hurting, and lonely. The events of the previous day poked at that old wound in my heart until it burst open during my fevered sleep. I’m afraid one day the wound will actually physically bleed.

I recognize the shape of my bedside clock, sense the half-open closet door. The room is familiar, soft. I know it’s safe, but it offers me no solution. It can hardly stifle my cries, let alone heal my heart. The ache continues to seep into my chest. Saltwater drips dark blue spots on the sheets. I thought I was out of tears, but I’ve thought that for days now.

I wish someone would come to my rescue. Just a few doors away, my family sleeps. They care about me, but they have their own monsters. I’ve seen them fumble down the stairs with bags under their eyes. I’ve seen how they become bitter. They lean on me.

Who would they lean on if they realized I too was broken? I don’t want to be a burden. But the ache in my heart isn’t going away.

A car drives past the window, and the light fans around the room without touching anything. I shiver a little. The darkness and solitude have been stealing my childhood room. Nothing looks the way it should anymore. Now I race to leave in the mornings, only lingering here in my dreams. Yet even my sleep is being invaded by aching loneliness. There’s no explanation why.

Is there anyone else who feels like this? I ask the gloom. Is there anyone who understands?

Silence. The usual answer. I sigh, lying back down and hoping for a miracle to help me sleep.

“I understand,” a gentle voice murmurs from across the room. My eyes snap open, torn between fear and hope. No one has said those two words before. No one was ever there to answer! I turn to face the voice. The voice of someone who understands.

No one is there.

“I’m right here, dear one.”

Right where?

But even as I ask, I can sense the presence settle with me, and I feel like a child again, safe in my parent’s arms. The feeling seeps into my chest, like a warm drink, running through my being and dripping into the hole in my heart.

“I know that old wound hurts you. I’m sorry you will always feel that bit of pain. But it doesn’t have to be as bad as it is right now. You will still be broken, but shattered glass still shines. And your broken heart still beats. It will be ragged for a while, but things will calm down. It has to be hard before it can be easy. Eventually, that wound will become a scar. Trust me, you will get better.”

The ache that woke me is beginning to fade. It still hurts, but it’s a manageable pain now. A hand reaches around me, wiping the tears off my face. I smile, still fighting sniffles, and nod. I am going to be alright.

“Make it to tomorrow,” the voice urges, “and look for glory in the grime. You’ll find wildflowers where the sidewalk cracks, coloured lights through the old faded glass. You’ll find sunlight awe-striking when it shines over the edges of the storm clouds. You can hear the rivers talk, and if you listen, they’ll encourage you. There are children in the streets, and if you ask, they will play with you. There are songs only you can hear until you open your voice to the world. There are wonders awaiting you tomorrow. So, isn’t it worth getting through the night?”

But how will I see the wonders if the weight of the world makes me blind?

The presence smiles in the most inexplicable way.

“There are times, I know, when you must close your eyes to block out the smoke. But the flowers won’t be gone when you open them again! You can get through the hardships, not by always looking at your goal, but by looking at the wonders on the way. Dandelions mean endurance for a reason. It is the smaller things of the world that are most moving, don’t you think? It has always been the smaller things of the world.”

As the presence speaks, I start relaxing into unconsciousness once more. Even though I know there won’t be nightmares this time, I’m still scared to fall asleep.

Will you be here when I wake up?

“I will be waiting, always smiling. I watch over every little one.”

Those words wrap around my mind just like the feeling wrapped around my body. Dreams of grass blade crowns and fireflies fill my sleep, and I wake the next morning with a smile. Nothing has changed in the outside world. None of my problems are solved. No darkness has been vanquished. But I know the flowers grew while I was sleeping, the earth moved under my feet, the sun said good morning as she passed the moon in the sky. 

Yes, I still feel my heart’s brokenness.

But now I feel its beat too.