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It is a fact too big to be ignored. All life will come to an end eventually.
New York Blogger Elijah Turner’s life also ends abruptly. His wife and kids wail uncontrollably and hopelessly.
However, God gives him a second chance – to sort his mess. He brings him back to life.
But his new life takes a spine-chilling turn. He even curses the day he was brought back to life: ‘Death was far better.’
—Based on a true story—
Tuesday, January 17, 2017
There was no alternative. So once again, I ignored the harsh facts and hurried to the living room window. However, I dreaded raising my abused and heavy eyes. Instead, I gazed down at the cold white tiles, detesting my choices – detesting my conduct – detesting me – stupid me.
Finally, I held my breath and raised my eyes bit by bit.
But still, there was nothing encouraging – just snow falling leisurely, cars passing and Brooklyn College students rushing for the 9:25 bus at Vanderbilt Ave. No sign of her.
The sour feeling shrunk my stomach again. My body shuddered. Tears filled my eyes for the thousandth time.
I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe I had successfully opened a missing person’s case for my darling. My Queen. Grace. Missing. No. No way. I howled hysterically, both hands pressed to the cold window, tears dripping on the whitish curtain lace and my frozen feet.
I was to blame. Kim too. Even the cake. If it wasn’t for the stupid cake, Grace would be here – on the couch – sipping coffee with me or with her head resting on my lap, studying my pupils as I do the same to her.
I removed my hands from the window and wiped the tears with the left one.
I hated myself for changing the pattern – for letting her go alone – for buying the car. In the bus, she would be safe.
I shook my head and wiped the tears again. But somehow, I believed my darling would drive in any minute and apologize for not calling me and keeping her cell phone off. “Sorry babe. I was at Mila’s and my battery died, so I couldn’t call you,” she would say apologetically fixing her green eyes on mine and squeezing my hands with her small, soft ones. Of course, I would pinch her on the neck – punishing her for keeping me up all night, calling all our relatives and friends. “Ouch!” she would say. Then I would give her a warm hug.
I looked again. Still, nobody. No maroon Honda Civic driving into our garage. Only my heart hammering my chest and leaving my stomach rock hard.
I learned the hard way that pain and confusion form a deadly duo. The pain pierced my heart mercilessly, and the confusion squashed my brain until I cried hopelessly – all night. There was nowhere to escape. When I climbed to my mind, confusion showed up and threatened to end my sanity. When I descended to my heart, the pain was busy eating up the last remains of hope. So I had to ignore myself in order to survive. Or at least, ignore the problem and hope it wasn’t as it seemed.
Avoiding the family photos on the wall, I turned and walked aimlessly. My usual couch squished softly as I sat facing the fireless fireplace. But then, my mind recalled the great fireplace moments Grace and I had with hot cocoa and muffins; so I gazed at the blank television on its stand. But it was also frowning, lamenting with me. Even the flowers in all the corners of the room withheld their usual enthusiasm. The rug beneath the coffee table and my feet did not have the usual warmth either. It was cold – vividly reminding me that the warmth of the house was gone.
Surely, the coldness even seized my head. I was terribly afraid to think openly and embrace all the possibilities my mind threatened to cough out. All night long, I successfully thwarted the “what if” line of thoughts. But now, they were bombarding me, and I was more exposed and vulnerable. My mind had turned against me – it had its arms ready to finish me. It pushed all the blame on me. I was afraid. My body quaked, especially my hands, not because of the weather, but due to the violent heart beats.
As I pulled out my cell phone, it fell on the rug. I took a deep breath and picked it. Then I dialed 917 – and stopped. It came back to my mind that I had called Mila, Grace’s best friend, a dozen times that night. I literally made her lose sleep like me. “I’m so sorry, El. Nothing, still,” she would say each time. I decided to give her a break; after all, she would call me if something came up. But I just needed someone to talk to – someone to help me disarm my mind. What would I do if it opened scary files of the ordeal? What would I do if it brought to the table the tragic death of Leon, our firstborn son? What would I do if it started comparing both incidents and spotted similarities? I swallowed a hefty dose of saliva, staring blankly at the fireplace.
I regretted that I chatted with Kim about cakes. If we had continued watching the boring movie and ignored our silly craving for a black forest then Grace would be at home – safe and sound. I wasn’t supposed to even turn to the cakes channel.
I imagined life without Grace, and I was petrified out of my wits. Deep in my heart, I knew I was one of the few lucky men on earth. Grace was a special woman in every sense of the word. She was a rare treasure. At times, she would apologize even when I was the one at fault. The argument would end between us but start in my heart until I say, “I’m sorry babe” – of course, after swallowing a whale of a pride.
Above all, I loved her, and she loved me. Our love was tested by fire and was found more robust than gold when the doctor told her plainly that I would never regain my sanity. She didn’t divorce me on medical grounds as many expected and advised; she held on to me. How do you hold on to someone who drools infinitely, screams and runs from invisible intruders all night and day? Thousands of women fail to hold on to their sane men. Grace held on to a lunatic!
Even when the doctor pronounced me dead, she never lost hope. She hung in there. How do you hold on to your marriage when your husband is dead?
When I came back to life, I feared she would be killed by joy. She even jumped on the bed, kissing me unceasingly – not minding the smell and filth that comes with a lengthy ailment and death.
I hurried to the window again. Nobody. A sour feeling passed through me. I felt I wasn’t doing enough. I ought to be running helter-skelter all over New York City, searching every street, corner, and building.
I paced up and down in the living room, trying to pin one thing I could do to find my sweetheart. But nothing came to mind except the scary stuff. The stuff I didn’t want to go to. Definitely, I couldn’t lose two lovely souls in less than two years. No. I had to do something to find Grace. Alive. Finding her would also console me for the loss I suffered after tragically losing Leon. Yes, the pain in my heart was as fresh as the snow outside, but I promised myself that if I could find my wife safe and sound then I would stop lamenting for my boy.
However, both incidents were similar in disturbing proportions, but I believed she would be back. After all, what choice did I have other than believing and hoping – believing and hoping – believing and hoping?
The squeaky telephone in the dining room broke the silence. I almost jumped out of my skin. I charged to it like a crazy man and grabbed the cold receiver. It almost dropped on the floor, but I caught it in the air. “Hello. Hello… Hello.” Then I heard the flat sound suggesting that the call had been terminated. My lungs suspended breathing for a moment and my stomach burned. I bit my bottom lip. I almost bawled again. Tears filled my eyes. I collapsed onto the chair next to me.
I jerked to my feet and sat down. But I rose again when it clicked in my head that in Leon’s case, I also received a mysterious call where the caller didn’t say a thing. I shook my head whilst fear multiplied like a virus in my heart.
Children sang and giggled outside – full of life when I was short of it in the dining room. Neighbors called to one another like it was a normal day. I went to the window. No Grace. No Civic. Nothing, except the children with their moms, building a huge snowman. I wished to get out, crush their snowman and command them to stop – stop being happy and mourn with me. They were busy making noise arguing that the snowman was a snowman or snowwoman. The little boys wanted it called the snowman and the little girls wanted it called the snowwoman – but they were grossly irritating me. The pain in my heart required deafening silence or constructive voices – voices that talked about Grace – how she could be found as soon as now, not stupid snowman debates.
Somebody knocked heavily on the front door.
I dashed to the living room, hopeful again. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I opened.
I literally had to walk out before permitting the disappointment to join the pain and confusion tormenting me. Indeed, there was no one in the snowy veranda. My heart shrunk and tears pushed inside my eyes. I sagged against the frosty wall and window to remain on my feet. Dreadful hopelessness passed through my heart.
Even the snow in the yard was intact – no footsteps from the gate to the veranda. Confusion dominated me. I shook my head and bit my lip. I wished I could bite it off. I was scared. I was scared of myself – of my mind. How could it register a knock that never was? My ears sent no impulse of a knock but my mind recorded it. How? No one even walked to my door but I heard a knock – a loud one. If it was not on my door, was it in my head?
I grossly doubted. I doubted everything. I doubted all the activity in my head. Even activity in my heart. What if I never had a wife? There never was a Grace Turner. There never was a fine woman with green eyes, long brown hair, a round face with dimpled cheeks and a figure like that of a mosquito. What if my mind created this perfect woman and my heart decided to join in the corruption and loved this nonexistent soul.
I tapped my head with my right hand thrice. The fear in me was mounting because it meant even my kids were imaginary if my wife was imaginary. How could I be in my forties and have no real children of my own?
Karen and Jane waved at me from the public pavement. They were putting some finishing touches and dressing the snowman with their noisy kids. I was staring at them, but I couldn’t see them. I didn’t even realize they were waving at me. That’s why I waved back when they had already stopped – disappointed. “I’m sorry. I’m disturbed.”
They glanced at each other. I couldn’t tell what that was for. Probably, I looked weird since I had neither slept nor eaten since the previous day – at lunch.
I approached them even though it was my sincere desire to be alone at all costs. No one could be confident to meet people if his mind is not to be trusted. Unfortunately, I had to update them about Grace’s disappearance since they were good neighbors to us. Surely, they would be more than willing to help search for her. That’s if Grace wasn’t an imaginary wife.
“He is beautiful,” I said, looking at the snowman.
Jane took two steps behind still glaring at me and fumbling for her kids’ heads behind her.
“What?” Karen said, avoiding eye contact. “Oh you mean the snowman. Yes, he’s a beauty.”
I frowned, failing to realize the reason behind the tension. Both of them were good friends of Grace and me. But they acted like I was a boogeyman. “Yes, he is beautiful. I like the hat.”
Jane fixed her bulging eyes on my stomach. “Elijah. Is everything okay? Where is Grace?”
It took me time to grasp what she said. My mind started by processing the way she said my name, “Elijah” – not “El.” It felt very formal and uncomfortable. They always called me El, like Grace. But I was consoled; she did confirm Grace’s existence.
With my eyes blinking rapidly, I looked at my stomach and realized they were all, including the kids, staring at the big stains of blood on my cream white jacket.
Blood! On my jacket! For the first time, I learned there were blood stains on my jacket. Fear of my mind cut through me again. I quickly rubbed my hand on the stains and my hand turned red like I touched a fresh wound.
Jane grabbed her two younger kids by their hands. She shouted to the two older ones to run home. Karen stared at my eyes for a few seconds and did the same thing as Jane – except, she didn’t run. She strolled to her house.
I was confused but I managed to say, “Um…Where is Grace? Grace is missing. She …” But I was talking to myself.
Jane turned and gave me an ugly eye before disappearing into her house, which was adjacent to Karen’s – house 44. Karen’s, house 43, was closer to mine, but she went in last. Her kids were terrified by Jane’s behavior and ran into the house, but she didn’t. They turned and shouted, “Mom, run!” She didn’t. She walked like a couple madly in love in the park on a summer afternoon.
I sighed and rubbed my chin. I didn’t know what to do. I only wanted to ask the ladies if they had seen anyone knock at my door. That’s all. But they were scared away by the blood. I had no idea where it came from. I was also surprised at them. Unfortunately.
The understanding part of me didn’t blame them though: I came with big, fresh blood spatters on my jacket, and when they asked about Grace, I said she was missing.
But I wished…I knew I had not killed her as they thought. They had to believe me and stop being ridiculous. Nothing had changed – I was still the simple Elijah they knew – Grace was genuinely missing.
I overheated. The last thing I expected from Karen and Jane was a cold shoulder when I told them their neighbor and friend was missing. I expected them to be shocked and help mobilize people to form search parties. They ought to support me whilst I did everything to find her. But they took me for a stupid murderer and abandoned me. They rubbed pepper on a bare wound. More especially Karen. She had to take a stand on her own and trust me – forget the queen of overreacting. She knew me way more than Jane, after all. At some point, she even pushed to know me more than Grace herself.
I looked at their bluish white snowman smiling at me – laughing actually. I quickly drew close and kicked it in the stomach. It crumbled instantly. The black hat fell on the road. Suddenly, I realized I had messed up. When I turned and stared at Karen’s house, I noticed she was staring at me through her living room window. Even Jane stared at me. I didn’t see her but felt her angry eyes penetrating my skin – probably from the bedroom upstairs.
Obviously, I had to apologize. I stared at the black hat fast turning white on the road. I walked to Karen’s house first. She disappeared from the window. I knocked at the door, but she didn’t respond. “Karen, I’m sorry about the snowman; it wasn’t intentional.”
At that point, I hated myself. Here I was apologizing for crushing a useless snowman, instead of running all over New York looking for my love. I felt clumsy.
Karen shouted, probably from the dining room, “Elijah, please leave or I will call the police.”
I laughed, not believing my ears. Karen wanted to call the police on me! The same Karen I helped – protected a million times when her violent ex-husband would almost kill her with kicks, punches, bottles…and a pistol. Honestly, I expected a lot from Karen, probably Jane could act the way she did – she wasn’t that close to Grace and me, but Karen was like a younger sister to me. “Karen, why are you treating me like this? Please talk to me at least.”
“I will call the police. Please leave, don’t involve me in whatever you have done,” Karen said.
“Mommy, who are you talking to?” Dave, the youngest of Karen’s kids, asked.
“Karen,” I shouted, “Okay, I will leave now, but please…”
A blue Audi A5 stopped in front of Jane’s house with a squeak of tires. It was her beefy husband. He gave me a scary stare, shaking his head before running into their house.
“Karen,” I said. “Let me ask one question and then I will leave.”
She didn’t say anything.
“Whilst building the snowman did you see anyone climb to my veranda and knock on my door?”
“Elijah, please leave. Now you want to recruit me to be your witness and lie to the jury. You know very well you were the first person to walk on the snow in your yard. Before you came out, it was smooth and untouched. Elijah, please leave.”
A few blocks away, I heard a police car siren rushing towards our street. I ran to my house. I dropped on the couch, still clumsy and bleeding inside. I was like Jesus on the night He was betrayed by His friend, Judas Iscariot.
Out of all people! Karen! Yes, I was mature enough to understand that people shouldn’t be trusted, but I never classified Karen as people. To Grace and me, she was someone – a little sister, perhaps, not people. All her problems were ours. And we expected all our problems to be hers. Unfortunately, the very first time I desperately needed her help, she shut me out and threatened me with police and the jury. I was sour. Very much so. It was like I had been run over by a Boeing 747.
Losing Grace was horrible enough. But Karen took things to another level, and I couldn’t comprehend why.
The police siren drew closer. My body temperature rose even though I knew I was innocent. I didn’t kill Grace; I wanted my lovely wife alive, obviously. It’s just that I also feared the blood thing. Since I had no cuts, I also failed to understand where it came from. I hastened to the bathroom to clean up my jacket. The police car pulled over outside and turned the siren off.
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