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I Walk in Darkness

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I’ve walked in darkness my whole life. Each day I wake up and wonder if today is the day I will slip away into the darkness – then resolve, like an alcoholic, that I will hold out for just one more day.

Death is my addiction, and I work to hold it off every day.

People talk casually about being depressed. Therapists correct that and say rather that it is living with depression. Churchill, who struggled with depression most of his life, described it as a Black Dog that followed him.

Whatever. I think of it as walking in darkness. I see it all around me, even as I smile, nod, and talk to other people. It is like a poisonous fog that pervades everything in my life.

Yet, once – once! – the fog lifted, for the most glorious few years of my life.

Her name was Elizabeth. Lizzie.

And while I don’t know what she saw in this desolate, lonely man, I was incredibly grateful that she seemed drawn to me.

It meant that I could live a life. My life. It was as if I had been trudging through a dark, hopeless, stifling forest, with no hope nor hint of light, then rounded a bend, and suddenly saw daylight and air and life! That was how it felt when I met her, when we spent time together, when…finally, astonishingly…she asked me to marry her because she knew I was too afraid to ask her.

And to my surprise, we were happy. When I woke up in the morning, I could turn and look at her, and whether she was already awake, or still asleep, my body relaxed, and the darkness drew away.

There were times when she wasn’t there. I had to travel for my work, and waking up in a strange room in a strange city, and turning to find no Lizzie there, my heart would always pound in my chest, seized by panic. I would call her, just to say good morning.

But she knew. She knew why I was calling. I could hear the smile in her voice, and the love, and that was enough to let me get through the day.

When her widowed mother died, and she had to go back to England to clear out the family home, she was gone for three months. Three months!

We spoke each day, sometimes for an hour or more. Yet, I knew she was being patient with me because she had her hands full and more, clearing out almost fifty years of accumulated junk as her mother had been more than a bit of a hoarder.

I felt the darkness begin to creep back again, a little more each day. Our phone calls helped, they kept me sane. But her prolonged absence was eating away at my confidence, a steady acid drip, drip, dripping onto my sense of self.

So, when she returned, joyous and smiling, we went away. I took a week’s vacation, and we spent it building sand castles on a warm beach, reading books, drinking silly drinks with little umbrellas, and holding hands as we walked the beach.

Especially holding hands.

We had held hands on our first date – a lunch at Old Angelo’s. It had somehow seemed more romantic to hold hands as we walked back to work together than any other intimate gesture. And we continued to hold hands our entire lives together.

One thing that I never told anyone because I knew they would smile indulgently, or – worse – laugh, was that we held hands when we went to bed. Lying side by side, we would hold hands in the darkness, loving and loved.

That’s ended now. She died in a foolish, awful traffic collision. She was there in the morning – but never made it to work. I won’t talk about it. I can’t. And I have to continually restrain myself from going after the other driver and killing her. The road was icy, and she hadn’t paid enough attention, and…

It doesn’t matter. Lizzie is gone, and once again I walk in darkness.

This morning, my addiction seems particularly compelling. I want the darkness to end, even if it means more darkness on the other side. I cannot…cannot…I just can’t…

I throw on a coat and go out the door, walking. No destination – I just have to get out, head down, hands in pockets.

Oh, Lizzie!

 ~~~~~

“He stepped right out in front of me! I had no chance, no chance to avoid him. He didn’t even look!” The driver was almost hysterical.

The other bystanders agreed, and so the police officer decided it would be written up that way. The driver of the car would be held blameless. It was an accident, pure and simple, caused by the pedestrian’s own carelessness.

But there was one thing she didn’t understand. Why did the dead man seem to be smiling?

 ~~~~~

I stepped out of the forest, into the light – and there she was, waiting for me, a smile on her face, hand outstretched…

Lizzie.

Published 
JamesPBear

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