I wandered down Brunswick Street past hungry eyes feeding out of café shop fronts. That’s when I saw him sitting on the kerbside. There were suddenly no static utterances. We were driving back from Mum’s house during that horrendous spring storm.
The car lost control quicker than he could handle. The wheels screeched like a mother bird watching her eggs swallowed by a hungry snake. Next came the crunch of our roof against asphalt.
The third flip was the loudest.
Outside frightened spectators cried into their mobile phones for help but we were inherently aware our feel would never touch the ground again, until this moment when he was standing before me. For the first time the voices lulled, and the music came back.
He was young again, but the scar on his left ankle from our tenth wedding anniversary is just as purple as it ever was. He brings me to Fitzroy Gardens where we were married, we walk past our old house on Separation Street in Northcote.
There’s a lot he isn’t saying. I don’t think I want to know. I want to protect him, the way I couldn’t that day in the storm. When he breaks the silence with, ‘I’m sorry,’ I realize that I have no heart left.
He tells me that he woke up as a seventeen year old boy desperately trying to find me. He swears that he looked everywhere and ended up in the hospital. That’s where he remembered.
Neither of us survived the accident.
Daily sedations resulted in hallucinations where he convinced himself a friendly nurse was me. The liking he took to her resulted in a quick release. The wedding shortly followed. ‘But within what felt like over night,’ he says. ‘I realized how wrong it was. And then I saw you, on Brunswick Street.’
The insomnia set back in quickly and worsened as the months went by. He said it was an unfortunate disorder he’s been dealing with since the institution. He would sleep tow or three disrupted hours mumbling ‘I’m sorry’ half a dozen times.
I lay awake counting.
When he brings sleeping pills home from the Chemist, I don’t think anything of it. When he tells me he loves me more than any life can ever contain, I promise I’ll never leave him again.
The following morning I find him on the kitchen floor. I scream and pace frantically. I’m not going outside where the voices are. I stumble over the sad discovery of an empty pill bottle that I stomp until my foot is blue.
I capture a reflection of someone I don’t recognize. My suicidal reality is face down on the bitterly cold tiles. I smash the mirror and wait for my hand to bleed.
While cotton sheets still offer his scent, smoke and nag champa, snugly wrapped like a winter scarf. I dangle my sore foot off the smooth wooden stool and feel air between my spread toes.
The house is silent.
I awaken to him, waiting beside the water like I remember. The perfect sky still swirls familiar shades of magenta and azure. And we are so safe. I’m wearing the locket he have me for my birthday. He picks a few blades of squishy riverbank grass and clasps them inside.
A distant sound turns my head; he doesn’t take his eyes off of me. There are sires and screaming, I hear a piano. When I turn back to him a painful darkness reminds that my eyes are closed.
My blurry vision comes clear and I hear a woman telling someone about the horrendous scream she heard, so loud it frightened her out of bed three dorrs down. I watch Jacob get wheeled away on a stretcher and reach for the locket around my neck.
A voice confirms that I am awake.