I met A. twenty years ago. We posted pictures of us together, in high school, the other day on Facebook. And though our hair is shorter now, it is unmistakably us. We haven’t changed, everyone tells us. We look exactly the same.
My eyes are still brown, deep-set like my grandmother’s, and I still have her upper lip, and chin. I never grew more than the five feet I reached in high school.
I still prefer to dress in solid colors. Long pants almost year-round, since I still don’t like to shave my legs. I wear sensible shoes, brown or black. I’ve worn the same coat through more than a dozen winters now.
So I wouldn’t blame anyone for thinking, from afar, that I am the same girl.
But come closer.
I’ll let you in.
Where synapses have been permanently pruned, new neural pathways grown stronger. My worldview literally rearranged. The hemispherical balance shifted. Fear pulses deep in my brain, sometimes a whisper, sometimes deafening.
Where a deep emptiness extends through my solar plexus, a place God used to dwell. I try and fill it with Light, the kindness of strangers, the love of friends and family—to find the kingdom of God here on earth—but the Light keeps draining away.
Where my heart has swollen, cracked, mended. It holds a hollow-bellied woman, still weeping and moaning, but without any sound. I love the living with a fierce desperation.
We talked of trains, A. and I, in those first weeks after our son died. How it felt like someone had flipped the railway switch, and we’d gone off onto a different track, in the wrong direction. We hurtled away from our former selves, our assumptions of who we were supposed to be.
I’ve realized I am still half-waiting for the train to turn around. Hoping that someday I will see familiar landscape, and then perhaps a station to transfer back to the right track.
I have been waiting to return to the person I was before my baby died.
But there is no going back.
I am not going back.
What have you been waiting for?