It’s cooler here, especially inside. I have been so long without air conditioning, or even proper windows, that I had ceased to know what artificial air felt like. I am not quite sure if I find it comfortable anymore. The constant, measured, cold bowing on my skin is so different from that of the short, gusty breezes that precede the rains that I love so much. Or loved, I should say now.
Will I even return to them?
Ah, but I don’t know why I have to go back to the place I escaped a lifetime ago, not now, of all times. The draw of my old life has never been so strong. It was bad for me, after all. For us. We are so much better off here, for us and for everyone. We need to do good for the world. Or we did.
God knows what happens now, but I know that I do not. I’m trapped in a whirlwind of confusion and uncertainty. It’s different, but little better than the fog of listless disregard for myself and my future that I have lived in since the day we changed our lives. Us. Together. God only knows what happens to Lizzie now. I don’t know what I would do without her.
We have to go now, for her sake. We had to leave these people we cared for, these children we taught, these mothers and fathers we worked beside for two years. A weight tugs on my heart now as I think of it, a strange sensation after such extended numbness. I can feel. I left everything to feel nothing. I hated myself, hated my selfishness, hated the complications, all of the conflicting feelings. I did the final selfless thing I could think of to reach an inner peace.
She was a tumult of emotion, lost in violent feelings, broken promises, a crushed heart. She hated herself, hated her selfishness, hated the complications, all of her conflicting feelings. She planned her mental breakdown with me, the easy way out, one more step to our climax of selfish self-loathing before our final, selfless act. We left everything. Everything. Together, we devoted ourselves to the care of others, people who wanted life, needed it. We took the fragments of ourselves and gave them away. Together, we had reached listlessness at last.
They say seventeen, eighteen – just children. They know nothing. We are nineteen, twenty – just children? They know nothing.
The people are nice here, but distant. They are not my people, not the unquestioning, accepting people I now love. The woman in the starched skirt, stiff as a smooth white barrel around her thick legs, clicks down the hall in her unseemly heels every so often. She brings me water, speaks to me in a low voice, as if she is addressing someone who perhaps might anger quickly and strike out. Why would she think so? I must have a mirror, to see myself again.
A man brings me a laptop computer at my request, eyes me dubiously as I use it, disbelieving. Two years may have been a lifetime to me, but my fingers still know, still remember. Internet. Passwords. Facebook. Yes, Facebook. I remember now. I should tell someone I am returning, I think. I don’t belong there, after all, and someone should be notified, I feel. But who?
Mercer. How strange that his name suddenly seems to fill my head. I shall tell him, anyway, for I am too exhausted to do anything else. It’s surprising, but my fingers still know how to type; they fall into the keys quite easily, if somewhat stiffened at first. I can spell, still, in English. Also surprising to my mind, but not to my fingers. What reliable things, my fingers…
The man takes the computer away when I am finished, and I lean back to sleep in my chair as I wait to leave, to move on to the next step along my journey back. Back to the home that is not my home any longer. The home I forsook.
A lifetime ago, I broke down. A lifetime ago, my best friend’s heart was broken. A lifetime ago, we ran away. For two years – a lifetime – we held ourselves together, held each other up. We built new lives for others, even as shattered ghosts of who we once were. In return, they gave us all the strength we needed, for we had none left for ourselves. And now Lizzie’s life hangs in a delicate balance, and it is time for us, a lifetime later, to return to where we once belonged, where we left off those two longest years ago.
I know what it is to be broken, but now it is time for building up.