Thursday, September 15th, 2016 – 2:35 A.M.
Panicked and crying, my father frantically dug through the carnage of the train wreck. He shoved his hands through the mud and the blood and the glass and the steel.
We had both seen these horrors so many times. They’re eternal. They will and must never end. My father and I could never look away from the hours upon hours of blue and white footage. We’ll forever mourn the nameless corpses and the cruelty and the holocaust.
He pushed himself past this fresh hell, past every acceptable reason, and he continued searching for just one survivor among the heaps of strewn bodies, saved from a barely worse fate in the chambers.
“Please! Oh God! Please! Help me save them!”
My friend Courtney ran over, lovingly wrapped his arm around “dad” and pulled him in close. He assured him it would be alright.
“Come on, pops. There’s nothing we can do now.”
My Jamaican brother had just years before watched his own beautiful wife pass away from lupus, so many thousands of miles from their home and their little boy. Indignity upon indignity upon indignity… and yet one more upon another.
Just five years ago, my father’s REM sleep behavior disorder was quickly spiraling, along with his cognitive changes and dementia.
Courtney carefully guided dad away from the trauma and nonexistent cries forever rising from the twisted metal of the Long Island train wreck. There were no survivors.
There never are any, in the end.
For the billionth time, the sun started to peek over the perfect sliver dividing heaven and earth. The blades of orange light lovingly stabbed into the blue morning. They slipped silently around the bony fingers of the winter branches and washed away the piles of vanishing bodies.
My father had been crying and digging at the ground for some time. He had been wearing nothing but a shirt and wandering barefoot and blind through the patches of snow in his own front yard.
He desperately needed to save just one soul.
Barely more than twenty years ago, Amy and I both failed to hold back the loud sobs when we saw our tiny newborn son shivering under the blue lights of the portable machine plugged into our bedroom. His impossibly small and jaundiced frame shook and he screamed for someone to save him.
Please. Please, just touch me. Someone please just pick me up.
“Don’t pick him up. He must go through this or he will never get better.”
He slept. And we cried. And he healed.
When we were newlyweds, Amy had limited exposure to my night terrors, as the devils wisely quieted themselves more and more over the years. She has mostly only heard distant tales of these supposed internal demons. The monsters quickly pulled away from the safety of our ten thousand nights together.
Just a little girl herself, she never saw the fullness of the fevers or heard the cries of the tiny, terrified boy. He is now grown and invincible by her side. She didn’t witness his hallucinations, the years of wandering and sleepwalking or his repeated visits to the emergency room for his dangerously high fevers. She never heard of the cold baths and the doctors repeatedly warning my parents of permanent brain damage.
Almost fifty years ago now, I can still see my own mother’s tears as she gritted her teeth and submerged me in yet another icy tub. At least four times a year from my ages four through seven. It was a desperate attempt to bring down yet another of my countless 104 degree fevers. The torture became routine. I screamed helplessly at the cutting cold and the pretend people. I begged for release from the mute ghosts that stood patiently and that my parents for so many years had refused to acknowledge.
On the first night of our honeymoon, I shot into a seated position and screamed out at the fucking night. I wrestled with the blackest shadow in my heart, the one that can never die and remains ever vigilant and patient for their victim. It was not the last time that Amy heard me cry out in terror. But it was the only time she heard me speak in full sentences, while I was not yet awake.
Until a month ago.
On August 13th, I grabbed Amy’s arm and shook her once again. I was fully asleep and sitting up in bed. I asked her for the third night in a row if she was alright. I just needed to know that she would be safe.
“Are you going to be okay?”
Each morning she would ask if I remembered.
Despite every experiment and adding or removing of every chemical that the best minds can script, my cognitive changes have been unrelenting for three months now. The last week has been especially brutal, as I’ve begun to lose long term memories. My continued struggle with speaking simple sentences or using my hands is dramatically worsening. Sometimes I can type. Just as often, I am simply unable as my fists refuse to open.
I’m finally forgetting the faces. I’m not knowing the names. I can’t remember. But I can’t forget. I’ll get better. You just watch.
On the third day, I shook Amy awake one last time. I was concerned about a dear friend of mine. I needed to save her, but I am still helpless.
I just wish I could find some rest.
Just a month ago, I sat up in bed and looked straight through everything that ever mattered to me. I defiantly stared down the eternally attendant monsters hiding in the corners and the darkness. I sifted through the hidden wreckage of my never ending trauma and I begged my wife to help me.
In my sleep, I told her my friend’s name.
“I need you to take care of her when I am gone. I won’t be here much longer.”
I just need to save one soul.