It was a cold Tuesday morning. It was the first proper downpour of rain we’ve had in a long time. The ground was wet, my shoes squelching through the grass. It was earlier than I’m used to leaving the house and I couldn’t see much further than my own hands outstretched in front of me due to the fog; my eyes drooped a little, I felt as if I needed my coffee through an IV drip.
I got in my car, cranking the heat up the highest it would go, sitting my fingertips right in front of the vent and allowing it to flow through my veins. It reminded me of my first snow in New York City; only three years ago, on our honeymoon. It was my first snow ever, and I’d gotten so excited, I numbed every exposed piece of my body by playing for too long. I remember making abysmal snowmen, throwing snowballs and revelling in the happiness. We had gotten back into our rental car, and James had cranked the heating for me to find feeling again. I had never been so immersed in feelings before; I had never been so in love.
The roads were slightly wet, mixed with the early morning fog; I wished I didn’t have to be on the road so early. The last thing I remember is looking down at my phone to change the song.
I woke with a dull thud in my head and a throat so dry it was almost itchy. I was awake long before I could open my eyes, and I could hear the whirr of machines, quiet chatter and the pitter-patter of feet. I could tell the movements and sounds were taking longer to get to my mind than they were happening, and by the time I could make sense of what they were, I had new ones to decipher. My eyelids were weighed down, as if by an invisible weight. Any time I thought I was close to opening them, my head would scream and fight and I’d give up. I’d relax, and fall back into a slumber.
By the time I could open my eyes, I was blinded by white walls and bright lights. The whirr of machines sounded louder paired with the loud lights, the dull thud in my head turning into a soft ache. I look to my right, and see my mum staring at me. Tears streak her face, her eyes puffy and exhausted. I remember that look; she obviously hasn’t slept in days – she was the same when dad passed away. They explain that I was in an accident on the road the other morning, though I have no recollection of it. This is normal, they assure me. Perfectly normal you cannot remember the trauma. I do my best to smile at them, cringing at their excessive use of the word “normal.”
As soon as the doctors leave, I turn to my mum as she holds my left hand, squeezing a little too hard on my wedding band.
A mixture of heartbreak and confusion glazes over my mother’s eyes, and I’m scared for the worst; was he in the car with me?
“Where’s James?” I ask, with more panic.
She runs back to grab the doctor and I watch as a hushed, worried conversation takes place. Cracks in my heart begin to appear; did I survive a car crash that my husband died in?
Again, they tell me it was all normal. As if anything was normal.
James died two years ago, on our wedding anniversary. It’s normal that you cannot remember. Normal normal fucking normal.
“This is not fucking NORMAL,” is all I wanted to scream.
At that moment, a small girl walks up holding my sister’s hand. I can tell my mother wants to hurry them away, new sensations playing in my head; why the fuck can’t I remember? I watch with confusion, wondering if in this “completely normal” time that has been blacked out in my mind, she had another child.
But I notice. The blonde, curly hair; the dimple when she smiles, the eyes that are utterly James. I look to my mother for confirmation, and she turns to this small girl.
“Look, Lizzie, Mummy’s awake,” she whispers.