–A story of hope and facing life and navigating around death….
The window wept as Nia watched through the glass. The low hum of the people surrounding the corridor, outside her room, echoed like a booming missile in the inside. With an empty cup in her hand, she watched. These days that was all she could do and all she had. Watching.
Watching as summer turned to winter. Winter to rainy or autumn or spring. She watched with an endless wish to fly out of the windows and touch the endless seasons and the changes.
Sometimes, she did want to reach out. To be a part of the world that was moving on without her.
She longed for it. Yearned. To touch the new burst of the buds during the spring. To walk along the crunching leaves during the autumn. To get a suntan during the summer. To catch the dancing snow at the tip of her tongue during the winter. But watching… That was all she would do. She could do. All she was forced to do.
One day, when she was immensely tired of watching, she stood in front of the windows and considered jumping down from the third floor. But she knew it was a stupid idea, because she was no superman to fly. So she just sat there and watched, like every other time.
The other day, she had a stupid conversation with the windows.
‘What will happen to me if you’re not here?’ She asked.
The windows looked back, weeping, ‘You’ll be stagnant. A pressed biological preserve, nowhere to go. Nothing to see.’ The window had said. Or so she imagined it, saying exactly that.
‘You know, I am grateful to have you. But I want a new life. A windowless life, where I see things with my own eyes, not through distant glasses.’
The window had smiled, with the tears the cloud had shed just before, ‘We all do. If I can walk around, I’d do too.’
Someone rapped at her door. It pulled her out of her memories. Stupid, stupid memories, but they were the only things that made her life.
The knock came again. The sound was so fragile, as if she’d break apart if the sound became a little louder. She considered sighing, but she knew it was a fruitless effort and waited for the news that would bombard her with the new arrival. Every time someone came in, they brought a bucket full of bad news – news about her end. Old news for her, yet she hated to see the wretched pity etched in their eyes when they conveyed the news.
“Hi honey.” Her mother stood next to the bed and smiled. These days, her mother wore that incessant smile more often. But Nia could still see the glittering tears at the corner of her eyelashes. Sometimes she’d wipe it and blame it on dust. As if Nia didn’t know that she was the reason for her mother’s every tear. It hurt her so, but she couldn’t do anything about that – except may be, stop existing.
“What’s this time, mom?” Nia’s voice never held bitterness. It was always emotionless, that it sometimes scared her mother.
“What are you talking about?” Her mother turned to look at the window. Her shoulders shook with abandon. Crying. She was crying again. Nia stood up with great effort.
Her mother shook her head, as more tears touched Nia’s palm.
“When, mom?” Nia could already hear the soulless music of death…
“I have two wishes.” Nia smiled. The blue eyes glittered behind the dark purple bruises under her eyes. The impact of cancer. Which was slowly breaking her body down, but no, it could never break her courage, however it tried.
“Go, sit down.” Her mother warned.
“Don’t you want to hear my wishes?” Nia’s eyes twinkled. The year old maturity the disease had given her faded behind her real age at that moment.
“Sure, honey. What’s it?”
“I want you to give up.” Her mother looked startled. Frightened and pained. The tears rushed down, and this time it was too late for her to turn back.
“This isn’t going away, mom. It is way past saving. You should learn to do that. Give up.”
“That’s no way to talk, young lady.”
“Mom, whatever you believe, I am going to die. My bone marrow has become too infested to be any help to me. My blood, transfusion after transfusion, still find a way to be cancerous. I am not dejected, mom. It is not losing hope, it is called facing life. I am facing my life, head on.
“I want you to stop spending so much on me. Mother, I love Shells and Shane. I love Lisa. I want them to be happy. Mom, I am not your only child.” There was a loud hiccup. And a loud sob. Her mother nodded vigorously.
“I love them too, but you need me more.”
“Why mom? Because I am dying? Because I am eventually going to stop being a part of your life? Oh please, they do want you as well. Think about Lisa’s college education. Think about Shells and Shane when they grow up. They need money, mom. To build their lives. And you’re wasting it all on a lost cause.”
“Oh, shut up.” The voice cracked along the way.
“Mom, look at me and tell me? Do I look okay to you? Do I look like I am going to recover?”
Nia knew what her mom would see. Her blue eyes adorned with purple bruises, above and below. Thin, sunken cheeks, too small to hold the big eyes. Whitish skin. Chapped, pale lips. And to add beauty, a scalp empty of hair. Cancer merits, she called it. No one would laugh, though. Nia didn’t care. She knew this was supposed to be her life and she knew that the looming hands of death were closing in on her. She just knew.
I am going to die. My bone marrow has become too infested to be any help to me. My blood, transfusion after transfusion, still find a way to be cancerous. I am not dejected, mom. It is not losing hope, it is called facing life. I am facing my life, head on.
“Ssh. Don’t do this to me.” Her mom shuddered.
“You don’t do this to me, mom. I’m dying. I want my wishes. I want it now, before it is too late.” Her 14 years old sulkiness resonated in her voice at that moment.
“Nia, honey, take rest.”
“Ignoring me is not going to solve this, mommy.” Nia looked out through the windows. The lone bird perched on the window sill looked back at her. Mocking. You’re forever trapped. She heard it loud and clear.
Thousands of tubes ran in her body. All her vitals were connected to machines. She was half human, half machine. Machines made her. Her heart was thudding a slow, failing rhythm and it was doomed to fail.
Cancer is eating me. Savoring every nibble of my life. Just like I savored every bite of the bread dipped with Nutella. Just like the bread, my body is going to end. Finished.
She thought with a wry smile.
“I want to walk outside mom. I want to see the world, close. I want to drench in the rain. I don’t want to watch the weeping windows till I die.”
“I haven’t lived enough to stay behind the doors. Stay trapped. I want to walk. To touch. Feel. I want to let go of myself, mom. Surrender and enjoy the pleasing touch of the death. Death will one day come to gather what is his, but I want to live before it. I don’t want to wait eternally behind a closed door and a window. I don’t want that kind of life”
It had been a long time since she talked so loud. So fast. And it took half her energy out of her. Her body throbbed with pain. Sharp pin prickles poked at her skin. She lay down and closed her eyes with a tired sigh.
“When you’re little, you loved the windows.” Her mom said. A kind of dejection hung in her voice. “Yes. Oh, yes. I won’t deny your wish.” Her mom whispered again, then said a little louder, “Yes, you will get it.”
Yes. Nia sighed and pulled her lips a little. She felt beaten, broken, but she smiled.
Death will one day come to gather what is his, but I want to live before it. I don’t want to wait eternally behind a closed door…
Next day, she was unhooked from all the beeping, weeping creatures. She felt human for the first time since she had diagnosed with the disease that was going to be her demise. She felt human. Whole. No beeping music of endless machines, only her ragged sigh. No murmurs, only the slow, strained beating of her heart. No IVs prickling her skin, only the pain in her body cells.
Human. She felt human and like herself.
Her dad was talking with a doctor in whispers. Like she didn’t know. She smiled as she moved towards the windows. Closed her eyes and looked through it. Green lawns misted with dew drops. Flowers and trees, opened, welcoming. Here I come!
Someone touched her back. Lisa, her older sister. Her best friend.
“Are you ready, champ? We have lots to do.” Lisa had a peppy smile, but Nia could see the sadness beneath. Nia ignored it.
“Yes, I am.” They walked out together. Nia left her slippers aside as she stood in the green grass and looked up. She saw the weeping windows, from every single room. She saw them looking down at her, and for the first time, it felt like they were shedding happy tears. For her.
“I am going to see the world without the windows.” Nia whispered to herself as she took the first step towards a small flower dancing violently in the storm. Nia watched as the flower was swept away by the wind and smiled.
Death’s going to come. To everyone, one day. But living the life’s more important than fearing for death.
Navigating around the powerful hands of death, that was what she wanted to do, that was what she was doing now. Nia smiled again as she caught another flower with her fingers, looked up at the windows and whispered…
‘Good bye.’ She let the flower go.