After my previous post “I look to you”, I realised that I wasn’t as happy as I thought I was. I was scared that I’d didn’t even know what made me happy and that maybe somewhere deep down my mind was fiercely trying to retaliate on my rational and heart protecting feelings.
On Monday last week I let it all out, all those feelings. It was like I allowed one half of my mind to shut down and the other half out to play. This was all at a great risk of course. Then again, how much more hurt could I feel without any of the great stuff? I was just giving up the great stuff for pain so I never really won.
Anyway, that perfume…yeah I ordered it and I wear it most days now. I also reached out to the one person who made me feel like I was really living the reckless life I wanted to live at this age. I reached out and there they were, with arms like spindle fibres ready to reconnect to me as if we were destined DNA. I’m not sure I could class it as a relief because it felt more like coming home. Their smell, their voice, the look in their eyes was all something I had missed in my fibres and there they were, ready for me, accepting me back.
I did a lot of rubbish things too. I hurt them, I deserted them when things got hard and complicated. I was the one with all of these uncontrollable feelings and it was never really their fault for changing things because I had no right over them. They lied, they hid things too and they were deceitful. It’s been over a year and that connection is still there. I need to be happy and I want to feel peace.
The final hug on my departure told me that we still were meant to be close. The whispers of “I miss you” and “I’m sorry” floating around my ears still, I finally feel a bit of peace.
For a second you were here. For a second that beautiful smell of that perfume wasn’t the brunette sitting opposite me in a beanie hat, it was you, next to me, dressed up on our way into London for a night out.
God that smell, I miss it so much.
I close my eyes and you’re here, you’re surrounding me with every memory we ever shared together. You’re surrounding me with every feeling I ever felt for you and are making me want to run back to you.
I never thought a sense could trigger so much, I never thought it would make me want to see you again but it does.
Time has passed but that feeling, that adoration I felt, that love that I felt, will be eternal. I can’t begin to explain how much I want to see you in this moment, how much I want to hug you and laugh with you…you were my best friend, and my soulmate.
Behind the mask I am just a girl. With the mask on I am heralded a “hero” and “amazing person”, yet I don’t feel like it at all.
I don’t need claps or praise or for everyone to tell me how good a job I am doing, or how “it must be really hard but be strong”.
After months and months of this, after months of working so hard, crying after every shift, being separated from family and friends, I want to be done. I’m not sure I can do this anymore.
My last post was a brief highlight of my life as a nurse in the NHS in London, England. Like many places across the world we are in a fight and we are pushing ourselves to physical and mental limits. I am not aged yet, but I feel a hundred years old. My hair is going greyer by the days, my face is wrinkled and dried up, my energy is barely replenished by sleep and I have pains all over. I am one of the “capable” professionals, but I am not a hero.
We see a patient, we try our best and we move on to the next. Then back to the other, make the rounds again, answer the crash bells, turn the patients, check the ventilators, do the meds, check the tubing, change that drain, transfuse that blood, discuss with doctors, try and call family.
Then have a break.
I love the job, it is an amazing place to be. However, like anything, there is only so far I can go. There is only so much my head can take. I won’t forget to breathe when this is all over, but I don’t know what might happen when I finally do.
As I walked into the room, I barely knew which person was the patient and which was the company. Both women, standing there in front of me, similar ages, similar physical beauty and dress. Then she smiled, and I knew right away who I was to be focusing my energy on for the next 11 hours of the shift. She smiled like she was holding her breath, like she had just been told the terrible news that she had cancer and was completely resilient to the fact that she was here for gruelling therapy.
Like a job interview, she seemed ready, like she was making an impression. At work, we don’t need impressions much, we just come to work, do our best in the job and then go home, and this is the safest way to protect our heart from the inevitability of some people’s journeys. That smile showed me a lot, and instantly I fell for it, because it had a friendliness and uncertainty in it which was beautiful to me.
She seemed so well and she was doing so well I thought. So I let myself get close to her. I let myself wander in on quiet afternoons on the ward just to have conversations about random things, or to see what lovely item was sent in the post to her that day. We spoke about a lot of different things and when I walked into her room my eyes would scan her shelves, table and wall at the pictures of her loved ones watching over her. I would find her sitting in her bed, showered and ready for the day. She would wear these big hoop earrings and do her makeup just to feel a little bit normal among all the illness. She was wonderful.
I would request her to care for just so I could have a breather from the stress other patients provided, she would always relax me and damn, I took that for granted because look at us now. I see her now in my head, standing at the windows with her binoculars looking down on the street, searching for her little dog that her sister had brought for her to see, these fourteen floors up. Fourteen floors closer to heaven.
She knew about me, knew about my life and what I had been up to on my days off. She knew the colour of my eyes and what my smile looked like under the masks we wore. With her Polaroid camera she begged to take a picture of me, just so she would remember me. But it is me that is remembering her, remembering her bright eyes that radiated sunlight, or dry sarcasm that would have me laughing through the door and down the corridor. I admired her resilience. “I’ve got this, I’ll fight this” she would say to me, and I believed it.
She was in remission and all my beliefs came true because she had fought it. She returned for a transplant, success.
It hadn’t even been two months when I saw her name pop up on our admissions list. My stomach turned thinking of why she had returned. The rumour surfaced of her relapse, it was all back and it was worse, there was nothing more they could do.
My heart sank and tore and bled.
She went home. I forgot to say goodbye.
She came back, this time worse and still, I didn’t see her.
News came that she was in intensive care and all I could think was about her, all the time. That woman who spent so much time making others feel better, making me feel like I was the best nurse in the world and like I could do anything, was coming to the end of this life.
It made me feel sick and so incredibly sad for her. I thought about her all the time, wondering if I would make it back to work in time to see her, to tell her what an impression she made on me. To thank her.
Finally I got myself down to the third floor on a shift at work. I was panicking and my stomach was in my mouth. I was scared to see her, scared to know that this was it, the probable last time I would see her face.
Room 4. I was mistaken for another team as I gowned up to go in, putting on a smile to the nearest colleague asking me what my intentions were on the unit, as I was far from home. I was directed in, and up stood her sister, the same beautiful company I could have mistaken her for in the first seconds of meeting. She lay on the bed, machines, lines and bedcovers surrounded her. All I would look at was her face and I will have it in my head for some time yet, I’m sure.
I don’t know what I said to her, I could barely think of words to say that didn’t end up with notions of life and death. I watched her eyes, opening little and often when I leaned in to talk to her or when she would wake herself up accidentally when her bent knees fell sideways and I would hold them lightly so she didn’t have to use up all her energy.
I can’t have spent very long in there. I think I could have stayed all day. She deserved for me to stay by her side but I had to leave to get back to my other patients. They didn’t seem to deserve me at that point, not when I felt so drawn to her. She always cared for me, regardless of being the patient. I didn’t deserve her, she is too good for this world.
I did not return to the ICU that day, nor the next. I hastily await Thursday to know if I will see her one last time, or whether that Tuesday morning will have been my final farewell to a wonderful person. I hope she got to go home, and I hope she is peaceful, whether she is still here right now, or with God.
That day was the last day I saw her. A week later she died, some 6 days after her birthday. To say that my heart hurt would be an understatement, for I will always be grateful for our moments together.
I once heard that you meet your soulmate before the age of 21. I don’t know who wrote that, but something in me smiles in adolescent memory.
We met when we were 17, in the midst of exams and parties and turbulent friendships. He was one of the first guys I fell for in a way that made me really nervous. We hadn’t even met before we first conversed by text (so 21st century I know) knowing that that coming summer, we would be forced into 3 weeks of European travel that would ultimately end in the great friendship we have now. That time was strange and we bonded in series of texts and small gatherings at friends houses, drinking too much and staying up too late talking.
If I’m honest, he annoyed the hell out of me. He was arrogant and self righteous in a geeky sort of way, which was the most uncool arrogance of all. His hair hung like curtains around his face, he was tall and wide eyes and just plain boyish. Though, despite this, he was always sweet to me and never treated me with one bad look or word.
Our travels only heightened our irritating brother/sister- like friendship, but I didn’t know that all that time we were really just connecting on levels unknown to us, on a level deeper than we might have thought. We were adults but we were still children with very few life experiences between us. I took comfort in that.
Time passed and we grew apart, then back together and then apart again. This was the way we were, the way we all are now in our little friendship group from that pivotal time in life up until now nearing 24 years of age.
Over the course of years we would meet as friends, exchange messages even about how we were once destined to be together but maybe missed the chance. We would talk about keeping each other warm in cold months and why, on each cold night we found reasons to not be together. Time just went on like that, but our friendship still over ruled everything.
So then, when I found out he had a girlfriend at university, the pang of hurt shocked me into leaving him be, leaving him to find happiness with someone who wouldn’t keep making excuses. I didn’t mind, as long as he was happy. I didn’t think about us as mates for a long while really, even when mentioning him to family in passing memories or remarks and deflecting their prodding of our adolescent connection. Shrugging it off most of the time I continued with the conversations and then continued on with the dating life that always ultimately ended in my failed attempts at relationships.
I was never good in relationships. Unlike him, I was a serial dater never feeling content with pursuing someone that I didn’t feel all of my expectations with. Maybe because I’m insecure that I put up these unrealistic expectations, I don’t know.
Then one day I meet this guy, this wonderful caring and completely crazy for me, guy. My feelings grew and grew and before long he was the longest relationship I’d been in and it was strong. I was happy in my quiet life.
Then he came back, like a wind blowing up from the south. That warm wind that brought back my friend into my life, into my reach again. It is so easy with him, with affection in our presence around each other and for some reason, it’s like all my worries melt away. I couldn’t think of my life without him, I wouldn’t want to.
I sit, lay, stand pensive, wondering if this warm wind, this nostalgic cupboard of memories, is my soulmate.
My last post was extremely difficult to share, but I did it because everyone deserves to know that the biggest heroes out there aren’t the NHS workers but the resilient, brave and strong patients like L. I miss her, and even though our relationship was professional in almost every aspect, it is impossible to ignore the raw vulnerabilities of a person when they are laid out for you to see every day. Every smile and laugh I got from her was like a reward for helping her, we gave each other something.
I respect her so much and it is with reservations that I post this, but she was the reason I didn’t give up so early on in my career. She made that helpless, exhausted, runaway girl feel as if she was doing something right for the first time in her life, I will ALWAYS be grateful for that, for all the memories since, and all the days to come.