I have been fighting the demons for a long time…and I’m not speaking of my children. Deep inside of me I know, even when no one else does. They are all the things that I am afraid of; they are what I might have been; and they are the things I mustn’t ever tell.
On one of the early days in July, just as a lot of hard things began to happen, one of the boys fell down the basement stairs. I can still hear the sounds: crashing, calling out…and I can still feel the anguish of trying to decipher what needed to happen. It’s hard sometimes, because you really can never know what another person feels, physically or otherwise. Ever.
This time, it wasn’t mental illness that landed us in the emergency room. It was an injured knee.
You can’t see me in the darkness, where I am bright.
My beloved friend took me to a theater show on a weekday afternoon. The sun shone high in the opal sky, and the expanse of highway was insignificant as I rode alongside someone who didn’t seem to mind taking in a year-and-a-half’s worth of my voiced stream of consciousness.
We had lunch at an eclectic cafe. I ate my last sweet potato fry just in time for a brisk walk to the venue. The day was a welcome break from the sameness of overturned chairs, bad words, and tensive attitudes.
I followed my friend up the fancy staircase into the even fancier auditorium. To my great delight (and great relief, really), she did not stop until she reached the first row of seats at the edge of the balcony, all the way in a far corner of the theater. Nobody was near to us. Ours were the best seats in the house. My friend thought so, too. She knew I would want to go, mostly for the show, but also for the seats.
“Do we have a room for the knee?” Our nurse’s unsettling voice bellowed down the crowded hospital corridor, interrupting my thoughts about why the man who sat crumpled on the chair beside me might have an ice pack over his ear. She attempted to navigate the borrowed wheelchair through this much-too-brightly lit space, appearing to be only somewhat cautious to avoid collisions between IV poles, my son’s outstretched leg, and fellow emergency room inhabitants in need of some sort of stitching or another.
The knee? There was so much more to this boy. His deep brown eyes carry a burden that nobody could ever understand. He loves basketball; Golden State, specifically. He probably feels left out and lonely though he says he would rather stay home. He would eat cheeseburgers three times a day if he was allowed. His intricate landscape drawings and train layouts offer just a glimmer of the complexity of his thought processes. There would have to be room for more than just his knee.
I don’t want them to turn on the light.
Can we ever really understand people? I don’t think so; not completely. If we understand just a little bit of someone, though, like when even a small crowd will be overwhelming or that it might not be that fun to pick something new from the restaurant menu or to jump rope with the other fourth-graders, that might be enough. It might be enough to quiet the demons if we could just sit in the very corner of the auditorium for the afternoon matinee. It might be enough to remind ourselves that we are much more than just “a knee” even in a stifling hospital hallway. It might be enough for a boy to know that we would be going to a restaurant that served cheeseburgers.
I don’t think the cafe that I visited on that sunny day with my friend even had cheeseburgers on the menu, which was just fine with me. And my demons and I really did enjoy the theater show, especially for the company.
“Oh, the demons come, they can subside.” —Bon Iver, Calgary