Truthfulness doesn’t have to be an external expression to have effect. I hide my truth, I wrap it up in a cloak so thick that it is impermeable to even the purest oxygen. But I peek inside that cloak, I know what it holds enfolded in its tight-fisted embrace. On occasion, very rare and only when circumstances somehow have mutated to such a degree that the familiar daily landscape of my life has become alien, do I allow a fleeting glimpse to others of what lies nestled in the germ of my conscience. The allowed viewing is not done in anxious nervousness with shaking fingers but rather with a flourish, as if, once having decided to bare my truth I bare all. The outside participant must be quick to catch it for no sooner has the seal been broken, the innermost sanctum penetrated by light and air, than it is obscured once again, withdrawn within my self.
And so I found myself this day in July. This day so surreal a viable mist had enveloped all that was habitually known to me. This day, standing next to my sister’s hospital bed, the middle of it cranked up to its apex and she perched atop declaring the air so fresh and invigorating there on Mount Everest. She would slide down the bump she had made of the bed as if tobogganing and clamber her way up again. The physical exertion of her exercise had given her jaundiced face an almost rosy glow. She seemed happy, joyous and this irritated me enormously. I, who normally prized my patience in the face of almost everything (some may call it apathy) had grown weary of the delirium. There was nothing amusing about watching a grown woman, her legs and belly distended by cirrhotic fluid retention, blissfully ignorant to her imminent demise, display for the world a mind pocked by disease. A disease of her own choosing, I kept trying to convince myself. Not a scintilla of sympathy was I able to net in bearing witness to this spectacle. No maudlin childhood memories of happier days paraded their way through my awareness to buffer the tragedy unfolding before me. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Had my heart hardened to this stranger in front of me? While grappling with this paradox, anger forcing its way up my throat, the unravelling drew me into its fold. It gave me the answer. She, this sad, bloated facsimile of my once vibrant sister, was my mirror. She was my future, my present and my past. It humiliated me. It terrified me. The reflection so powerful it blinded me.
Tectonic plates shifted, the volcano lunged and I exploded at my mother, ”Why aren’t you doing anything to stop her?”
My mother’s breath caught in her throat, her face all shades of hurt and shock. Silenced by my outburst she just stared quietly at the great lump on top of the bed, perched and ready for another slide down the face of her mountain.
“Where is the nurse? It’s got to be time for her medication. I cannot stand to watch this any more in good tempered acquiescence.” I continued, ignoring the pain I was inflicting.
I knew in that instant that I had revealed my truth to my mother. I knew, that if she hadn’t been so all-consumed by the parody taking place on the bed, she would have seen my fear, my reality for even as it was fleeting so it was blatant. She would have seen and said nothing.
Discomfitted by my own revelation, agitated by the stark insanity pervading the atmosphere, I left the room. As the door closed behind me I believed that the reality the room contained would be imprisoned in there by that door. I felt that I was exiting the rabbit hole, the mist dissipating in the cacophony of midday traffic. The noise, the smells, the crowds, this was my stress. This was the stress I knew intimately and could juggle blind-folded. Even as I absorbed the everyday and felt comforted by it, I knew where my path lay. And it wasn’t forward into the clamour of the city but back into the disjointed, deformed charade of my sister’s hospital room. I sat for a moment, lit a cigarette and emptied my thoughts, discarded my anger and quietly folded the cloak back around the kernel of truth pulsating inside. It would always be waiting there for me if and when I dared befriend it. There was no urgency I was convinced, a realization which induced a deceleration of my heartbeat and brought a fragile peace of its own. Although it was a tranquility that balanced on the exquisite dance of avoidance, it would suffice for me, for now. I floated in thoughtlessness for some minutes, smoking automaton fashion and then with a great sigh I returned, in the grand style of Sisyphus, to the hospital. To the room.