Behind the Dark Curtain
When I regain consciousness, I can vaguely make out voices in the next room. Without opening my eyes I can tell that Iím not in bed, but rather Iím on the couch, wrapped up in a blanket, my head propped on a pillow from my bed upstairs. My head spins a little when I let my eyes blink open the first time, and I rethink that move. Maybe Iíll just lie here for a little while and gather myself while my head adjusts. Whatever it was that hit me last night, it sure packed a wallop. Then I remember, as my hand begins to throb in pain, that I was the one that did the hitting, when I punched the back of the door during an emotional breakdown.
I can hear Quatre in the kitchen, and I assume he must be on the vid phone talking to someone. Keeping my breath still and silent, I eavesdrop on his conversation, because Iíve already heard my name once, and Iíd like to know what is being said about me.
"Yes, yes," I hear him say. "Heís been asleep since a little after one in the morning."
Funny, but I donít remember how I got here on the couch, and how it is that I actually slept last night, considering that the last full night of undisturbed slumber Iíve had was the night before Heero died, a month ago. Yes, Iím sleepy, but I still remember what day today is. The one-month passing of Heero. And I still miss you every bit as much, love; probably even more.
As I thought. Heís talking to Trowa.
"ÖIíve been carrying them with me ever since I asked Iria for them. Yes, I know heís going to be upset butÖ"
"I gave him the valium in a glass of iced tea last night. I had to, Trowa. He was doing a lot of damage to himselfÖ"
I smirk. He drugged me. That explains my unconsciousness, and the fact that my hand, that is now screaming in pain, didnít manage to keep me awake either. I listen more.
"ÖTrowa, Iím very concerned about him. You should have seen him last night. In all the time weíve known Duo, Iíve never seen him this bad off. I really donít think he should be left aloneÖ"
I wasnít that bad last night now, was I? I mean, I know Iíve been really depressed over this whole thing, but so would anybody else. Right? Iím sure of my behavior last night, though I donít seem to be able to convince myself.
"ÖIíve been considering suggesting to him some inpatient therapy, but I donít know how heíll take it right now."
Inpatient therapy? A nut house? I sigh. Thatís the last thing I need Ė more people to tell me that I need to get over losing Heero, only this time Iíll be held captive until I do. Why doesnít anyone understand? Why canít they see that I wonít ever get over not having Heero anymore. He was what I got up in the morning every day for. He was what I hung onto life for, that year when heíd gone missing, thinking and hoping that Iíd find him again. He filled my empty soul. Why canít they understand that? I donít want to live a life without him. Nothing can make this pain go away now, and they donít understand me. My eyes get moist as I complain to myself. Iím NOT crazy, like they all think I am. I just hurt, Heero. God, I hurt for you so much.
I hear the call being terminated and Quatre comes into the living room, presumably to check on me. I roll my eyes to look up at him, unmoving, and he smiles that sad little smile of his again.
"Did you hear me speaking to Trowa?"
I nod. His expression changes to a small frown. Then sitting in the TV chair and propping his feet up, he starts to explain.
"Duo, itís just thatÖ Iím really concerned for you, and I donít know if you should be by yourself if youíre still feeling that badly."
I carefully roll onto my side, avoiding my injured hand. "But I want to be by myself, Cat. I remember Heero when Iím by myself. I think about him, ya know? About what life used to be like when he was still here. My thoughts of him are all Iíve got left now. Iím not ready to just pick up all the pieces yet."
"But donít you see, Duo? The longer you think about him that much, the longer its going to take youÖ"
"But I miss him, Cat." The tears start rolling again, and Quatre gets a little flustered. I donít think Iíve ever been so emotionally unraveled in my entire life. Nothing has ever mattered to me this much in my entire life.
Leaning his head on a propped hand, Quatre sighs. "I know you do, Duo. We all miss him. And I realize that none of us miss him as much as you do butÖDuo, please. Youíre killing yourself over this. Iíve already lost one good friend unnecessarily. I donít want to make it two. Have you stopped to think about what all of this is doing to me? How itís making Trowa and Wufei feel?"
Yes, actually, I have thought about it. Quite a lot, to be truthful. I know that seeing me suffer is painful to them, moreso to Quatre even, because through the years he has always remained very emotionally in-tune with me. I think heís been tuned to me ever since we began our friendship way back during the Colony Wars, back when we spent a few weeks together at the Maguanac camp. The same period of time when he took all the pictures that he later gave to me.
"You donít know how this feels, Cat. I love all of you, but you donít know how it feels to be dead inside because your very soul has been stolen away from you."
He didnít have an answer for me this time, so instead just sat reclined in the cushiness of the TV chair, letting his head roll back. He seems pretty wiped out, and I can only guess that Iím the cause of it.
"Just think about it, Duo, because Iím very saddened about what happened last evening, and I really think getting some serious therapy will help you to eventually come to terms with all of this. I canít force you to admit yourself, but I can have you admitted if you continue to break down the way that you did last night." His face was one hundred percent serious. "Duo, youíre going to really hurt yourself, and I donít want to see that happen."
I make a mental note to myself to make sure I save all future outbursts for when Quatre isnít around. Either that, or stop letting Quatre visit. "Fine," I say with a sigh, not having the energy to fight with him over it. Though I know heís probably right, since Quatre always is when it comes to things like this, it still doesnít give me any more inspiration to want to make it to the next miserable day. Theyíre all the same now Ė nothing more than how to get through to the next one and endure the pain all over again Ė and Iím quickly growing weary of it, as if last night wasnít an indicator of that.
It suddenly dawns on me that it feels later than my normal waking time, and that Iím going to be late for work. Jumping up from the couch and looking immediately at my watch, Quatre sets me at ease again.
"Donít worry about it. I called Sally. She told me to take care of you and not to send you back until you were doing a little bit better."
My eyes drop to my lap and my swollen hand. "Thanks," I say without emotion. "What about your meeting?"
"I delayed it until tomorrow."
"Sorry about that."
Quatre smiles at me weakly. "Itís OK, Duo. The meeting will wait. Iím just glad I could be here for you. We need to get your hand looked at, and then afterward I thought we could bring home some take out, since it will be easier."
We both get up and take care of our morning routines, and then Quatre drives me to the orthopedic clinic, the same clinic that took care of my broken leg a few years back when Heero pulled me out from under the pile of debris at the Lunar base before the place was blown up. Luck is with me today, as the radiographs reveal that while the bones in the top of my hand are indeed broken, everything has remained aligned. That means no surgery to straighten them out. They send me home with a cast around my hand that covers both sides of the palm, avoiding my fingers, and continues down past my wrist. If Iím good, I should still be able to write with my hand, if I loosely balance a pen against the bulkiness of the cast.
The rest of the week has been better, and at least to Quatre, I seem to be settling in some. I have been forcing myself to eat at least a little bit when he cooks, and Iíve even been making a few of the meals for us, since I feel so guilty seeing him do everything. As much as I feel like one, Iím not an invalid, and having Quatre wait on me hand and foot, though he does it out of the goodness of his heart, only makes me feel worse. Doing anything around here does take everything out of me however, and afterward Iím exhausted, probably from all the effort it takes to keep my head clear and concentrating on what Iím doing instead of on the situation at hand.
Truthfully, though, I havenít gotten any more over Heero than I was the night I broke my hand. Iíve just learned to hide the pain better. I should have known that night that an outburst like that was going to raise a few eyebrows, but I couldnít contain myself. I suppose that holding it back the way I am now, it will eventually resurface violently the way it did before, but Iím counting on Quatre being long since gone by the time the next flip-out occurs. In that way I can hurt myself if I so desire in the privacy of my own home, with no one there to interfere. Selfish I know, but I get that way when I canít change the things that I want to change. The pain doesnít hurt as much if I have other pain to think about instead, even for a little while. Iím guess Iím stuck in a cycle of pain, and I donít know how to get out of it. This is how I was at the beginning of the Colony War, before falling in love with Heero, when I thought I had nothing useful to live for, so it didnít matter if I died fighting in my Gundam or not. Itís the same feeling now, being without Heero. As sick as it sounds, right now the pain is the only familiar thing that I have that I can count on being there.
Wednesday, September 23, AC 203
Sorry if this is sloppy, but I have my hand in a cast. Look at me, apologizing to a book, as if itís going to be annoyed at me for messing up its pages.
Itís been four weeks without Heero. Things are pretty much the same as they were the day after it happened. I guess, in technical terms, youíd say Iím "stagnating." I canít get past it. Is a month too long to be feeling this way? So badly that I donít want to get up in the morning? Everyone around me seems to think so; either that, or they have no idea what it is that Iím feeling, and how deep this pain runs. The shrink says its normal to feel bad for months, even years, or even the rest of my life, but that being destructive about it is whatís not good for me. What does she expect? Look at my track record in life. Its enough to make even the happiest of people consider kissing the barrel of a nice semi-automatic.
A lot of this sadness has started to present to me in self pity; just look at what I just wrote. What I want to know is, why is it so bad to feel sorry for yourself? People talk about it like its such a bad thing, and that if you feel sorry for yourself you are somehow less interested in feeling better, but the thing is, I "know" what will make me feel better, and thereís no way to have that. People shrug you off and get annoyed at you, but they never stop to think that maybe, just maybe, the hurt is so pronounced that it is all-consuming, taking over every aspect of life. These people have no CLUE what its like to live from day to day, not able to escape the sadness inside, and I guess itís just easier to complain that sad people are "feeling sorry for themselves." Hell yeah, Iím feeling sorry for myself! I wouldnít wish this feeling on my worst enemy.
OK, I would wish it on my worst enemy, but being that right now I donít have a worst enemy, Iím not going to worry about that. Too much other stuff to be concerned with.
When I go back to the shrink this week, I canít wait to see what sheís going to say about my hand. Sheís already suggested medicating me once. I donít want to go on anti-depressants because Iím grieving. Grieving is a natural process. OK, yeah, Iím pushing that "natural process" to the extreme, but before this all happened I was doing great. That should be proof enough that I have the ability to put my past behind me. I just have a little trouble keeping it there on occasion. Besides that, and I know this sounds masochistic, I donít want to not feel this hurt. It reminds me of my love for Heero. None of that makes any sense butÖyeah.
If I manage to keep quiet long enough, I should be able to get rid of Quatre by Friday. Heís been great through all of this, but I still want to be alone. I want to take out the box of pictures again, but I donít dare while heís here, since I canít guarantee how Iím going to react to them. I think I want to finally put that collage frame thatís been hanging empty on the bedroom wall to good use. If anything, then Iíll be able to look at Heero from bed, while Iím not sleeping.
God, Heero, I miss you so much. I wish there were a way to go back in time. Iíd do anything, ANYTHING, to be able to have you back here with me. I still love you, Heero. As much as always. More. Never forget that, wherever you are. Maybe one day weíll get to be together again. Maybe.
Something happened today that has left both Trieze and I wondering about this heavenly world we live in now, and about the one that we left, too.
A couple of months back, maybe even closer to a year, Duo purchased a rather large picture frame, a collage frame, to be exact. One of those where there are lots of little cutouts to stick lots of photographs behind, creating an instant scrapbook of memories that can be displayed on the wall. He bought it intending to immortalize our time as Gundam pilots, but as with lots of things that we all would like to do but never manage to find the time to, the project never got done.
When I fell asleep last night, sleeping in the same bed that we have at the condo, the same bedroom as the condo though the outside of the dwelling is that cottage that we so loved, the picture frame was hanging in its usual spot above Duoís dresser, empty. Itís hung there since the day that he got the frame, when he enthusiastically put the hanging nail in the wall and stood back, thinking it was the perfect spot for it. The frame stayed out of the way hanging there, probably keeping it from damage, but it never did get filledÖuntil now.
Now, suddenly, there are pictures in it.
"This isnít how it was before?" Treize asked, walking over to the frame and inspecting it closely. He turned back to me, awaiting my response.
"He never got around to putting anything in it, but these are definitely our pictures. Theyíve been put away, in a box at the back of our bedroom closet. I havenít seen them in a long time, but I guess Duoís been looking at them."
I walk up close to stand besides Treize now, and for long minutes, all we do is stare at the frame and the multitude of pictures in it. There are pictures of Duo and I, and a few of all five of us gundam pilots together. The infamous "bunny ears" newspaper shot after the war is here too, as are a few newer ones of Quatre and Trowa together, taken since the Colony Wars. Most noticeable though is the fact that the larger percentage of the photographs that have been chosen for the collage are strictly of he and I, and even a few of just me. A pang runs through me as I look at the pictures Duo has chosen, realizing the emotion behind all the choices. Then looking at the center shot, the main photo in the middle of the frame, my eyes well up. Treize notices my sudden change in temperament and turns to look at me.
I turn away momentarily before looking back. "Iíve never seen that one before. I know when it was taken, though. It was on Peacemillion, just before the final battle of the Colony Wars." I stare deeply into the photo, looking at the expression on Duoís face, his eyes closed in laughter. I remember that moment as if it were yesterday even though I never knew that this photo existed. Looking at my own expression a wave of emotion rushes over me as I feet the feelings I was feeling that day, when I began to suspect that I was in love with the longhaired boy before me, pilot number 02, pilot of the gundam Deathscythe. He never did realize just how much inspiration those last few minutes together gave me as we all went into battle that afternoon Ė he gave me the inspiration to win, so that I could see him again, though I never realized until much later exactly "what" my motivation for coming out of that fight alive really was. Relena thought it was her. I figured out it was really Duo, after a lot of time had gone by, and Iíd gone through a lot of self discovery.
Treize makes a funny face, realizing that the picture had been taken probably only hours before his own death, and though I can sense his momentarily discomfort, neither of us say anything about it. My eyes are still glued to the center picture and I study it closely, enjoying the rush of feeling that is warming me, making me feel close to Duo for the first time since I left him. His face, his laughter, his carefree expression, it all holds me fast to the picture as I remember just what itís like to be with him. My eyes still fixed on the snapshot, I cave in for the first time since I have been here and a sob escapes me.
Embarrassed, I turn away and go to sit on the edge of the bed while Treize continues to explore the framed collage. He is still having a difficult time understanding how the frame could suddenly change if I didnít wish it to change. Though Iím not sure of anything here, since I still have a lot of questions about this afterlife, I tell him only that the frame hadnít even entered my conscious mind the entire time Iíve been here. The only reason that it exists in my bedroom is because for the past year Iíve been accustomed to it being there. Only in my mind, it has always been empty. I tell him that I think, obviously, that Duo has put the pictures in the frame so he can look upon us together, the way we were beforeÖbefore this.
"This is something that Iíve never experienced before, Heero," Treize says when he finally turns away from the framed photos. "Very interesting indeed, as it would suggest that there can, actually, be links to the living world, although I donít understand how."
"You didnít know us," I tell him, wiping tears out of the corners of my eyes. "You didnít know howÖclose we were. How much we loved each other. How complete we were together. Heís trying to be close to me, the same as Iím needing to be close to him, and I can feel his warmth in those pictures. Itís as if heís put them up, hoping to find me on the other side. We arenít right without each other, Treize. I realize that now, since weíre apart. Maybe this is happening because we need to be together. Maybe Iím seeing what heís seeing because weíre that tuned to each other. I canít explain how. I just know what I feel."
"Soul mates? You mean you were soul mates."
"Maybe. Yes. I donít know, but why else would fate have brought us together in the circumstances that it did? Weíve always been exact opposites, but together we are good." I pause. " Together, itís been like being one with each other."
Treize stops to consider my possible explanation, then smiles. "I suppose anything is possible here, Heero. After all, I donít know everything about this place. I learn something new about it every day."
For some reason, Treizeís last statement makes me smile.
Days have passed, and Iíve long since lost track of them, yet I remain drawn to this collage of pictures hanging on my bedroom wall. On Duoís bedroom wall. I canít help but stare at it as I wake in the morning, and as I lay down for the night, and every moment in between. I feel closer to him, strangely, ever since this picture frame became filled with its images, though neither Treize nor I can account for why. I know, deep in my heart, that Duo is looking at the same collage on the other side , like itís a one-sided mirror, the same as Iím doing here, neither of us able to see the other, but feeling their presence all the same. This frame of photos that has seemingly appeared out of nowhere, and is filled with our memories and our past together, is our link to each other between time and space and eternity now.