1, Bright Lights
you for 2305 days before you left me. You left on day 0. I want
to share the rest of our time together. So I wrote you this book.
Please read it. We've got the days till I die for you to find out
what happens after that 0 of a day. I've labelled the days before
you died negative numbers. Day negative one being one day before
you died, day 0 being the day you died and day 1 being one day
after you died. I wrote it much like an integer line my love;
labelling each day in the past, what will happen in the future
and how I'm surviving without you. I'll love you
I stick my head out my bedroom
window. The air is crisp, sharp but it feels good against my
swollen eyes. It's a little chilly because it's 3:30 am but I
need some connection to you. Right now this is the closest thing
to your touch, so it will have to do. I fight with everything I
have to stop my lips from bursting open in screaming, but you
can't stop something unstoppable. So I scream right out the
window. And the whole time I'm screaming I'm wondering if you can
hear me. Mom and dad come rushing in, like they do every night.
Dad embraces my frail, thin frame and I kick and fight him. I
don't want him to hold me. I want your arms. But I give in and I
cry until my chest caves in. It's the first time I've let anyone
hold me in 27 days.
I can't bare it, all I think is you.
I look at my mother. Her pale skin against short red hair, her
green eyes and there dark circles. I feel my dad's firefighter
arms around me and his deep blue eyes in tears falling onto my
baggy t-shirt. I think to myself, "look at what we're doing to
them," my eyes are heavy and I can't open them quite yet. But
when I finally do I look around. I honestly forget my
surroundings for a moment. Then it hits me, hard. I realize it's
not us doing anything. It's just me. Dad carries me to their bed
and I beg them to put me down. I scream over and over "I'm fine!
I'm fine!" but I know I'm not. I want to be brave for them. But I
can't, you would understand, I know you would. You were fighting
for so long. I wish I could have done something more. But, it's
all over now.
Mom says to me all worried-like
"maybe you should take a nap." And I know her intentions are good
but I ignore her and shut the back door to the house. It's
raining slightly and I turn around and mom is hunched over the
sink. And she's crying. Her hair droops and sticks up in certain
places and her cleaning gloves are on. I get to the bottom of the
tall oak, I've never felt this small before. The ladder to the
top feels a million miles away. But I get there, slowly but
surely, and I feel so weak, so tired. I curl up in a ball by the
open doorway and look in the bay window to my parents. They are
so far away, yet I can feel their emotions. The ache in my
mothers heart, the weakening of her spirit. Her losing her only
daughter. Matter of fact, most of the time I basically live out
here. Sometimes when it's not too cold, I climb in in the middle
of the night and sleep up there. And I think of you. It's the
only escape I get from all this confusion lately.
I look in again. Dad has walked into
the kitchen since I last looked and he's huddled over my mom.
He's holding her the way that makes me want to die of
embarrassment for being so rude. I know she's just trying to
help, but I'm so angry and confused I let it get the best of me.
Lately, I'm constantly reminding myself that it's no one's fault
and I breathe. Sometimes that works, but not right now. I don't
want to climb down and apologized. I'm too far gone to even do
Dad comes outside and he knows how I
don't like much communication these days. So when he talks he
knows it's unlikely for me to respond. I watch him shut the door
to the house. His solid eyes focused and somewhat prepared. He's
gotten really good at being strong for mom and me. But I can tell
he's nervous. He climbs up the ladder and I can smell breakfast
cooking inside. He looks at me with softness; I can see how he
feels my hurt. "Sweetie, would you come inside? You need to eat
something, and drink something." Silence. "Listen, you're mom is
worried sick. You come down now. Understood? I know this is hard.
But you need to come down and try eating. It's time to at least
do that." Silence. "Fine, you want me to put on my dad face, I'll
do exactly that. Attison, get down from this tree now. Or there
will be serious consequences." Silence. I turn away, I can't look
at him. I mumble, "I'll be down in a few minutes."
I listen closely as he takes a deep
breath and thanks God. I hear his footsteps go back down the
ladder and across the long backyard and up onto the deck and into
the house. The rickety screen door slams and I give myself a
minute to take the moment in. Breathe Attie, I tell myself. Then,
you pop into my head like a sudden storm and I clench my heart.
Down the ladder and across the yard and as I'm doing that I
pretend you're right beside me. Reality strikes again. I'm
"Attie! Come back! I'm miserable
without you here!" I try to breathe when you say my name but I
can't its way too difficult. I ran to the benches in the park,
teasing you about being mean to me. I don't recall why I did
that. I wish I could know when I think back to it. The sun is so
bright. We're together for the millionth time and it feels
amazing. I look at you and smile, and run back towards you with a
ridiculous expression I'm sure.
Your eyes are glistening from the
reflection of the sunlight and you're practically holding my
heart in them. You're so beautiful it hurts me to look at you.
Like usual I'm holding my breath because it's the easiest thing
to do in the presence of you. I stretch out on the parks grass
and melt there beside you. Rory. I could die at the sound of your
You lay there beside me and you're
eyelashes are so lengthy and you're brown hair is partially wet
from being in the water today. And the look of you is
ridiculously beautiful, so beautiful I can't stand it. It might
even make me ache because I don't even feel worthy to be here
with you. But I am, for whatever reason. And you are so
parents brought me some of your things today. Your favorite
books, some journals labeled "Attie," your baseball cap and some
of your t-shirts. I laid everything out on my bed and everything
still smells like you. And I want to cry even more because you
smell so good Rory. And I haven't smelled you in so long. I
forgot how much I missed your scent. Like spring and rain and a
hint of cologne. Perfection. You are perfection
holding all the things you left for me is huge. There's also a
mixed tape of all the songs you wanted me to hear. Your parents
told me you'd been planning this for awhile. And you specifically
said to give me these things when I had to deal with the hurt
still. I look at the box, it's written in your writing, the black
marker looks a bit faded. It says "For my girl," on it. I forget
about everything. My mind goes blank. I forget breathing again;
I've been doing that since I've known you. My room is lit by a
very dim candle and a paper lamp. It's red and has Chinese
characters on it. Do you remember it Rory? You gave it to me for
my 18th birthday. You're parents brought it over because they
found it in the shed. You put it there for me right before you're
sickness took hold. My parents set me up in their spare bedroom
because our apartment is too full of you.
also letters; the letters you wrote from everyday we spent
together were in the box. I hold them in my hands. They're all
individually wrapped and dated on the outside envelope, there has
to be over a year's worth of letters written by you to me in my
hands. I feel you close to me. I open the first one. And
We had our
first date today, and this a pretty spur-of-the moment letter.
Considering I just met you not that long ago, but I already know
I'm going to marry you. You have the softest voice and the
smoothest eyes. You're so gentle and your hands are motherly and
you're 17 and I'm not too old for you. And that sentence was
run-on but right now, I could care less. I found the girl of my
dreams tonight. And darling, you're never going to escape. Never.
No matter what, because Attie, I hope you don't mind me calling
you that but, I think I could love you. I think I could fall in
love with you. The only thing that's a downer about all this is
that I'm sick Attie. I'm really sick. You might not understand.
Or you might not care, but right now, I'm willing to do whatever
I can to find out.
was rough, my heart bled eternally for a few hours, so I took my
bike for a ride and cried, I needed some kind of escape. But that
didn't matter because it was way too late for anyone to care if a
girl on her bike was sobbing. Most of the people out this late
were either drunk or about to be. Since you've been gone, I
haven't cared much about anything, especially myself. I haven't
seen a mirror in over 48 days.
ride was cut short when my mom drove up behind me. She must have
heard me when I took my bike out of the garage. Her car is simple
and black and I'm wondering how in the world we're going to fit
my bike in there. The trunk is too small and so is the backseat.
I'm an only child, so there was no obligation to get a bigger car
than what we have. She pulls up and stops the car right beside
the curb just a little behind me. She jumps out, "Attie!" she
yells, "it's time to come home!" I stop biking and get off, it's
late. She's right; I should go home and try to sleep. It's time
for that at least.
maneuvers the bike to make it fit in the back seat; she's always
been good like that. Figuring mom-like things out is her
specialty. I should talk to her more. She could give me advice, I
know that much. But for some reason I want to put up all kinds of
walls between our relationship. She's not going to die, so why do
I feel like she is?
I hop into
the front seat beside her. "Attie, you need to stop leaving the
house in the middle of the night. Especially if you're going to
leave the yard, I can handle you in the tree house out back or
sitting in the garage. But you can't just leave the house; it's
the middle of the night Attie." I understand what she's saying. I
reply, "okay," and that's the end of our conversation. Mom's car
still smells new. She bought it just recently to replace our old
car. Mom's kind of a hippy and doesn't believe that people should
even own cars. But dad talked her into buying a hybrid, saving
the universe one car at a time.
get home, I get out of the car and look at my house. My parent's
light is on which means dads on nightshift and mom couldn't sleep
alone. That explains why mom heard me grab my bike and ditch,
which is also why my mom is waiting for me to go in the house
before she gets out of the car. She's only this stressed out when
no one else is around to talk her out of it.
around outside. It's dark so the lights in the house look
gorgeous. Most things don't look beautiful in my mind. But even
though this night has been quite the battle, I almost find some
peace and tranquility knowing that my mom loves me as much as she
does. I haven't felt this much love in awhile.
Today is a
chilly day. I woke up later than I have in the past, however many
days it's been since you left. Its 10:13 a.m. and all I see is
your face. I close my eyes your there. I open them, your there
too. I cannot escape this constant heartache. It's too much to
downstairs and my mom is sitting on the large wooden chairs
placed sort of awkwardly in the kitchen. The tile feels nice on
my feet. Dad has on some comfortable shorts and a t-shirt. He's
brave today, just for me. Mom's eyes are swimming in tears and I
don't think she even notices me coming down. But I take one heavy
step so I don't have to speak. And she shoots to life. Smiles
even, and dad turns almost as if to say "sweetie, are you okay
today? Because I don't know how long I can be brave for
muster up some confidence, "Hey guys, I actually slept a bit last
night, can you believe it?" Everyone seems pretty shocked since
this is the first time I've spoken since you've been gone. I
close my eyes for a minute. Noah. You're there like the morning
sun bursting through some dark clouds. I float over to my mom,
look at her with the best loving look I can give and grab a
sweater hanging from behind her head. I think its dads. I put it
on and sniff it trying to be subtle because secretly I love the
way my dad smells. I walk out the accordion doors, onto the back
deck, down the steps, across the yard and into the tree house. I
can't decide what kind of day today is.
you to the hospital today Noah and I'm freaking out. I feel like
I'm losing you more and more every day. I never know how long
it's going to be till you're gone completely. I hate your
sickness Rory. I hate it with a passion. The doctors told your
mom that you have deteriorated so much in the past few months
that you soon won't be able to move anything in your legs or
arms, everything is failing. I can't stand to think of that Noah.
You're so young and you have so much left to live
I sit in
the small hospital waiting room for your doctors to finish taking
the last few tests they need to prove their theories correct. I
just want them to be wrong. I just want you to be healthy like
when you were a kid. I need that for you and for myself. I can't
lose you Noah. The hospital smells like medicine, illness, germs
and hand sanitizer. I can see your nurses clearing out of your
doctor calls me over for a briefing. I'm your wife so it's my
right to know these things. You've explained some
of what your sickness is to me but never beyond a certain point.
You never talk about it much. You say it's because it's not time
yet. Lately you have been so weak, we just got married a year ago
and I can't breathe at the thought of you leaving
explains it exactly like this, he says, "Ideopathic Pulmonary
Fibrosis is a disease inflicting the lungs. You see Attison, what
happens in the air sacs slowly begin to fill up with fibrotic
tissue. Fibrotic tissue, is inflamed tissues that have become
scarred. Over time, Noah's tissue will will become denser and
will prevent the transfer of oxygen into his bloodstream." I
never understood that until today. I mean, I knew the conditions,
what to expect and the symptoms. But I never understood what
lupus actually is. You never told me that Noah.
that fibrosis caused you shortness of breath, you felt a lot of
discomfort in your chest, loss of appetite, exhaustion, weariness
and a dry irritated cough. But Noah, I never saw it quite like
this. I married you because I love you Noah. And even though I
know this hurts, I will do whatever it takes to stay married to
to open your second letter today, Noah. I want to hold onto you
as long as I can. When I read these letters, I feel so close to
you. I feel 17 again when we first met. My 22 year old self wants
to be more mature about all this but then I remember how much I
can't let go and then I begin to read.
told you I was going to marry you. And you didn't believe me. You
said you're dreams were too big for a small town 'boy' like me.
You're so cute. I love your red hair and your bright green eyes.
And your crooked smile gets me every time. I've been basically
calling you three times a day. I want you to know that you're not
just some ordinary girl to me. And I want to be more than some
average guy for you. I want to be your prince. I want you to feel
like you're in a fairytale every day, because my sweet Attie
girl, you deserve that. I may just be a farmer's son. But I know
a beautiful, loving girl when I see one. You. You are that girl
Attie Reid. And I will wait for you.
up in my eyes, I feel like someone has just punched me in the
stomach. Yet, beneath all of that I feel you. I feel you so
close, it hurts. I never knew about these letters Noah. Why
didn't you tell me?
sitting in my bedroom, still at my parents. I can't think about
our apartment and all the pieces of you everywhere. I feel sticky
with sweat. And I almost want to scream again, but I don't, it's
late and my parents need to try and sleep tonight. So, I am going
to stay quiet. Tonight I feel like I can breathe, so I decided to
lie in my bed until I can't fight letting my eyes close anymore.
And after about an hour, I finally fall asleep and surprisingly I
sleep until the afternoon, it was nice to not care about how late
it was. I hadn't done that for awhile.
pancakes because your grandma came over, and after eating three I
threw up. I tried to eat because I knew you would disapprove of
this sitting around doing nothing nonsense. But it's not easy to
just go on living like you never did.
grandma is a hard woman, she didn't like that I wasn't
thinking about my future. And that I was acting like the world
ended. But Noah, after you died my world did end. You were my
world, without you it is gone. It won't ever be the same. Ever.
Why is that so hard for people to understand?
tea for me after your grandma left and we sat on the porch and
talked. "Attie, what do you think you're going to do? Do you want
to go to school?" she says, nonchalant like I'm supposed to have
thought about this a thousand times. I'm not ready to go there
yet. So I say "mom, I just don't think I'm prepared to talk about
this yet, I'm sorry." I can't look at her. Her eyes have started
to wrinkle and her hair is finally collecting fragments of grey.
She was always the mom who never aged. Until, a little over two
months ago, before you died. She started to age as you became
more engulfed by your sickness. I grabbed her hand for a second,
then quickly let go. I don't want her to think I'm moving on. I'm
not moving on.
is freshly painted white; I didn't even know dad was working on
this. Although even before you died we hadn't talked much. There
was no time. I was way too into the fact that I needed to spend
as much time as I could with you. Since everyone knew I didn't
have much time left.
even new paint on the blue shutters. I always loved our house as
a kid; it was the perfect little house. The white picket fence
and the white siding and white porch and blue shutters and big
blue door. The humongous sycamore tree in the front yard with a
tire swing hanging perfectly, and the balcony of my parent's
bedroom. The deck in the backyard, the long narrow field of grass
to the back tree house that dad and I made when I was young. The
whole place was perfect. You loved it, didn't you Rory? I
remember you used to talk about it all the time. How much you
wanted our kids to have the life I did. But we won't have kids;
we won't have the perfect house or the perfect life, for the
simple reason that no one's life is perfect. You never wanted