Reticence pt. 2

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Young Adult  |  House: Booksie Classic
Are there words for loss?

Submitted: August 16, 2009

A A A | A A A

Submitted: August 16, 2009



There was Pascal, leaning slightly out of his wheelchair, his head against the wall in a deserted hallway. He was silently clawing at the air, the walls, with unrelenting tears streaming down his face and low, choked sobs that shook his entire frame. Frozen, I stared at him in horror. What was wrong with him? I could see the agony as if it had been written upon his forehead. I had seen the same hopeless trembling…in myself. I took a step forward, deciding to at least try to push him back to his dormitory. His head shot up instantly. In a reflex reaction, he attempted to move his body away from me, to hide his sadness.

It all happened very fast. At one moment he had been leaning forward, forehead pressed into the wall, and the second he tried to twist away from me, his wheelchair catapulted backwards, stealing out from under his legs. I blinked, and he had become a heap on the floor, his legs crumpled under him like useless twigs.

I didn’t think twice. Flashing towards him, I wrenched his chair back to him and locked the wheels. Then, ever so hesitantly, I reached out a hand.

Usually, I avoided any kind of contact. I cringed from closeness. I felt as if Pascal could see that in my eyes. He stared at me for a few seconds with an unfathomable expression on his face. Then he dragged himself backwards with his hands and lifted his body back into the wheelchair, legs dragging along like a rag doll’s. Unlocking the wheels, he rolled towards me, stopped, and shook my still outstretched hand.

I recoiled uncomfortably when he let go. Now what?  I felt the words burning into the roof of my mouth. What was wrong with him? Why was he in that chair? Why didn’t he accept my help? What had he been crying about?

I forcefully mashed my lips together in a hard line. No. I would say nothing.

He smirked slightly, but I could see he was attempting to cover the pain I had just seen him experiencing. He glanced down at his legs for a few seconds with a livid fire in his eyes, and then looked back up. I could see he expected me to ask what was wrong, and I was oddly tempted to, which was not allowed, so I gave him a rare, awkward smile and started to turn away.

“Wait!” He grabbed my hand. “I know you don’t talk, but you can write, right? I mean…..if you can do your homework, I’m sure you can write to me.” He had a pleading tone. I hadn’t yet met someone here who actually asked for me to communicate to them without my voice. I did do my homework, and I used to leave little notes in the corners begging the teachers to not call on me in class. They didn’t need me to do that anymore.

But still, I grimaced. I felt like writing conversations was cheating my silence, and I never did so for anyone but my parents and a handful of friends back home. On the other hand…I obviously had a morbid curiosity for this boy, something I was attempting to repress…maybe it would be easier if I could explain to him that we couldn’t talk..

Reaching into my sweater pocket, I pulled out a rarely used notepad and a pen. My parents had bought them for me in an attempt to force me to communicate with someone in my new school, but so far, the only people I had written to since I got here was them.

Pascal’s expression broke into a triumphant smile. I let out a soundless sigh, walked over and sank against the wall to sit down. He maneuvered his wheelchair around so he was sitting next to me, craning over slightly to see what I was writing. He smiled even broader when I handed the pen and pad over to him.

Hey,’ I had written.

He chuckled slightly at my weak greeting. ‘Hey to you,’ he wrote, ‘nice day out, isn’t it?’

I took the pad back and then stared up at him in disbelief. We were going to write about the weather?

He smirked and swiped the notepad. As I listened to the pen scratch against the paper while he scribbled, I considered how odd the two of us must look, sitting in a deserted hallway, passing notes to one another.

He flipped the pad over so I could see what he was thinking.

Just out of morbid curiosity,’ he had started, and I could see where he had scratched out the sentence several times, ‘how long had it been since you said anything when you spoke to me?’

I didn’t need a notepad to tell him that. I held up seven fingers.

“Seven what? Seven months?” He asked blankly. I nodded, suddenly very interested in the pattern of the linoleum floor. I heard him murmur a disbelieving swear, but then he cleared his throat, so I would look at him again.

“You’re not going to tell me why, though, are you?” He questioned, but he already knew the answer. I could see the curiosity, but also the acceptance, in his eyes. I shook my head fervently.

“Okay. But, don’t you want to know about me?” He smiled slightly. I nodded, abashed, and reached for the notepad. He could talk, I would write.

Where are you from?’ I penned.

Chicago. I lived around Midtown. Can I ask you a question?” I nodded, cautious. “What kind of name is ‘Luciana Costa’?”

Italian,’ I wrote, slightly miffed. ‘What about Pascal Anelli? That’s a pretty weird name, you know.’

He laughed. “Yeah, I know. It’s French. And it’s actually Pascal Anelli, the third. My family hasn’t been very creative.”

Are your parents from France?’ I scrawled, interested. My parents had both been born in Italy.

“My mom is. But my dad, he’s Haitian. We used to go there three times a year, and have a race around the beaches, but now…” he trailed off, a hint of sadness in his voice.

Why did you come here?’ I had been hoping that it could’ve been for a reason similar to mine, but it was probably just a pitiful wish to have something in common with him.

“I didn’t have a life there anymore. I lost it all….my dreams, my hopes…my future. I couldn’t stand to be around it all, everyone feeling sorry for me, just visualizing exactly how my life would have been if this had never happened.” He motioned to his legs. “My parents, it killed them to see me so depressed, so they asked if I wanted to go away for a while, try to start over somewhere else. That was two weeks ago. I knew there was no way they could quit their jobs, and all the schools in the area were connected, knew about my story. And so my mom found this boarding school, and told me about it, wanted to make sure it was what I wanted. It was perfect…far away, didn’t even know someone who lived in the same state. I was hoping to be able to start anew…people who didn’t have a clue who I was or where I came from. People who might’ve thought I’d been in this-“ he motioned to his chair disgustedly, “my whole life.”

I was stunned. There were many differences in our stories, but in many ways, they were the same. We both dreamed of escape…him, to a place where he had no past, me, to a place where I could spend my future thinking about my past in peace.

It was silent for a few moments. I was struggling with my curiosity, trying to force myself to not write down the question that was scorching through my mind. I didn’t want to upset him.

“You want to know how it happened,” he stated quietly. He wasn’t staring at me accusingly or sadly this time. He had a drawn, accepted expression. Unable to stop myself, I nodded infinitesimally.

“ It was October. It’s weird, but I can’t remember the exact date. All I know is I was riding my bike, probably on the last warm day of the year, to track practice. I had been training like crazy, planning on winning conference and getting a scholarship to University of Chicago. I was easily the best in my district, but there was a kid from East Side that was giving me a run for my money, literally. I had based my entire future on running…college scholarship, getting a business degree to fall back on and then going for the Olympics. I hadn’t decided if I was going to try to run for Haiti or America yet. I was thinking about it that day…crossing the street into Hyde Park. This lady, her name was Sarah Johnson, age 42, three kids…she was coming towards the intersection, and her light was turning red, but her kid was crying in the backseat, and she turned around…I tried to avoid her and lost control of my bike…when she looked back at the road, she swerved real fast to try and miss me, but…” He stopped, his breath catching. I felt something dripping on my hands and realized I was crying silently. I wiped the tears away with my forearm. I felt a strange anger coursing through me. Surely, this woman had understood that she’d ruined Pascal’s life…

How much trouble did she get in?’ I wrote quickly. I wanted to keep his mind off his tragedy, even if it was through his anger.

. He shook his head, a suffocating sadness revealing itself in his features.

“When she swerved…her car, big SUV, hit my spine…threw me…and…” his voice was cracking with the tears he was trying to hold in. He took a breath, steadying himself. “She swerved, and lost control of the car…she hit one of the big oaks outlining the park. Her kids...couple scratches, no big deal...but…” he choked, and wiped a few stray drops of moisture from his cheeks. “She didn’t make it.” His voice was hollow with horror. I could not imagine waking up from an accident and realizing the person you were supposed to be angry with was dead. I pressed my hand to my mouth to keep from making noise. Pascal, who had seemed to compose himself, cleared his throat.

“About a month later, after a lot of tests and some attempts at physical therapy, they announced me paraplegic.” I glanced at him apologetically, trying to convey that I didn’t know what that meant.

“Paralyzed. From the waist down.”

Oh.’ I wrote lamely. I could think of absolutely nothing to tell him. ‘I suppose everyone around you has apologized, so there’s no point in that, huh?’

He managed a smirk. “No point at all. In fact, please don’t apologize. There’s nothing we can do about it, anyways. I was being stupid earlier, crying about it like a big baby,” he said bitterly, “I mean, what’s the point? There’s no one left to be angry at, no path to be taken, no closure needed. Tears are a waste of time for me. In fact, I don’t even know what to do with all the time I have now.” He had a hard glint in his eyes, as if daring me to contradict him. Of course, I didn’t.

His expression softened at my lack of argumentation. He smiled, though it was a helpless, confused smile, as if he could tell that neither of us knew what to do with this moment.


Over the course of the next few weeks, Pascal and I continued to converse like this. In fact, I spent about half my time with him. The other half was devoted to Elian, and it was always bittersweet. I was afraid I would lose him if I didn’t take time to spend my silence with his memory, but at the same time, I felt almost like a person with Pascal.

The worst side effect of sharing myself with someone new, progressing, was the nightmares. Without spending all my time in a soundless world where I could pretend Elian was still alive, I had to accept in some form or another that when I was with Pascal, Elian was just as dead to me as he was to everyone else. This made my nights spent with him more up to date then they used to be, and I often woke up screaming from seeing his still face, being lowered into the ground, being taken farther and farther away from me.

I was content that the conversations Pascal and I had could still be held without me having to break my silence. He asked me every time he saw me if I would say something, and I would smile apologetically and shake my head, turning a new page on the notepad.

At the same time as this progression, I was scared to death. Was I moving on? I sometimes frightened myself so badly with these thoughts that my recollections of Elian became blurred with panic, which sent me into an all-out nervous breakdown. I still hadn’t told Pascal what had happened to me, why I was silent, afraid that if I told the new part of my life that Elian was dead, then I couldn’t live in my past anymore, and he would be erased from my mind.

My resolve to continue the bizarre relationship with Pascal ebbed and flowed with the day’s tide. I could tell he was crossing lines in his mind, becoming closer to me than I ever expected another person to become since Elian left me. I felt guilt surge through me every time he let slip what I meant to him, because every second I spent looking at him I spent an hour yearning for it to be Elian I was looking at. And yet, I couldn’t leave him. I was drawn, like a magnet, to his personality, the way he made me feel. For a few scattered moments, he made me forget I had something to mourn about, made me think that I was a seventeen year old girl that could laugh freely and enjoy time with someone she genuinely cared about. I spent many nights feeling abhorrent for enjoying these instances, for forgetting Elian for even a millisecond.

And so, things continued. Months passed, and eventually Pascal told me everything. I noticed the way he looked at me, with fervent trust, and I knew that I was now his very best friend, his confidant. And I wished as hard as I could that he could be the same for me, I wished I could tell him everything and never worry again, I wished I could laugh with him and run to him when I was scared. But I already had a very best friend, and I couldn’t make myself put someone above him. There was no way. And the pain had been excruciating, unbearable, when I finally saw what I had always been afraid to see in Pascal: Elian. The way he smiled at my tendencies, the protective glint in his eye when another classmate stared at me nosily, even the way he said my name. They were all shadows of him, a reminder, an agonizing hint to what I had lost, which made me depressed to be around Pascal, which in turn filled me with aching remorse, because he noticed and was hurt by my reactions to him.

I always knew, during these times, that we would hit a boiling point. It was inevitable. What I didn’t expect was how it happened.

It was July 14. What would have been Elian Medina’s eighteenth birthday. We had planned it out, we were going to take a road trip to New York for the night, see his favorite band, and accomplish everything even remotely cool in the city we could think of within 24 hours. Instead, I would spend the day going to class, daydreaming with absurd circumstances in which all ended up with him coming back to life. I was also panicking intensely, in six days, my vow to a year of silence would be up, with just two words uttered in an entire twelve months, and I didn’t know if I could lift it. It had been almost a year since Elian’s death, and I didn’t think I had even begun to move on.

It had been lunchtime when I saw Pascal. He did not come to sit with me as he usually did, but wheeled in rather recklessly, grabbed an apple, and wheeled out, a look of utmost devastation etched into his brow. I followed him mechanically. He had stopped in the corridor where we had our first conversation, and was purposefully slamming himself into the wall, his kneecaps bouncing off in protest, angry tears welling up into his eyes. I approached him hesitantly, making sure to create sound with my feet so he heard me coming for him. He turned to me abruptly, a savage, livid, and at the same time, hopeless look in his eyes.

“What are you going to do, Luciana?” He was seething, his hands balled into fists.

“The doctor called this morning. He told me, in a nutshell, I had absolutely no chance of gaining back my legs. I will be stuck in this damned chair for the rest of my LIFE! And what do you plan on doing for me, huh? There’s NOTHING!!” He was screaming, his voice cracking under the strain of his emotion, half lifting himself out of his chair. I could feel my entire frame trembling, my hands reaching wildly around my body, trying to find my notepad…

“NO!” he screeched, “You cannot write it’s going to be okay! I need to hear it, Luciana! Why, why won’t you speak to me?!?” He was shaking too, his anger sending violent tremors through him. He rolled forward suddenly and grasped my wrist, refusing to let go.

“I tell you everything. You know everything, every thought that has passed through my mind, every worry, every insecurity! And I still know nothing about you!! You don’t trust me. I have trusted you with everything, given you everything I have. Luciana, I’m trying as hard as I possibly can. I need you to tell me what happened to you. I need you to tell me why you don’t love me as much as I love you, damnit, I need you to speak!”

I let out a loud sob. No, no, no. I can’t. I won’t, you will not make me. I twisted my wrist uselessly, his grasp was steely and desperate; there was no way he was letting go. What can I do? Please, please, whoever is out there, tell me what to do! I took in a ragged breath, my mouth hanging open in a horrible silence, always silence. C’mon Luciana, I thought desperately, say something!

And all of a sudden, clear as day, not one of my murky dreams, but bright, as if I was sitting beside him right then in the brilliant sun, a random memory of Elian flooded my mind. We were seated on the dock by the river, our feet dangling lazily into the cool, flowing water. Neither of us said anything for an immeasurable amount of time, just enjoyed each other’s company, his arm tossed thoughtlessly around my shoulder. Eventually, the sun began to set, and Elian laid his temple against the back of my arm. It was hard to believe there were moments as perfect as these. Suddenly, he spoke.

“Luc?” He had started, hesitant.


“Promise me something.”

“Anything.” I chuckled slightly at the uncertainty in his voice. He knew I always gave in, but it was still nice that he asked first.

“Look, this is going to sound pretty corny. And random. But…something just makes me feel like you should know.”

“Alright, now I’m interested. Shoot.”

“You know how, in school, they ask us what we want most out of life?”

“Uh-huh.” I affirmed, bewildered, wondering where he could possibly be going with this.

“Well…listen…just ignore how lame it sounds right now, but remember it. I think what I want most out of life is to know your happy, and your safe, and there’s someone there to take care of you. Because you know, Luc, it may not always be me…”

“Elian!” His worries shocked me, what was making him say this?

“Just listen. I know whoever they are, you should trust them as much as you trust me. Just let them make you happy, okay? Just promise me that.”

I stared into his clear, chocolate brown eyes, trying to find the joke in them. There was none, only the utmost sincerity…so I agreed, befuddled but trusting.

“All right, all right, I promise. Now stop being so weird.”

“You got it, kid….”

The reverie ended abruptly, and I found myself back in the corridor. His words burned a brand into my mind. Trust them . Let them make you happy. Even if it’s not me...

I could taste the words on my tongue, and for the first time in a year, I relished them. I turned to my best friend in this world. He had dropped my wrist, I expect during my recollections, and was now holding his head in his hands, his shoulders shaking. I took a deep breath.

“P-Pascal?” My voice was raspy, as expected, but I could hear the tenderness in my voice as my lips shaped around his name. He looked up, disbelieving.

I smiled sadly at him. Pushing against his knees, I shifted him into the exact spot he had been when he had told me about himself. I sank down beside him, crossing my legs as I went. Taking a deep, even breath, I steadied myself for what I was about to do. I felt the words, surging through my heart and in my throat, not burning, but warming me. I lifted my chin and opened my mouth, and my story, my noise, my truth flooded out.


Time passes. Wounds heal enough to appreciate what has been given to you, what you have experienced, the enlightenment you have received from what has transpired.

Silence. I once believed it could bring him back. If I remained stagnant long enough, if I let myself die with him, surely, that should mean he would stay with me? I was angry, I was bitter, and I refused to accept that this world held anything for me but him. Without him, there was no point to it existing. If only I had for once, during my silence, during my personally censored purgatory, considered what he would have done if he saw me halting my life completely to lament his departure from this world. It is an understatement to say he would be beyond upset, past disappointed, and over and above angry with me. If only I had recalled the countless times he begged me to keep happiness in my life.

Our lives are defined, begun, ended, and remembered by words. I never did escape them, hard as I tried. I finally recognized that the silence held more cacophony, chaos and pain than living within the words you define your existence by did. There is resentment within every word, a contradiction in between each syllable. But the beauty of words is not what is wrong about them, what they do not explain, but what truth they hold for you and you alone.

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