She was out that day, the day this very cruel world took her from me. A drunk truck driver ran into her car on the freeway while she was returning home from work. The car was totaled and Eva unconscious, with multiple dangerous injuries and bad burns across her body, was rescued from the wreck. The next 24 hours had been agony, as Eva swung precariously between life and death all alone while I waited outside the ER, drenched in sweat and trembling, tears falling down my numb face. There had friends around and family, many hugs and words of sorrow but I remember nothing. Even now three weeks later, it all seems like a nightmare in which I am trapped with no hope of escape.
It was 3.37 AM when the surgeons finally stepped out and sat me down. I think I knew then. I knew she was gone. But hearing them say it had been so final, it just ended everything I had ever loved. And just like that she was gone. Not even a goodbye. The drunken driver would do time, perhaps and his license would be suspended. But the damage is done. His truck had run over Eva and my heart at the same time. 16th July 2010, my heart breath its last. On 18th, I closed the casket on Eva and buried my heart next to her. Six feet under. Where it now belonged.
I have little recollection if any, of the past few days. I remember mom and dad insisting on taking me home after the funeral. They did not want me being alone. I think they alone understood what Eva meant to me. They had seen me grow and fall in love with a girl of great character, one they had come to love as a daughter themselves. Our sense of loss was similar, but it by no means compared to what I felt. There was absolutely nothing left in me. I guess they feared leaving me alone because I was so completely empty, they feared I would hurt myself. But I did not. I could barely breathe on my own.
When I refused to leave with them, Jenna drove me back home and stayed with me. My baby sister had taken it upon herself to console me, and had come from work in New York on an emergency leave for the funeral. She had to return soon but she did everything in her capacity to make me feel better. She sat me down with a cup of strong hot coffee and tried to talk but my head was a void and my tongue devoid of words. I barely spoke while she tried to coax food into me for a long time, finally giving me some space and going to sleep in the guest room.
The days passed in anguish, the kind you have when each second that passes feels like a month. The clock kept ticking in the hallway, reminding me of Eva, so much so that I couldn’t take it anymore and had to take out the batteries. Time had no concept for me now.
There is not much I remember. I would get up late in the morning, sit in Eva’s armchair and smoke in the silence of the mornings which had been so cheerful and musical until a few days ago. Jenna had to leave after a couple of days and nothing she said made any difference so I suppose she just left me to my own mourning. Mom would call twice in the day, in the morning and the evening to make sure I had eaten and slept but I would almost always let it go to voicemail instead. I could not stand talking to anyone. Or stepping out of the house. Dad would call around some evenings and get me mom’s homemade pies or drop groceries but our conversations never went beyond the ceremonial greetings.
If you have been through it, you would know that heartbreak is a very devastating thing. It turns you into an empty shell of a being, breathing yet not really alive. You inhale but the tightness in your chest always leaves you gasping for air. It is like an animal trapped and wounded and so you would expect a heart break to make a sound, to yell or screech or yowl. But for a pain so intense, it’s awfully quiet it doesn’t even make a whimper. You almost wish it had a sound that would distract from the pain in your bosom but it is silent, and merciless. Your heart feels like it would burst any second and yet you’re there, with an inch of life, craving to die, yet still alive.
I barely clung to life during those early few days immediately after Eva passed. I would wake up lie in bed for a while looking at her cold and empty side. I would wander around aimlessly, not eating until fatigue overtook me and sit in her armchair, holding onto one of her many custom cushions which she had practiced her embroidery on, straight out of college. How I had loved watching her carve with colorful threads, as she sat, converting one of her glorious poetry pieces into an even more beautiful cushion cover. Tip of the tongue held lightly between her lips pausing ever so often to brush her wild bangs out of her eyes… I close my eyes and try to think of the last time I had seen her like that. It felt like the pain would never stop.
The bell rings and I let it ring for a while before dragging myself out of Eva’s chair to answer the door. It is Bryna, Eva’s best friend and maid of honor who had been on a long project overseas in a war torn area and consequently not been able to attend the funeral in person though I guess somebody had Face timed her so she had attended virtually.
She takes one look at me and opens her arms to an embrace and without a word I collapse into her arms. She doesn’t say a word, just rubs my back comfortingly while I cry. This was what Bryna is like, a soothing companion and good listener so I pour my heart out to her and she listens quietly, quickly fixing the house which has turned into a mess and cleans the kitchen, since I hadn’t been able to bring myself to do it ever since Eva has gone. Bryna fixes me coffee and some food and brings it over to the table where I am sitting, head between my hands.
‘Eat,’ she says. ‘You look a few steps from death yourself.’
‘Good, then let it come. I don’t want to live in a world without Eva.’ I tell her.
She narrows her eyes at me and purses her lips. ‘Do you think Eva would have wanted you to mope around like this? No, she wouldn’t. So don’t do this to yourself.’
What would have Eva wanted? I don’t know. Would she want me to keep mourning her a month after she was gone? Or would she? I think about this while I slowly try to eat the food I had been asked to finish. It is good but I might as well be chewing paper for all it feels like in my mouth. Bryna, in the meantime, cleans and polishes my house leaving it gleaming and spotless before she joins me with a coffee on the dining table. She looks at how much I have eaten but says nothing and we sit in silence for a while drinking coffee, each lost to their own memories of Eva.
Before Bryna leaves she tells me she has ordered Chinese food for my dinner. The simple phrase strikes like a pang in my gut. It reminds me too much of Eva, of her enthusiasm for fortune cookies and opening them, reading them out loud and collecting the pieces of paper. I had never opened mine, pretended it felt silly to do so, just so I could see her smile and jump and grab mine and open it too. It was a beautiful monthly tradition. Every full moon night. As it ironically, is today. Nothing is the same and I cannot do it without Eva. So, I tell Bryna I hate Chinese food.
‘No. You don’t, Adrian.’ She says. ‘It is just painful right now because some of your best memories with Eva are intertwined with it. But trust me; it is also your path to healing.’
I don’t care about healing. My injuries are already beyond healing of any kind.