As continued from Prologue
Tuesday, December 27, 2016
I learned the hard way that pain and confusion form a deadly duo. The pain pierced my heart mercilessly, and the confusion squashed my mind until I cried hopelessly – all night. There was nowhere to escape. When I climbed to my mind, confusion showed up and threatened to end my sanity. When I descended to my heart, pain was busy eating up the last remains of hope. So I had to ignore myself in order to survive. Or at least ignore the problem and hope it wasn’t as it seemed.
I raised my heavy and worn-out eyes to the living room window for the thousandth time. But still, there was nothing encouraging – just snow falling, cars, passing and Brooklyn College students rushing for the 9:20 bus on Vanderbilt Ave. No sign of her.
Tears filled my eyes again. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe I had successfully opened a missing person case for my darling. My Queen. Grace. Missing. No. No ways.
I believed she would drive in any minute and apologize for not calling me and keeping her cell phone off. “Sorry babe. I was at Mila’s. And my battery died, so I couldn’t call you,” she would say, apologetically fixing her brown eyes on mine, squeezing my hands with her small ones. Of course I would pinch her on the neck – punishing her for keeping me up all night, calling all relatives and friends. “Ouch,” she would say. Then I would give her a warm hug.
I looked again. Still, nobody. No maroon Honda Civic driving into our garage. Only fear cut through my heart, leaving a hot sensation in my stomach. I turned and walked aimlessly. Slowly I sat on one of the couches facing the fire-less fireplace. I was really afraid – afraid to think openly and embrace all the possibilities my mind threatened to cough out. All night long I successfully thwarted the ‘what if’ line of thoughts. But now they were coming in heavily and I was more exposed and vulnerable. My own mind had turned against me – it had its arms ready to finish me. I was afraid. My body quaked, more especially my hands, not because of the weather but due to the violent heart beats.
I took out my cell phone but it fell on the carpet. I took a deep breath and picked it up. Then I dialed 917… and stopped. It came to mind I had called Mila, Grace’s best friend, a dozen times at night. I literally made her lose sleep like me. “I’m so sorry, El. Nothing, still,” she would say each time. I decided to give her a break; after all she would call me if something came up. But I just needed someone to talk to – someone to help me disarm my mind. What would I do if it opened scary files of the ordeal? What would I do if it brought to the table the tragic incident of Leon, our late firstborn son? What would I do if it started comparing both incidents and spotted similarities? I swallowed a hefty dose of saliva, staring blankly at the fireplace.
I was scared out of my wits to imagine even a single day without Grace – let alone a lifetime. Deep in my heart I knew I was one of the few lucky men on earth. Grace was a special woman in every sense of the word. She was a rare treasure. At times she would apologize even when I was the one at fault. The argument would end between us but start in my heart until I say, “I’m sorry babe” – of course after swallowing a whale of a pride.
Above all, I loved her and she loved me. Our love was tested by fire and was found more robust than gold when the doctor told her plainly that I would never regain my sanity. She didn’t divorce me on medical grounds as many expected and advised; she held on to me. How do you hold on to a lunatic? Thousands of women fail to hold on to their sane men. Grace held on to a lunatic!
I rose to the window again. No body. A sour feeling passed through me. I felt like I wasn’t doing enough. I ought to be running helter-skelter all over New York City, searching every street, corner and building.
I paced up and down in the living room, trying to pin one thing I could do to find my sweetheart. But nothing came to mind except the scary stuff. The stuff I didn’t want to go to. Definitely, I couldn’t lose two lovely souls in a year. No. I had to do something to find Grace. Finding her would also console me for the loss I suffered in tragically losing Leon. Yes, the pain in my heart was as fresh as the snow outside, but I promised God that if he could bring back my wife safe and sound, I would stop lamenting for my boy.
However, both incidents were similar in disturbing proportions, but I believed she would be back. After all what other choice did I have other than believing and hoping – believing and hoping – believing and hoping?
The telephone in the dining room broke the silence. I almost jumped out of my skin. I ran like a crazy man and grabbed the receiver. It almost dropped on the floor but I caught it in the air. “Hello. Hello… Hello.” Then I heard the flat sound suggesting that the call had been terminated. My lungs suspended breathing for a moment. I bit my bottom lip. I almost cried aloud. Tears filled my eyes. I collapsed onto the chair next to me.
I jerked to my feet and sat down and rose again when it clicked in my head that even in Leon’s case I did receive a mysterious call where the caller didn’t say a thing. I shook my head whilst fear multiplied in my heart.
Children sang and giggled full of life outside when I was short of it in the dining room. I went to the window. No Grace. No Civic. Nothing, except the children with their moms, building a huge snowman. I wished to get out, crush their snowman and command them to stop – stop being happy and mourn with me. They were busy making noise arguing that the snowman was a snowman or snowwoman – the little boys wanted it called the snowman and the little girls wanted it called the snowwoman – but they were grossly irritating me. The pain in my heart required deafening silence or constructive voices – voices that talked about Grace – how she could be found as soon as now, not stupid snowman debates.
Somebody knocked heavily on the front door.
I dashed to the living room, hopeful again. I couldn’t believe my eyes when I opened.
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