Warm summer sun setting behind me as I walk, still smiling about all the laughs shared. As my friend and I split paths, the street lights illuminate the trail home. We continue to wave until the light fades from the sky and I can no longer see her in the distance. I turn to follow the softly lit path home. As I am walking a light ahead quietly fades out. I am still reliving the joys of summer time fun as the lights burn out ahead and behind me. My feet know the path so well that the lack of light does not concern me. There is still the soft glow of the moon and stars to guide me. I see a flash of white.
I inhale and choke on dirt and feel the jagged edges of gravel in my forearms. I blink dusty tears from my eyes and push myself onto my knees. Sudden sharp pain explodes in the back of my head. I reach back and feel moisture and something sharp. I try to quell the nausea caused by the surging pain in my skull. I stand to my feet, trying to figure out where I am and how I got here.
I take a staggered step and trip over a broken wooden bat. I examine it and see blood where it has been broken. Okay, that explains the nauseating pain in my skull. I stagger forward and see a figure that looks familiar. She obviously knows me as she walks over to me. She guides me to a group of people I feel like I should know. I don’t want to risk offending them, so I pretend that I know who they are. I can’t say I did a great job. I don’t know them, or why I’m here, or even who I am.
After some time, seeing that I am in pain, the girl takes me to see another lady. I should be apprehensive, but all I can think about is how dark it is. How has it been dark for so long? Surely it must be close to morning. My thoughts are interrupted by the girl saying that she will be waiting me for when the lady is done.
My heart quickens with panic. I do not know the girl (although I know I should), but I trust her. I feel this strong bond between us. The strength is somewhere between friends and sisters. I can’t leave her.
The lady guides me into an alleyway. She takes out some tools that I cannot see in the darkness. I would run, but the surging pain in my head has crippled me. The lady begins to whisper sweet nothings as she pulls large splinters out of my gaping head wound. With each splinter the pain is renewed. I gasp for air, willing myself to not cry. Before long the pain subsides, and I feel her closing the wound. The lady says I should be fine. I exit the alley, and the girl is waiting for me. I still don’t know who she is. Or who I am for that matter.
I walk with the girl back to the group of people I should know and stay with them for a while. The chill in the air is nearly gone, and I faintly recognize the surroundings. Eventually, they figure out that I do not know them, but light appears to be coming upon the horizon. The group shows slight frustration that I do not know them, but I am unable to make myself remember.
I am now convinced that wherever this is a place with little to no light. I have eaten and slept many times. Light has not come. I can now navigate the blue-grey landscape with only moderate difficulty.
Later, I awake from sleep to find myself alone. I am confused (more so than normal). The group has never left me before. I stumble around the alleyways with the constant dull ache in my head. Ahead I see a group that looks the ones I should know. Relieved, I head toward them.
This cannot be the group of the ones that I should know. The feeling of the familiar bond must have deceived me. They would never look at me that way.
Suddenly I feel my ribcage compress as a sharp blow lands on my sternum. As I gasp for air, I feel a knee crash into my abdomen. A metallic taste fills my mouth as I cough and blood hits the ground. I collapse on the ground. The impact of a large boot is felt on the left side of my rib cage. I hear a soft crunch and inhale sharply. Pain explodes in my chest. I feel cold metal crash into my legs, but I cannot move. I feel the continued blows until everything fades black, and then I feel nothing.
I open my eyes to see a white figure standing just a few feet from me. He is so bright, but I can tell it is a man. His face is far too bright to see. He is glowing with a bright white light that would be blinding even if the whole world weren’t dark. He speaks. His voice is string and powerful yet gentle and comforting. He says “Come to me, and I will give you rest.”
Though I cannot imagine how, I pull myself up and half limp half crawl to the man. As I almost reach him, fatigue and pain grip me. I collapse. To my surprise, I do not fall to the ground but into His arms. He picks me up and easily carries me. The pain of my injuries hasn’t subsided, but somehow, in His arms, I feel safe. I find rest.
I awake in a room that I can only assume is a hospital. The room is almost unbearably bright, but somehow, that’s okay. It is warm too but comfortable. I am on a bed which is leaps and bounds above the streets I’ve been sleeping on. I turn and see the glowing man next to me. Suddenly pain ripples through my body, and I scream. The man says “Peace. I am with you, my child.” The pain doesn’t vanish, but somehow, I am comforted anyway.
I remember the injuries as the man relays them to me. They are extensive; I would not be here without Him. These things I know. They will require much therapy; it will be painful and difficult. I ask how much the therapy will help. He says I will be made new. He tells me to rest today, for tomorrow we start. Eventually the pain subsides, and I sleep.
The next day I awaken in pain again. The man tells me today I must venture out. Isay ‘My injuries are too great. I cannot leave.” He says “Each night, you may return, but each day you must leave. I will give you strength. It will hurt, but this where the healing starts. Fear not, I am always with you.” I want to protest but cannot. I say “I will need somebody to help me, a friend.” He says “I have taken care of it.’
He fits me in braces to care for my injuries and clothes me in a hoodie and sweatpants that cover my braces. Miraculously, my face was not noticeably damaged in the assault. On my wrist is what looks like a bracelet but is as much a part of me as my own skin. It looks familiar. As if reading my thoughts, He says “That is your reminder that my Spirit is always with you. You’ve always had it; you just notice it in times of trouble.” This thought brings me comfort.
My first day out I wander, wondering where my friend is. This girl comes up to meand treats me like a friend. She is bright and cheery like a sunflower. I decide Sunflower girl will be a good friend, at least for now. The day is not easy, but I make it through.
As I return to the hospital, I am in pain and just want to sleep. The man has other ideas. I am put through much physical therapy. I fail at tasks often, get frustrated and cry because I am in so much pain. I lay in bed, my body throbbing. The man wraps me in his arms and comforts me. He says “You are dearly loved, my child.” The pain subsides, and I drift off to sleep.
The next few days pass exactly the same way. Sunflower invites me to hang out with her and her friend after a few days. Her friend is cool and peaceful like a river. I grow to enjoy spending time with Sunflower and River. The days get barely easier but easier. The sun had returned to the sky.
Nighttherapy is still very painful. I still fail just as often as at the beginning.One night as I am being comforted, I ask “Who am I?” He replies “You are mine.” I say “Yes but who am I?” He says “You are mine, and you are dearly loved. That’s all you need to know right now. You will learn the rest later.” Oddly, this comforts me, and I find sleep.
Aftera few weeks, I see that Sunflower and River are good friends to me. They help me get through each day, by talking and listening. Anytime that is not enough, I look to my wrist and find comfort. Eventually Sunflower and River ask me to hang out with them at night. I do not know what to say.
That night, at the hospital the man says “Tomorrow you will do your therapy in themorning.” He knows. I am relieved and scared. I have never stayed awake throughthat pain. I desperately want to enjoy the time with my friends.
The next morning, we begin therapy. It starts much like the others. Failure. Frustration. Crying. Toward the end, the man wants me to try walking without my braces to Him one more time. I say that I can’t. He says “I will give you strength. Just try.” I shake my head in disbelief but stand up anyway. I tenderly pick up my left foot, move it 6 inches forward, and set it down. I repeat with my right foot and miraculously don’t fall. I take one step. Two. Three. Four. Five. I pick up my foot to take another and fall. I don’t care. Iam overjoyed! I took 5 steps!!! I smile and see the man is smiling too.
As I sit here smiling on the day’s accomplishment, I look at my wrist and feel blessed. I am healing. I have found great friends in Sunflower and River. As we watchthe sky change magnificent colors as the sun sets. I no longer fear the dark; I know the sun will rise again. As the light fades and I am overwhelmed withlove, music of Joshua Radin begins playing in my head.
“For thefirst time
In such along time
I’ll be okay”