I wake up, but not fully awake. My mind still dreams as my eyes wander about the room, distorting reality. I’ve had the problems since I was a kid. I’d force myself awake, gasping for air in order to make a sound. “Please, someone help me,” dying at my lips.
It isn’t anything new. The sleeping problem has been getting more violent. When you’re me and you’re rational and you’ve dealt with this problem since before you can remember, you know how to get a handle on it. You know how to wake up without freaking out. You learn to control your dreams and force yourself awake when things get too serious. Too bad. Too nightmarish.
Lately, however, I can’t help but to notice that all my “training” has failed me. So I fight sleep. I stay awake, staring at my own reflection in the mirror. Noticing that the man I’m growing into isn’t the one I had pictured. And when I fail to stay awake, when sleep takes me, I am back in that red lit hall. Voices and whirling noises filling my ears. I’m being pushed. Like in a hospital. Are these memories I’ve faught off for a year? Or is my guilt finally catching up to me?
You won’t see it my way. You can never see it my way. In fact, you’d probably try to talk me out of believing my cousin’s death is my fault. And as rational as your arguments are, they can never out wit my rationing of the events.
You’d tell me that he was drinking that he caused the accident that took his life. Cracked neck. Died on impact, they said. You’d tell me that the situation was out of my control. That life isn’t in my control. That nothing I did caused this effect. And I’d nod and accept that is what you believe.
But it was me who told him not to come back to my mother’s house. It was me who told our cousin to let him know he was no longer welcomed because he failed to live up to his part of the deal. And it was me who didn’t take any remorse on the fact that the man, who taught me everything I know about music, about movies, about being the black sheep of this family, would be homeless. I was like them all. I had given up on him.
And on New Year’s Day 2004, I woke up to find my mother at my bedroom door. My cousins were in the living with my brother. And she looked me in the eye, remorse dancing upon hers, and told me, “Damien passed last night.”
And the rationing of all those sessions in therapy can’t erase this guilt. This undeniable pain that I must bear because I chose to. Call it the weight of the world on my back. Call it anything you want. The truth of the matter is, I have my intense sleeping disorders this time of the year because I am guilty.
And I think, if there is something that survives our physical bodies, it’s his way of not letting me forget.