Flashbacks are terrible. Simply terrible. I hate them. And I certainly don't want to bring them on, and yet they remind me of those bruises I sometimes get that hurt to touch, but that I keep touching anyway. Can't help myself.
Thinking about the "dark day" is pain beyond words. And yet, my mind seems to want to play those memories across the backs of my eyes like a movie on repeat.
Some parts are lost to the segments of my brain dulled by shock, but other parts are crystal clear.
Sometimes I want to talk or write about the memories of that time regardless of how much it tears me apart. Sometimes I don't think I have the energy to.
All the time there are triggers. An ambulance shrieking past, a character dying in a movie, the sounds and sights of a hospital.
The flashbacks don't surprise me as much as they used to and they don't seem to undo me quite as easily as they used to, but trauma has etched its patterns in my brain.
The other day, my childhood friend's husband texted me. When that text popped up, the previous text from June 4th, 2011 showed up too, right behind it. The last time her husband texted me was on the day Dave died. In fact, now that I look at the time stamp, it was about an hour after he died.
I don't remember ever seeing that text before. It read "Cass, I don't know if or when you will read this but Stacey is on her way to be with you. Stay strong and know we are thinking about you and Dave."
When we knew that things were looking very bad for Dave, my local friends notified my long-distance friends. When Stacey found out, she booked a flight from Ohio to be with me, and her husband sent that text, not knowing that Dave had already slipped away. By the time she got to the airport, she'd gotten the news that Dave had died.
Reading that text that seemed to travel right out of time, out of nowhere to my phone almost 11 months later, made everything around me to dim to a gray, silent blur. My ears rang and my mouth went dry. For a split second I forgot where and when I was.
And then, I was right back in that hospital, seeing him conscious for the last time. Then, the last time I would see him at all, lying unconscious in an impossibly bright exam room, his face swollen and almost unrecognizable.
I remembered holding his wallet in my hands and knowing, regardless of the doctors' efforts, that he'd never use that wallet again. I remember curling up on that horrible waiting room couch, cradled by my friend, begging my other friend to pray for Dave, just in case I was wrong about my terrible premonition. Just in case there was anything we could do with our powerless little selves to save him.
(As I type this, my hands are shaking and my pulse is speeding up. It's hard to get enough air, but I'm so strangely compelled to continue.)
I remember the doctor's words. The words the last few hours had hinged on. The words I wished I could stop in midair and redirect, back into the man's mouth to be changed to "We have him stabilized and he's going to be okay". The words that brought my life to a screeching halt.
I remember. I remember too much. Even shock couldn't save me from remembering those nauseating moments.
It might help to press that bruise from time to time. It might help to purge occasionally. But, damn if it doesn't feel like I will fall apart at the seams to think of it.
If Dave had survived me, I'd want him to focus on the 15 years we had together and not the last 7 days of life. So, I don't dwell there too much, but on the other hand, maybe unearthing those memories helps to dull their edges just a little every time until their edges don't cut quite as easily.