Go Back To Your Life

In the days before I was sent home.
The days before I had no choice
But to take medical leave.
She was in a battle for her life.
Fighting breast cancer.

She was my friend.
She still is.
I cared for her then.
I care for her now.
I’ll care for her even when
I’ve passed beyond
The veil of life.

I will care even though I know
That she will never speak to me
Again.

It is the way I am.
The way I’m meant to be.

In those days she said these words to me.
“Mark. I just want my life back.”
I didn’t understand.
I didn’t.
I had no idea what the words she’d said
Really, truly meant.

I was the only person
In the place that we worked
That reacted
Like I did.

To me,
Everyone reacted as if
They didn’t care
If she lived or died.
They didn’t care
About the battle that she fought
To simply stay alive.

It took me 12 solid weeks to figure out
That they cared at all.
It took me 15 months
To figure out how much they cared.
And how they cared.
And why they cared
The way they did
For her.

It took me 15 months
To figure out the actions
That she took.
The things she did.
And why she’ll never speak to me
Again.

And I cannot help but wonder,
How do people get so broken?
How do they become
So very much afraid?
How can they not see
What their actions
And decisions
Do to them?

So that you may understand
The things that I say,
I will share a story
Here with you.
A story that will never happen.
A story that is not true.
For I know this simple truth.
She will never speak to me
Again.

The story starts with me at work.
In my new job.
In my new life.
A life that she’s not a part of.
And there I am.
Working one day.
Checking in the computers
Of customers.
Making sure I’ve taken notes
On what is wrong
And what is broken.
So the technicians that work on them
Can fix them
Yet again.

And there she is.
Standing in the line.
As I finish with the customer
I’ve been working with.
I look up, and wave
For the next customer
To come to the counter.

And to my surprise
The next customer is her.
And her husband.
“Hi, Mark,” she says to me.
“Hi,” I answer back.
“What brings you in today?
How can we help you?”

“I came in to see you.
To see if you’re alive.
If you are doing well.”
And then she smiles.

“I’ve been well for quite some time.
Why come see me now?”

She looks around
At the place that I work now.
“This isn’t you, you know.
You shouldn’t be here,
Working in this place.
It’s beneath you.
You should be working in a place
Like you used to.
When you worked with us.
When you worked with me.”

“Why have you come here?”
I ask once again.
“No, really.
Why have you come?
You haven’t spoken to me
In more than 15 months.
Why bother now?”

She looks at me,
Surprised.
“I just want to see
That your OK.
There’s nothing wrong with that
Is there?”

“You could have sent me a message.
You know my email address.
You know both of them.
Just like everyone
In the land of grey.”
That was my name
For the place I worked.
That was all the place
Would ever be
To me.

Her husband spoke.
“Mark, please.
She came to see you.
Just to let you know
That she is OK.
Just to find out
How you are.
If you are healing
Finally.”

I looked at him,
And smiled.
I looked at her.
And smile once more.
“I am fine.
As you can see.
I’ve got a job.
And a brand new life.
One that you’re not part of.
That was the choice you made.
It wasn’t made by me.”

“I see.”
She said.
Very quietly.
Then she looked into my eyes.
And asked,
“You said you loved me.
Do you still love me now?”

“Yes.
I loved you then.
I love you now.
You will always be
My Lenten Rose.
That just how I am.”

Then I looked at her husband.
“I was never once
A threat to her.
Or a threat to you.
My only wish had been
That the two of you
Would have many years of time
That you could spend together.
Making your dreams come true.”

Then I looked at her.
“You told me once,
When you were ill,
Before I got sent home,
That all you wanted was
To have your life back
Once again.”

I smiled.
“And so it is.
You’ve got back the life
That cancer took from you.”
I took a breath.
Then let it out.
“As for me,
The life I had back then
Damn near destroyed me.
It tore my heart and soul
Apart.
I had to change.”

She looked at me.
And I smiled at her.
“I don’t want my old life back.
The one that nearly killed me.
I have a new life now.
With new people in it.
And new friends.”

Her husband took her hand.
It was as if he knew
What I was going to say.
“We both got what we wanted.
You got your old life back.
With your family.
And your house.
And job.
A life where everything
Is planned.
And known.
And safe.
A stable life.
A secure life.
A life you’re happy in.”

I reached across the counter
And I gently took her hand.
“I got what I wanted.
I got away from the life I had.
The one that was killing me.
I have a new life now.
One that isn’t safe.
One that isn’t stable.
One that changes
Rapidly.
One where I don’t try
To control everything,
Or everyone.
One that acknowledges
That the past is gone.
And the future hasn’t come.
And may never get here.”

I looked into her eyes.
Filled with that magic light
That I love so very much.
“All I have
Is now.
And I know
That you can’t live that way.
So it is that you should go
Back to your old life.
The one in which you’re safe.
And forget me.
For I’m never going to be
In that type of life
Again.”

As she walked away,
Holding her husband’s hand,
I knew that she was sad.
That she believed that I was broken.
Someway, and somehow.
That she thought it very sad
That I’d lost everything I had.
The job.
The income.
And the respect
And trust
Of the people I once knew.

I knew she didn’t understand
That I could not return
To the life I’d had.
For that life had nearly
Killed me.

I wish she knew
That I am sad.
That I cry for her.
And the people I once knew.
That I cry for those I see
Everywhere I go
That are so very wounded
By the life
They’ve chosen to lead.

A safe life.
A secure life.
Where nothing ever changes.
Where everything is known.
Where there is no risk
Of ever getting hurt.
And all there is
Is what there’s supposed to be.

She may even believe
That I’m angry with her,
And all the people
That I once worked with.
I’m not.
I can’t be.
How can I be angry
At people
When they are so very hurt?
At people that have chosen
To live the life they lead.

A life I know
Is slowly
Killing them.

I wish somehow
That she could see
The world that I see.

But I know she doesn’t.
And I know
She doesn’t want to.
For I know that she believes
The way I see the world
Is broken.
And just wrong.

So it is that she’s become
A part of what I once was.
And will never be
A part of this new me.

But as I said at the beginning.
She was my friend.
And as far as I’m concerned.
She still is.
And always will be.

Even though
She’ll never talk with me
Again.

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