Lavender and Vanilla

December 17, 2009
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I opened my eyes only to realize that they were never closed. I was acutely aware of my body; I could see it in my mind well. My hair was still blonde and curled; I could still perfectly imagine my unfortunately pale skin. My arms were reaching out, but I could neither see them nor feel them. I thought about moving my body, followed through the motions I would normally use to do so, but nothing happened.
My husband, Richard, was not with me wherever I was, though it was not shocking. Since our marriage, I had grown accustomed to being alone. A blinding whiteness encircled me, reminding me of a blank sheet of paper waiting for a story to tell. I was surrounded by a clean, calming scent. I couldn’t quite place what the smell was, though I could feel a memory of it right below the surface of my mind.
“Where am I?” I wondered aloud. I waited to hear my shrill voice which plagued me, but instead I heard a much smoother tone than I had heard in years. Suddenly I have a reply, though I couldn’t see the source of the voice.
Good question.
A shiver ran through me that I couldn’t completely feel.

“Who are you?” I questioned to something I was not sure existed.
Who are you?
For a moment I was taken aback. I was not sure what type of response to expect, but I was hoping for something concrete. I tried to see something to give me a clue as to where I was, but no matter how hard I tried I could still only see emptiness.
“Oh my God, am I dead? Is this heaven?”
I’d prefer if you didn’t use my name in vain.
I was not expecting that response and suddenly felt free. Surely if I was speaking with God, I was dead.
Just kidding, that whole name in vain thing is kind of a bit I do.
My mood dropped a little and it then became clear to me that whatever answer I was expecting was probably not close to the one I was going to be given.

“If you are God, then tell me, why do you so often leave prayers unanswered?” I wondered.
Who said I was God?

“It is the only logical conclusion for the time being. So please just go along with me,” I replied.
So many people assume that prayers are left unanswered when, in reality, they just can’t see what is given to them. How do you know that God didn’t answer your prayer and you can’t remember ever praying it? Maybe you gave up a life that was intended for you because God wanted to give you what you wanted so badly. Maybe your current life is the answer to a prayer from another time.
Or maybe those are the thoughts of a person desperately clinging to the idea of God helping them because they are too scared not to; maybe you are correct in thinking that prayers are left unanswered.
The response puzzled me, not because it was overly complex, but because it was exactly what I used to think when I was a kid.
It makes you think doesn’t it? Did you ever wonder if you strayed from the path given to you when your prayers were answered?

I thought about this question for a moment. I almost didn’t realize that for once I wasn’t wondering where I was, or why I was hearing this voice. For an instant, all that came to my mind was my marriage to Richard. All the nights I spent waiting for him to come home, all the nights I spent waiting for him to notice me, I wondered that same thing. Suddenly, I was not sure that this wasn’t my own voice I was conversing with.
I am curious, are you happy?
I thought about the question. I wasn’t sure if I was being asked if I was happy in this very moment or with my life. Though, I also wasn’t sure that I had a life anymore.
I remember that at one point, I was Alyssa Callagy. I know I had a lot of friends and a loving family. But mostly, I remember my turtle sandbox in my backyard. I remember the sound of the ice cream truck driving down the block, and the excitement that would bubble up in my chest while I was running after it. When was the last time I felt that excitement?
As a teenager, I was never completely at ease. I always worried about where my life was going. I was told often that I had substantial talent as a writer, but that reassurance was never enough for me. Nothing was ever enough for me. I was always preoccupied with how I could have my perfect life. Though I had dreams of becoming a successful writer, I never believed that would truly happen for me. Maybe I was good enough to do well in school, but I thought that once I left the safety of my classroom, my writing would get torn apart. Instead of working at my writing, I used to wish every night for my prince to come and sweep me off my feet. I used to pray for a beautiful home with a beautiful husband. I forced myself to believe that those would be the key to my happiness and comfort.
When I was 18, my prayer came true. I met Richard Rutherford. He was exactly what I had always imagined, and swept me off my feet. By 23 we were married, by 25 we were living in my dream house. I was able to get anything that I wanted. This must mean that I was happy.
“What reason did I have not to be happy?” I said out loud, more for my own benefit than anything else.
That wasn’t my question. My question was whether or not you are happy, not whether or not you should be.
I kept silent for a moment, thinking back to my childhood, to my bare feet running through the grass, trying to remember when exactly things changed.
You think your life is over.
“Well, isn’t my life over? If I’m here, in what I assume to be heaven, I have to be dead.”
Whether or not your life is over is up to you.
“That isn’t true if I am dead and in heaven right now.”
Had I been alive right now, I would have been greatly agitated with this voice. However, for some reason, I was not bothered by the vague statements. Instead, I thought of the smell and what exactly it was. It was so familiar, but just out of reach. Even so, I was completely comfortable in this place, which was a great feat considering wherever I was on earth I was almost always uncomfortable.
Alright, let’s say you are dead. Did you die happy or are you happy to have died?
This question struck me, and I’m sure that had I been able to feel my body, my breath would have caught in my throat. The question was ridiculous, of course I died happy. What reason did I have not to be happy? More importantly, who would be happy to die? I had a husband and a beautiful home. While it is true that I could not remember my heart swelling with joy or think of a time recently that I truly laughed, I always assumed that it wasn’t just me. I always thought nobody truly felt happy, that only books and movies describe happiness like that.
For some reason, though I had used the same reasoning hundreds of times before, it was then that I realized how faulty my logic was. What if it was just me? What if others around me actually did feel their hearts swell with joy and laugh like they did as kids?
With the few friends I kept over the years, I always hid any doubt that I had about my happiness. But for once, there was no use in hiding it. I was not happy in my mortal life. I felt more secure and free in this unknown place than I remember feeling for years alive.
My fairytale life was exhausting. Being married to a man whose first priority was his career and second priority was his social standing was not what I dreamed of. I remember all the nights I sat in bed waiting for him to come home. I sat in silence, my white covers pulled up around me. Why had I not gotten up and walked over to my desk? I could picture the dark mahogany more clearly than I could picture Richard’s handsome face. On the desk sat a typewriter with a blank sheet of paper sitting in it. Always blank.
I had given up on the idea of dreams at a very young age. I thought that all the aspirations others had were just a futile as mine. People spend their whole lives working towards something which they have built up so much in their head that once they catch it they don’t know what to do. Occasionally I worried that I only stopped believing in dreams to make myself feel better because my dream of being a writer did not turn out well, but usually the idea left as swiftly as it came. Wherever I was remained silent, and all I could think of was that blank sheet of paper. Why had I not filled it yet?

“Well, don’t you have anything to say to me?” I asked, desperate to distract myself. There was no reply.
“Do you find this humorous? I need your help here; I need to figure this out,” I pleaded. Yet the stillness remained.
Minutes or hours passed me in silence, I cannot be sure which. I still had no answers to my questions. It was terrifying to think that this may be heaven; it was even more terrifying to think this may have all been in my head.
Just as I was growing despondent, the scent which I had noticed earlier overpowered me. The memory I was struggling to recall earlier pushed through with amazing clarity. The room smelled of lavender and vanilla, but more precisely the old laundry detergent my Nana used. Suddenly, I was back in my Nana’s laundry room, hiding behind the heavy mahogany doors of the closet. The washing machine was going, and I could smell the detergent. It seemed to be such a silly thing to remember from my childhood, but some of my happiest days were spent running around that house with my cousins.
It was a time when I was hiding from nothing but whoever was “it” during Hide and Seek. It was before I began to hide all my feelings, all my dreams, to accommodate my fear. I remember one day, my cousin accidentally broke the doll I was playing with. I went to my Nana crying, and she took the doll and glued it back together. She handed it to me and said with a smile, “If something is broken, fix it.”
Whether or not my life was over was up to me. If something is broken fix it.

I closed my eyes only to realize that they were never open.





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