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An Untitled Ending
Sleep is no remedy to the aches of everyday life. My dreams are filled with haunting voices of those who did not survive the camps; my closed eyelids are constantly showing images of suffering. The pillows cannot muffle my screams, and his shoulder is not one of comfort. I have changed so much. The little girl who used to love Peter is gone; she perished in the gassing of her acquaintances. The memories of loss are so prominent; they are not something that I can shake off or push to the back of my mind to rot. Rot. All of those bodies thrown in ditches are rotting. I cannot escape it; the war is my shadow. Every single object, sentence, glance takes me back to the war. My thoughts are interrupted by the tears; excuse me while I bleed.
I open my eyes to the day. The sun is filtering in drowsily, and dust moats are suspended in the stale air. Peter’s side of the bed is messy, but empty. I spread my ears out through the entire apartment, but there is no living sound to hear. I am alone again. This is how I spend every Sunday. I could go to church, but it holds no interest to me anymore. I do not feel right in that environment. My thoughts are too soiled.
My house is empty. It is sparsely decorated, and that is being kind. There are only a few chairs, a desk, a bed, a table, and the everyday appliances that come with every apartment. I skip breakfast; my appetite has not returned since my days in the Secret Annex, which is really no longer a secret. Instead, I head over to my desk. I pull up a chair and face the scarred desktop. Once, it was a beautiful maple top, but after much use and abuse, it is dull and covered with a myriad of scratches. It has been gouged and scuffed beyond recognition.
Shakily, I take out a piece of paper and an ink pen. I know what this familiar sequence is going to produce; there will be a flood of memories so overpowering I will grip the armrests in order to stay upright, then nothing. The war robbed me of many things; I have no confidence and I have no relationship with the family that was spared. I have no life, and no interactions with anyone beyond the realm of superficiality. But the one stolen item I wish I could have back is my passion for writing. If I had that, I could share my feelings. I could let loose the flood of emotions and smile as the world helps put me back together. But that is impossible. I cannot write. I am to remain a prisoner to these thoughts and memories. The only hope is Peter.
Unsurprisingly, an hour later, I still have not written a word. Defeated yet again, I trudge back to the bedroom and lay down. Throwing the covers over my head, I succumb to the thoughts that threaten to overtake me. This siege on my mind should have ended long ago. I know I have given up; what is keeping the memories at bay is a mystery to me. I have no energy to attempt to solve it either.
I don’t know how much later, an hour, a day, a minute, Peter comes in the apartment with the slamming of the front door. He trudges into the bedroom and heads into the adjacent bathroom without so much as a glance at me. Peter knows what I’m doing; I do it every Sunday. Months ago he stopped asking me if I was all right. We both knew the answer before the question was put forth: no. Neither one of us was “all right”.
I stare at the closed bathroom door and think of how ironic it is. Peter is on one side, and I am on the other. Silence ensues. I hear the medicine cabinet open, the rattling of pills in a bottle, and then the water turns on. He doesn’t bother to shut the cabinet. We are both so predictable. There is absolutely no thought to anything we do concerning one another. Hostility is not the right word to describe it, although I am not sure if there is a word that can.
After a few minutes, I drag my body out of bed and head into the kitchen. Grabbing the chair I occupied earlier, I sit down at the table, awaiting Peter’s return. As if on a timer, he appears in front of me. Finally, I have his gaze, even if I don’t have his attention. I must have surprised him. Rarely does he see me out of bed; rarely does he even see me. I clear my mind as much as possible, and confront him.
“Peter, we need to fix this, fix us.”
“Peter, please. We need to do something. I can’t go on like this.”
Yet again, there is no reply. Frantically now:
“Answer me, please! Do you even want to fix us? I need to know. Peter? Peter!”
He stands like stone, unrelenting in his fixed silence. The silence has torn us so far apart, I realize now that no bridge could be built to join the sides. I do feel like I see him from across a far canyon; we have both grown and shrank so differently. Peter and I are like two separate continents, so different are we in our changes.
There we both are, I sitting and he standing, when I realize I know what I want him to say. This relationship between he and I will never work; I just need him to tell me that. After what seems like hours, he speaks the words that should have been spoken long ago.
“Anne, there is nothing to fix. You say you can’t go on like this? I say I cannot even go on!” He is awake now; fire is alive in him. The release of pent up feelings is dangerous, but I cannot hide. “I don’t even know you anymore. Anne, I hardly even know myself. It is impossible for anything to come of us, and you know it just as well as I do!”
With that, Peter leaves. He leaves the apartment and my life for good. I leave the apartment too, even though I am still in that second hand chair. Finally, the one part of my mind that was damming up the memories snaps and everything rushes out, consuming the last bit of the present that I was aware of. Seeing it all was numbing; I did not feel the floor as it reached up to greet me. I was swallowed by the waves of feelings, and battered by the torrents of sights. Ripped limb from limb, I was taken apart; my mind was demolished into a pile of uncontrollable thought. No barriers could be put up now.
Peter was right. Moving forward was impossible. I was taken over by it all; I was incapable of standing up to its power. The past is something we cannot outrun or forget. It is always there, waiting to take us over. For some, it never comes, and history’s pull is subtle. To others, it is indivertible and unforgettable. Once it gets a slight grip on you, there is nothing new. My past is an incurable disease that I will never rid of. I don’t have to worry for long, though, because soon enough there will not be a “me” left. All I have to do is wait.