Quick nods. “Yes. Yes. Exactly. It’s hard to describe what’s been happening in my head. Everyone kept telling me I’d bounce right back, but the memories, the voices in my head…”
“They’re real. The voices. The flashes. The fears. All of it is real, Brooks, and no matter how often you try to describe it to a person who’s never been in a trauma, they won’t get it. What happened to you had to be terrifying. I know about the tossing and turning. I know about the sweats. I know how it feels as if it’s happening nonstop, every second of every day.”
My head lowered. “It’s been like that since you were ten?”
“Uh-huh. That’s why I couldn’t leave you. I know what it’s like to be afraid to begin again.”
“I feel stupid for my actions now…selfish. You’ve been dealing with this all your life, and never once were you cold. You never turned against anyone. I’ve been so shitty to you, Magnet. I’m sorry.”
She shrugged. “Everyone deals with trauma differently. Just because I reacted to my issues in a different manner doesn’t mean you had to react the same way. What happened to you was traumatic, and I completely get you being afraid of music, because of what happened to you. You feel cheated. The one thing you love, you can’t yet have. But you’ll get there, Brooks. You’ll find your way.”
“I picked up my guitar the other day. It was just sitting in the corner of the room, and out of habit, I picked it up, and then remembered I couldn’t play. So instead of getting sad, I just got angry. I got drunk to stop the hurt. But after the buzz faded, the hurt was still there.”
“It’s going to hurt. It’s painful, it’s hard, and it just freaking hurts. It hurts for so long that sometimes you think the hurting will never fade. That’s kind of the beautiful part in the hurting, though.”
“The strength you find to keep going on. Even on the mornings when you think you won’t make it, by nightfall you realized that you could. That’s my favorite thing about life—that no matter what, it keeps moving on.”
“What’s your least favorite thing about life?” I asked.
She lowered her head for a minute in thought, before looking back at the sky. “That no matter what, it keeps moving on.”
My hand rested on the dock, and when her fingers found their way to me, we locked our hold together and looked up at the awakening cotton candy sky.
“I’m sorry.” I cleared my throat, feeling foolish. “I’m sorry for how cold and rude I’ve been, Maggie. You didn’t deserve any of that. I was just trying to push you away as I self-destructed. I didn’t want you to be around as it happened. The water was up to my neck, and I was ready to go under. Then, your voice pulled me up. Your voice saved me. I’m still pretty broken, but I made you a promise. I promised you one day I’d show you the world, and that’s what I’m going to do. I can’t swear that I won’t have bad days, but I promise I’ll fight for the good ones. I’ll fight for you, Magnet. The same way you fought for me.”
“You stayed by my side for twenty years, Brooks. I think I can handle you having a few rocky days.” She laughed, and I was in love with the sound. “Besides, you’ve seen my darkness. It’s only fair that I’d be able to see yours, too.”
“Your voice, Maggie…I don’t think you understand what it does to me.”
She laughed, and I fell more in love with her. “I wondered what I’d sound like. Do you like it?”
“Like it? I love it.”
“It’s not too…” She wiggled in her seat and scrunched her nose. “Squeaky? Or childish?” She deepened her voice to an unnatural volume. “I stood in the mirror last night practicing my seductive voice. Do you like it?”
I couldn’t stop laughing.
“You like it, don’t you?” she said, deep as hell and awkward as all get out. “You think this voice is sexy. You totally want to bang me.”
“I mean, yeah, but the voice could go. You sound like you’ve smoked fifty packs of cigarettes a day.”
She started giggling and nudged me in the arm. We laughed and talked as if the communicating back and forth without a board was normal for us. It was effortless. Truth was, if I could’ve sat quietly and listened to her voice for the rest of my life, I would’ve been happy.
She scooted closer to me as the sun started rising. “You okay today, Brooks?” she whispered, sending chills down my spine, asking me the question I’d asked her almost every single day of her life.
I squeezed her hand twice. Yes.
We didn’t speak another word.
Five minutes before she sat on my dock, I was completely lost.
Five minutes sitting across from her, I began to remember my way home.
Maggie still tossed and turned at night, too. Not as much as she used to, but still, she had nights of darkness that came her way. One night as we slept beside one another, I awakened to the sound of her dismay. She was whispering something to herself, her body drenched in sweat. I wouldn’t wake her because I knew there was nothing worse than being pulled out of one’s nightmares before they were ready to leave. I waited for her to come back to me.
When she did, she gasped, opening her eyes, and I was right there to offer comfort. For a moment her hands flew to her neck, but she took deep inhales and exhales to relax herself. It seemed over the years, she was better at easing her own panics.
“You’re okay,” I promised. “I’m here.”
Maggie sat up and combed her hair behind her ears.
“On a scale of one to ten, how bad?” I asked.
I kissed her forehead.
“Did I wake you?” she questioned.
She smiled. “Liar.” She shifted around in the sheets and pulled her knees up to her chest, fidgeting nonstop. I could see that part of her mind was still living in her nightmare.
“Tell me what you need,” I said. “Tell me what to do.”
“Just hold me,” she replied. Her eyes shut.
I scooted in closer and wrapped my arms around her. My chin rested against the top of her head as I held her.
I moved my lips to her forehead, giving her a gentle kiss. My lips lingered to her tears, and I softly kissed those away. My lips then moved to her mouth as I watched her inhale and exhale. My eyes shut as my lips grazed against hers. She grazed against mine. Her breaths became mine, and mine fell into hers. “You are okay tonight,” I promised her. And if she wasn’t she would be by morning. Either way, I wasn’t leaving her side.