Orphan

I wanted to bear it for them, for all of them I guess. They were always worried for me after it happened but the truth was that I didn’t remember it. Not consciously. Sometimes I’d wake in the night, sheets tangled around me as if I’d fought something, suppressed something. I’d wake shouting and crying, opening my eyes to banish the memory. I would open my eyes and forget. Or bury. Perhaps it’s all the same ? I needed it gone to be strong enough to bear everyone else’s pain and burdens again.

There’s enough to go round here: the scared and lonely and helpless. The adults look after us but I know they don’t really understand, not in the way that we experience it. How can you know what it is to be ripped from your parents as a child unless it has happened to you ? So I choose to bear it because I understand all too well. I comfort Jack when he sits on the end of his bed and sobs, whispering assurances in the dark. I read to Sophie, always the last book her Ma read to her. She knows it by heart – it is part of your heart I tell her – but I read it anyway. I change Luke’s sheets in the night when he wakes wet and embarrassed from another nightmare. I pass them to one of the adults so that he doesn’t have to. Sometimes I swap them with mine to spare his shame. I’m so full of it now, so removed from any previous sense of being happy, being alive, that I’m numb to taking on their burdens. Perhaps they’re right to worry about me. It wasn’t always like this. After the accident, when I was first taken in, I was afraid and angry. They called me orphan. I hated that word. I wouldn’t be defined by what had been taken from me, by the absence of something – or someone – and so slowly I reshaped myself by what I could take. And all there was to take was pain and desperate, desperate longing. Yearning sadness. I took it and, at first, it cost me. Reaching out to the others, taking their wounds as my own, was like a constant reminder of my own loss until, eventually, it got lost. I lost my loss. I always liked how that sounds and sometimes I even convince myself that it’s true. All that sorrow disappeared beneath each gesture of kindness, each of the burdens that someone else could lay down and I could carry. Eventually I figure I will disappear completely, replaced by what was left of the memories of distant guardians: dead and gone.

I bear it all, each one of my brothers and sisters known to me, each one of them mine to carry. Mine to guard.

I have orphaned my own sadness by claiming theirs.

……

This is the eighteenth story in my series of 42 shorts that I’m writing to raise money and awareness for Mind, the mental health charity. Guess it was more of a point-of-view character piece than a full blown story. If you’re interested in donating to a great cause then please visit my fundraising page. https://www.justgiving.com/42shorts/

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