Her hand released itself from mine, and I realized just like that, her life was over. It hit me like a ton of bricks. It stabbed me in the back. It slapped me in the face with its icy hand. My heart dropped to my stomach. She lay dead on the hospital bed, the flatliner ringing in my ears. And I knew she was gone. Gone for real. I knew that someday it would happen, but not today. Why today? Why on our birthday?
I didn’t cry, scream, wail, or speak. I could barely breathe. I only felt a lump in my throat that throttled and suffocated me and right in my chest was this numbing pain that I couldn’t ignore. I couldn’t hear anything and I felt as if I was drowning. My ears felt as if they were clogged with water. I felt the pressure of not being able to breathe on my chest, as the water weighs me down to the bottom of the deep blue sea. It hit me all at once.
The flatliner was still going, but I couldn’t hear it. I couldn’t hear anything. I couldn’t hear my mother collapsing to the ground, bawling on Diana’s bed, gasping for air between sobs, I couldn’t hear my father sit in the chair next to Diana across from me and cry into his hand, his shoulders bouncing as he weeped.
I know that drowning takes a very, very long time if you aren’t actually drowning, and if you have cement blocks chained to your ankles, you can’t really do anything about it.
I want to think that this isn’t real, that my twin is still with me, but I don’t. Weirdly, I feel nothing at all. Not sadness, anger, confusion, hopelessness, just...nothing. I was still holding her hand. It was limp and cold, not strong and warm like it used to be. I let out a shaky sigh and look at Diana, knowing that she will never look back at me again. Her bald head that was shaved due to cancer was wrapped in a teal scarf that I myself had made; her round glasses with golden rims were still sitting on her face, asking, begging to be seen through again.
I take the glasses off of Diana’s face and put them on. I forgot how awful her vision was. Everything that was five feet away from me was blurry. The only thing that came into focus was Diana. Maybe I can see the world through Diana’s eyes with her glasses.
The lump is still in my throat. I’m still suffocating. The numbing pain is eating up my heart and making me numb all over. I’m still drowning. I have cement blocks chained to my ankles and there’s nothing I can do. I can’t unchain myself and I can’t pull myself out. I’m in the middle of the ocean and there is no one around me. There isn’t anyone to help. Diana is gone and she can’t help. She can’t pull me up with her strength. I’m trying to tread water but I can’t. My head keeps bobbing underwater. I inhale the salty sea, the water pouring into my throat. I’m engulfed by water now. I don’t feel my consciousness fading. That’s what drowning is like when you’re not drowning. It’s an infinity of drowning, down, down, down to the bottom of the deep black sea. The ocean is black now. Everything just seems black and white.
I don’t process what’s happening the next day as we head home. I don’t process what happens as we turn the car around and head towards my grandmother’s house. I don’t process what happens when my grandmother holds me tightly, tears streaming down her face like a waterfall. I don’t process what happens when I am being led to my room. I don’t process anything that happens. I haven’t processed anything that has happened when I heard the words come from the doctor three months ago ‘she won’t live to see sixteen’.
I look into the mirror that stands across from the bed with rose sheets. The small crack in the mirror that has been there since I was seven still cuts my finger when I trace over it. I ignore the blood and look at my reflection. I almost look exactly like Diana when I have the glasses on. My wavy light brown hair tumbles down to my forearm and my dark brown eyes aren’t lighting up with joy like everyone says they are. I stand up and lock the bedroom door.
Sometimes things don’t make sense. Like when we want or need to talk to someone but we don’t. And sometimes we don’t have a reason, but sometimes it’s okay not to have a reason.
There’s a knock at my door. I can tell that it’s my father because he usually knocks once on my door, whereas my mother knocks twice. I don’t unlock the door. I don’t tell him to come in. Instead I lie on the bed with the pink rose quilt and pink rose pillows and stare up at the ceiling that no matter how much paint you put over it, the crack is still there, and it never goes away. It stays with you forever, and you just accept it. Then one day it’s gone, and you don’t know how to react.
I don’t think I can talk to anyone anymore. Maybe I can in my head, but not out loud. The numbing is still eating me up. I can’t process that one moment she was telling me about how much she hated hospital food and the next moment, she was gone.
Maybe you’ve had imaginary friends. Maybe you still do. Most people laugh and say that they grew out of that phase, or maybe they never really had imaginary friends. I personally think they’re lying. Once in awhile, someone may slip back into their imaginary friends world without even wanting to, and then there you are. Diana called me childish for still having imaginary friends, but in a jokingly manner. I guess they’re there for me when I’m coping. I would mention their names, but I forgot them a long time ago, so I gave them letters. That way they could make up and change their own names with that letter, but I would still be able to keep track of them.
My thoughts are interrupted by cries. I unlock and open the door just a bit. My mother’s wavy hair is stuck to her wet, blotchy face. I close the door and lock it again. I press my back against the wooden door and sink down to the carpet.
Diana sits to the right of me, her light brown hair in a high ponytail. I realize that this isn’t realistic because she still has her wavy, beautiful hair.
“You stole my glasses,” she smirked, looking at me. I shrug. Diana pulled her knees to her chest and looks out the window, and to the trees covered in snow that were shaped so perfectly, it almost looked like it was a painting. “I’m dead, Dana. I can see without them. You know, I can do anything now that I’m dead. I could go to school and haunt everyone who laughs at you for having imaginary friends,” Diana grinned, elbowing me in the arm. I look down. Her saying she’s dead makes my stomach turn.
“Don’t talk like that,” I say, looking over my left shoulder.
“Talk like what?” Diana asks. I let out another shaky sigh.
If you have a twin or had a twin, you know what it’s like when you’re separated for long periods of time. When you’re kids, it feels like somethings missing and you can’t exactly pinpoint what it is, so you pretend it’s a treasure map and your twin is X. I guess it’s the same way for teenagers and adults too, except the it’s more of a dulling numbness that gnaws away at your mind as you feel like there is a part of you that doesn’t fit in the puzzle piece. Maybe that’s just me.
I’m not drowning anymore. But I’m stuck in a darkness that certainly feels like I’m drowning. I swim through the darkness, but it’s just an endless infinity that eats you up and engulfs your mind. That darkness is Diana and I can’t escape it. The darkness has one consciousness that rules over you and suddenly, it controls you like you’re a puppet.
Death affects our lives daily. We may not know it, because sometimes it doesn’t affect our personal lives, but everyday people die, and we may just think that’s sad because it is, but I feel like people forget that they’re humans too. That they were a part of someone’s family, that they were loved and that they had a voice in this world, and just because they died doesn’t mean their voice stopped ringing.
Diana always talked about that stuff. She always talked about death. The more she got sick, the more she talked about death and how she befriended death.
I slip back into my daydream world. I’m in the piano room across the living room, thinking I would find Diana there. Except this time, the eggshell white walls are crumbling with grime smudged on what’s remaining of the walls, some piano keys have fallen to the ground, a clear vase is shattered to the floor with a wilted red rose and torn pieces of music sheets softly fly across the room as I hear the shattered pieces of glass crunch beneath my feet, and I feel as if I’m frozen in time. Nothing moves, nothing makes a noise, and there is nothing alive in this room except for Diana’s weary soul that found its way into myself, and now I carry her, and with every step I take, it aches.
I haven’t cried yet. I haven’t shed a single tear. But I can barely breathe. The lump is getting bigger and the aching numbness is getting stronger and the chains on my ankles aren’t leaving, and the ocean is getting bigger and bigger and there isn’t an ending to this ocean. And the more I sink the more I realize that I’m drowning in Diana’s mind. I don’t know how it’s possible, but I am.
I’m not one for accepting reality. I still think that this is a nightmare and I’ll wake up soon. Yet, this is a nightmare. A very long nightmare that will stick with me for the rest of my life that I can’t wake up from. I’m scared, without Diana, my mind is a spiral. It tightens until my mind is in a twisted knot and the only thing running through my head is the question that will never be answered, why did Diana have to die?
Guilt. Guilt is what I feel. I could’ve done something. I could’ve told the doctors my concerns about Diana but I didn’t because she swore that she was getting better. There’s this other feeling too that I can’t put into one word. It’s like I don’t know where I am and my senses are shut off and everyone I know isn’t who they claim to be. It’s like the all-is-lost moments they have in novels. Where nothing can be done. And you just crumble to the ground like bricks and there’s no way to escape what you feel and the damage is already done.
“I miss you. I know it’s been only a few days but I miss you. I don’t understand why you had to die, but there are just some things that don’t make any sense. I’d go on, but I’d cry and people don’t understand me when I’m crying,” I say, my voice cracking at the end of my sentence. Hot tears spill down my cheeks and fall onto the quilt with the pink roses. The lump in my throat is still getting bigger, it feels like a chicken egg, and it keeps expanding.
I don’t know how to cope. Coping healthily, that is. My coping mechanism is to stay in a daydream for hours, days, weeks, months, even years. I forget about the world around me. The daydream numbs me like the novocaine they use when you get a teeth pulled or a cavity filled. And the numbness eats you up and you know you need to stop but you can’t because feeling numb is better than feeling guilt or pain. The daydreams are uncontrollable. It’s impossible to fight them because they’ll win no matter what. The daydreams always win. But I let them win, because I love them, and I hate them.
Imaginary friends are good when you need support, but just for a few minutes. But the daydreaming is better. It’s numbing wounds I don’t want to reopen. And they say reopening wounds is bad for you, so why is daydreaming like this bad?
Diana’s in my mind. She always is. She’s not doing anything, but she’s there. Just roaming in my mind, touching places in my thoughts that I don’t want to think about. And there she is, controlling me like a puppet, waiting to be used, waiting to be played with. As much as I love her, as much as I want her to be alive, as much as her being in my dreams and thoughts numbs me in a twisted way, I want her out. I don’t want any of this. I don’t want her in my head, in my daydreams, I just want her six feet under, not numbing me so that I can cope in a healthy way, not numbing me so that I can move on. And so I guess it comes to this: do I want to move on or do I want to constantly numb the pain because it’s just easier?
I’m refusing to eat. It’s not that I don’t want to eat, it’s the fact that Diana couldn’t eat without vomiting it back up. It’s not that I want my pizza blended up so that it looks like chunky red sauce that looks like a tomato farm had been ravaged, it’s the fact that I felt like I wouldn’t be respecting Diana if I ate my food without shoving it in the blender.
My eyes are closed. I’m barely breathing. That’s how it feels. I’m numb all over, and the lump in my throat won’t stop expanding. I ignore the hot tears that spill down my cheeks like rain on a car window. I let out a breath, and it’s the last thing I hear before I drown everyone out. I’m never going back, not to a reality where my sister is dead. I choose to drown forever; at least I’ll be with Diana. Sometimes we have to suffer for things we love. And sometimes, it’s worth it.