Reprinted by special permission of the wonderful Vicky Dutton, who I thank graciously for allowing me to share.
Waking up was never usually a problem for Vanessa. Waking was generally a pretty easy, simple process that anyone could do. After all, you just opened your eyes and it was done.
No, waking wasn’t a problem.
But everything before and after was, and the problem was only getting worse.
Last night was a pretty easy night as they went. Bed by 10pm, the street lights outside far enough away on the main road that the warm soda orange glow was only subtle behind the thin cream curtains on her bare magnolia walls.
The sound of the city was always there, of course, but it was a bare whisper this evening. The ambulance and police sirens were still singing their night song on the air, but the city made this as mellifluous as the birds after a few weeks, and Vanessa zoned it out as she always did.
The song inside her bones was dull tonight as well. Its high-pitched banshee cry was muted and only a low murmuring drone.
So, she had gone to bed with a glass of cold water and a soothed head, and slept the majority of the evening.
God knows this is not always the case; not always was this simple process so easy.
She lay down painting the images of dreams on her ceiling, watching passing cars swash colour and trails of light from one corner of her bedroom to the other as they disappeared down her road, headlights blazing, engines revving a goodbye of sorts to the evening.
As she did, the dull drone inside her became a more prominent throb, a fuzzy ache, but still was not anywhere as near as it may have been on previous evenings.
The covers pulled higher, and the slight waft of breeze from the cracked window acted in duality with each other, and Vanessa drifted off to sleep.
Her dreams were colourful flashes of images, and sounds, visions and blurs. No details that startled or lingered.
Just a mash of sensations and warmth.
She slept. Her breathing a pulsing sigh and moan of relief.
Silence. Calm. Gentle relief before the morning was there again and the drone had cascaded into a heavy and angry burst of aching and angry hammer blows throughout her entire body.
The wake-up call of the Fibro.
On unsteady feet, Vanessa forced herself to sitting, and her eyes wet with tears, unexpected and sudden, she rubbed her knees and elbows, stroked gently on her own shoulders and collarbone, and then round her neck and lower back.
The pain was a constant roadmap of throbs, pangs and stabs.
Every inch of her body hurt, even her eyes.
The illness had come in the night with vengeance and fury and now she was awake to its grasp again.
Vanessa slowly, with a meandering puppet-like movement that looked delicate and fragile, raised herself to her feet and then shuffled toward the bathroom, where she looked at herself in the full length, brass framed mirror – taking in the bend of her back, the twist of her hip, the clutch of her hands wrapped around her stomach. And she cried again.
The pan was a constant chatter now. Gone was the whisper in her ear, quiet and calm. Instead, an amplified drill sergeant shouted and screamed at her every step.
And so, to the shower she shuffled further, turning on the hot and cold taps, and slowly, shedding her night shirt to the floor, she stepped inside naked and aching to allow the warm water to pound the flesh and bring slight calmness.
This illness was a silent – but noisy – partner that waked every step with her. Sometimes (though rarer and rarer the times were) it tiptoed behind, holding its mouth, except for the occasional giggle or guffaw.
More often, despite the drugs and the painkillers and the constant referrals to doctors an hospitals and medical Centre’s – the shadow was a angry, loud mouth braggart who spoke often and out of turn, who prodded and poked when ignore and who always had to make its presence felt and known.
Vanessa never considered herself single.
Though she was.
She was in a relationship with her illness. And it was abusive, and uneven, and hectic and violent.
But there were no shelters or helplines she could call.
Instead, she took the pills, took a delicate and soft version of yoga, tried aimlessly to harness the world around to lessen her burden, and lived in constant fear of the partner she never asked for who drove a wedge in her life that pushed her further and further away from her goals and aspirations and more often than not dictated her schedule, life and every waking moment.
The water fell hard and heavy on her skin. Ricocheting off in every direction, as she stood idle, head in hands and cried to herself about the pain.
The pain in turn – ever the gentleman - mocked and laughed and prodded and poked and harassed and did not let up, not once.
Her joints cracked and hurt when she raised her arm to rub the shower lotion in her skin. She ignored it as bad as it was, as best as she could, and lathered down to allow her skin a wonderful moment of clarity amongst the pain, as the lotion basked and soaked in.
Then she rinsed stood still under the waterfall of the shower, and watched the suds swirl and rotate down the outlet hole.
Soapy twirls and flailing patterns that looked like creamy, pearlescent dragons swam and flirted with the plug before disappearing in silent bursts of light and dark.
She stepped out, drips running down her body. Each drip leaving a trail of tingling sensation as it ran on her sensitive and brittle skin.
In a thrall of a sensation overload, she sat gently on the toilet – lid down – using it as a still, wrapped in a warm, thick, fluffy white towel.
At these worst times, she focused beyond the angry throb of her bones and tried to leave her body and exist only in her mind.
Inventing worlds and scenarios. Escape hatches into a new place away from the world; concentrating all her many tingling cells on one place that existed only in her mind and subconscious.
And slowly but surely, in front of her, one such door manifested and became real.
A bright Red door, with a number in bold brass – 1327 – emblazoned upon it. Vanessa was still sat, her eyes closed, her arms wrapped about her clutched in towel, errant strands of water running lines of moisture on her pale skin, made red from the showers heat.
And from the centre and core of her, a new arm grew, and reached out.
Its hand folded on the door handle of the red door, that grew as if from the air itself, and a being of light and of innocent wonder stretched out of Vanessa’s chest, and stepped through the pulled open door.
There was suddenly two Vanessa’s.
The one sat, in pain and silence, gritted teeth harshly biting back sobbed tear, hugging herself and concentrating hard.
The other a luminous being of sparkling quality, an aspect of patience and total calm in her eye.
She wore a thin fizzing veil of electric, upon her feet were square toed dancing shoes, and she had her hair in a tight bun, her face made up as though a swan was hiding behind the woman’s visage.
She pulled the door open, and stepped out of the weaker Vanessa, the vulnerable Vanessa, the pained Vanessa, and stepped through the door into the world the real Vanessa had created in her mind.
Here we were.
A being of the heart and a room from the mind, an escape hatch and a fleeting universe free of pain and full of joy, love, calm and abandon.
The Vanessa built of light smiled as she stepped through, and gentle tip-toed in fancy fashion to the middle of a large white floor, circles by giant stained glass windows, the panes made of light blues and ambers, yellows and pinks – a pastel world of muted tones, and bright effervescence.
On sprung heels and dainty toes, Vanessa-of-light danced and pirouetted and swooped, her arms and legs stretching to fantastic ways.
Long, lithe and beautiful.
Dancing amongst chairs and tables assembled of nothing but fine and solid mist and light.
The room was full of faint, tinkling music, like a music memory box had been opened. And the dancer moved in between the chairs and tables, and flared back into the empty dance floor, and spun kicks and bended knee pranced jumps and tip-toed steps into vast swinging and spinning circles.
Her body was a force of beautiful nature, at one with the vast expanse of the room, her breath a controlled and rhythmic sigh that moved in line with the music, each step and movement a beat of the music box tinkle.
Her body a machine of order – alive and wonderful with beauty and grace.
The seated, real world Vanessa smiled. The pain throbbed back against the memory and the thought she fixated on inside her minds eye.
The red door no more real than the room of light or the dancer version of her self.
But the manifestation of calm and repose.
Her way of hypnotizing beyond the ache inside.
Beyond the pain that lingered and beyond the day-to-day ritual of smiling gritted toothed through the pain and discomfort and torture.
Vanessa lived this life every day.
The pain would come and go, the ache would grow and wane, and the torturous throb in her bones and muscles would linger for hours, days and weeks – but inside her existed a vast continent of a world in which she could tumble and fall, and block out the real world if only for a few minutes a day.
Inside her, a dancer lived, made of light and hope and energy, and which was free of the pain and the noise.
Her world was one of light and dance and the brief and beautiful tinkle of the memory box, as the lid opened, and any one of the small red doors, with brass numbers appeared and came to fleeting existence, the dancer could open the portal and fall into a new world, tumbling into the dance, as long as was needed.
The Vanessa of Light and the Vanessa of the real world two sides of the same coin, both existing because of the other, and each working toward the same brief moment of light and love and calm.
The pain would always be here. But so would these doors and rooms of light, and the pain allowed these moments of breathing and calm, and did not punish or begrudge the momentary tumbles into fantasy.
Pain did not like its job, but was employment of life rather than desire, and though it resented itself for hurting this beautiful woman so, it smiled when the red doors appeared, and it was proud and loving of its host.
It loved Vanessa in its own strange and weird way… both the being of light and its host body.
But those doors, and the world beyond, they gave pain a meaning and purpose and an ache of its own.
The world in strange and wonderful syncopation.
The synchronicity of pain, love, light, darkness – all one and the same.
For one brief and dazzling moment, the being of flesh and the being of light, the calmness and the absence of pain, and the throbbing and aching that lived in her bones – all of them – were one and the same.
And the universe was alive.
Dull, shadowy light.
It made no sense, but it made perfect sense.
So, for the door and the brass numbers and the outstretched arm of the being of light, and the pause of the real for the fantasy beyond the threshold.
Pain smiled for Vanessa.
This was life, after all, neither fair nor unfair. It wasn’t as binary and simple as these two opposites.
Life was a ball of confusing and wonderful possibilities, that coalesced and tumbled in elegant chaos, no one could control it, but sometimes it took shape in the most poignant and wonderful ways.
Vanessa was a being of extreme poles – relaxation and pain bending and kissing, light and dark mixing into new hues of life and colour, fantasy and reality dancing in a wide white hall with darkened corners, adorable kisses planted on slender necks and elegant looks of love and nervous energy.
Such was life.
Vanessa dried herself of the final few droplets from the shower, and the being of light neatly and warmly climbed back inside the doorway of her heart where she lived, and the real Vanessa, the being of pain and life and love, walked naked to the bedroom from the bathroom, and put on her clothes silently and with haste.
Looking out of the window at the sun hanging bright and brazen in the sky, she knew that it was not going to be as bad a day as she feared.
There had been worse.
There would always be better, and for everything else, there was a dancer of light inside her that would spin pirouettes in the ballrooms of her mind, and bring forth the silence.
Those red doors were only a fleeting, simple thought away.
One thought, and the dance could begin again.
But for now, she knew it would be an ok day.
And she smiled.
And she let out a gentle, loving laugh.
And she went on with her day…
The red door and the dance, only a thought away.