Ronel Lourens

I switch on the light. It is three o’clock in the morning. The night is quiet, but not as quiet as I am.

I, Cecilia, shut down yesterday.

“Illegal operation … shutting down” – like a computer message. No warning signs of something “hanging” – just shut down.

I try to read. There are no words – only letters mocking me are left on the pages. I put the book down.

With one phone call my whole world fell apart and so did I. My best friend is dead. Is it for real? Maybe I was just dreaming. It’s the middle of the night and I’m in bed, so it is possible.

Maybe a cup of tea will make me help to sleep. I get out of bed and make my way to the kitchen. Every step in the unfamiliar darkness reflects my life at this moment.

Why didn’t she talk to me, say something? We always talk about everything and we’ve always been honest and open to each other about everything. Why didn’t I pick up that something was wrong? If I had known, could I have said something, done something, anything to change her mind? If I had told her exactly how much I loved her and that she meant the world to me, it would have made a difference. I could have reminded her about all the good times and how we got through difficult times by being there for each other. She would have realised that life is still worth it. Did she even think about me when she did it? Was she so focused on herself that no-one else mattered? My life will never be the same again. I will never be alive again and I blame her for it.

Steam burning my hand makes me realise that I’ve been gripping the lid while waiting for the water to boil. How many cups of tea did we share along with our thoughts and dreams? The smell of my favourite tea turns my stomach and I run for the bathroom, my body rebelling against what my mind has to accept.

Back in bed I stare in front of me. Now even the thoughts have left me. Silence is not so golden after all, is it? My alarm clock brings me back to reality. I get up and start preparing for the first empty day of the rest of my life.

At the office my daily chores begin. Every now and then I catch myself staring. My phone rings. I have to sit in at a workshop to take notes. Maybe it will keep my mind occupied.

There is one chair empty in the conference room and not looking at anybody, I sit down. They have already started so I don’t greet anyone.

Issues are being discussed and plans are made. “He said, she suggested, he emphasized, she pointed out, he reminded”. I jot down everything being said. At least my silence is being filled. A silence so loud that it kept me awake last night.

The man next to me scribbles on a piece of paper and pushes it closer for me to read. “YOU LOOK LOST”. How does this stranger know? Did someone tell him? What do I do? If I look up, he will see that I’m more than lost – I’m dead. I gather my strength and look at him trying to hide myself. I move my hand back and knock his glass of water over. Within seconds he is up and back drying what I spilt. I look at the piece of paper. Smudged black ink is all that is left of the three words with which he described my soul.

The meeting ends at twelve o’clock. Everybody start to pack up. “Hello, I’m Brian,” he introduces himself to me. With a “Cecilia,” I shake his hand and then he is out the door.

I go back to my office and do my best to get some work done.

Later that evening, staring at nothing again, an sms snaps me back from my empty world. “Let me help you find yourself. Brian” He must have found my number on the attendance register that was sent out along with the minutes. I read the words again and with no replay I switch off the light.

After two months, life as usual is going on, but not me. I’m still taking unfamiliar steps in the darkness – a stranger in my own house. I still stare. The steam is still burning me and I still can’t stomach the smell of tea. The silence is louder and the rest of my life is empty every day.

Again, my regular sms “Let me help you find yourself. Brian”

“Please do”, I reply for the first time.