You know that moment before the impact, that split second between oblivion and the shattering truth, like that instant in some hospital corridor when the doctor is heading down to tell the anxiously waiting family that piece of news that will slowly unravel the fabric of their existence, these tightly woven memories and constants that will soon change after the doctor pulls at the binding threads.
I’ve always been intrigued and drawn to examine such moments or what I call the ‘’the seconds before the impact”
To this day I still remember my first “seconds before the impact “and unwittingly I thought it would be my last.
It was 2 a.m and Chris hadn’t returned from god knows where , I had completed the evening with my mum so she wouldn’t get too worried and had found out that Chris had rushed out claiming he had an urgent work matter to deal with.
Had he noticed me?
Did he hear me as I came down the stairs?
I kept thinking about that awful scratching sound and the blood…….
what was bone chilling is that Chris didn’t seem to care about the mess, and part of me felt he sought relief in that mess he reveled in the savagery he was inflicting on his skin
Was his other arm like that?
I sat on my bed unable to sleep until I knew he was home safe, I’d tried calling him but his cell was closed.
At 3 am I heard stumbling behind the wall adjacent to mine, I quickly headed out to the hall unlocking Chris’s door –we had each other’s keys in case of emergency- as I rushed through his disheveled apartment I didn’t have a moment to notice the waning signs.
Chris was never messy, in fact he was agonizingly immaculate bordering on OCD
This wasn’t normal
Something was disturbingly wrong
I headed quietly towards his bedroom bracing myself of what I might see…
He was balled up in the corner next to his dresser, his head was bowed and I could see he was shaking
“Chris” I called again not knowing what to do or how to begin to gather those shattered pieces bundled together in the corner
“Chris, sweetie can you hear me?”
I approached him silently afraid to make a sudden move, he looked like a wounded animal, and then I heard that blood freezing scratching sound again.
“Oh god “I covered my mouth, tears welling in my eyes as he continued to scratch the already raw flesh of his forearm completely oblivious to my body crouching in front of him.
His sleeves were no longer clean , but instead stained with his own blood , and I got a feeling that Chris had two self-harming states , the controlled one he had at my mother’s house and this frantic unstable one he was having here in the comfort of his own apartment
I called his name again but he didn’t answer. I forced his chin up to see his face but he was so stiff and wooden
I tried again trying to seek comfort in his warm green eyes, but they were closed in a grimace, brows knitted and his mouth was slightly opened his breathing shallow.
I could smell the alcohol in his breath.
Chris never drinks.
I buried my face near his neck whispering comforting words coaxing him out of whatever hell he’s been trapped in.
“Chris sweetie please , you’re hurting yourself , please Chris don’t do this honey , Chris listen to my voice” I kept pleading with him through my tears ,my body was so pressed to him that we might as well been one .
I slowly reached my hand to his frantic one, touching his bloody fingers “Chris you’re breaking my heart Chris please, I’m so sorry I didn’t know, please forgive me”
His sense of urgency slowed down and I took the opportunity to grab at his hands holding them tightly, he tried to struggle resisting my touch but I was so determined to snap him out of it.
I pressed my face harder to his neck “it’s ok, you’re ok Chris, I got you, its ok I’m here I got you, you can stop now “ I kept chanting the words over and over until I felt him relax into me , I hadn’t noticed then of course but later I realized that it was the first time Chris had let me be that near to him or touch him
When I felt him completely relax, his muscles unwinding. I slowly took him by the hand urging him up, thankfully he complied.
I led him to his en suit bathroom and sat him at the edge of the tub, I grabbed the nearest towel and soaked it with water .all the time I made sure I was still holding his hand, I was so terrified to leave him alone for a minute fearing he would return to his self-harm.
I quickly reached for the antiseptic he had in his mirror cabinet, unsurprisingly I found a soothing balm that was also anti scarring.
I cleaned his wound , pressing gently at the raw skin , all that time Chris’s eyes were almost closed as if he was barely conscious to what was happening , I feared the antiseptic would sting but Chris hadn’t even flinched as if he was completely numb,. I applied the soothing balm and slowly wrapped his abused arm in gauze and cleaned the mess we made
My hands hesitated when it came to what I wanted to do next. I slowly reached his shirt unbuttoning it but Chris’s eyes suddenly shot wide in panic
What are you doing? His voice was terrified and shaky, his eyes glazed and unseeing
“Chris it’s ok sweetie, I’m just going to take off your shirt and get you a clean one “I said soothingly
Chris did not seem to comprehend my words his eyes were still wide, cold sweat erupted on his forehead
“Please don’t do this, please I won’t do anything please I’ll sit quietly I won’t fidget “Chris’s voice pleaded with me, his eyes filled with agony
My heart sank and shattered and bled
I realized Chris didn’t know it was me ……..Chris saw someone else in my place someone who had hurt him.
Someone who the mere action of moving caused him to terrify Chris to that extent.
“Chris baby it me, Ceels “I sobbed out
“Chris, its Cecilia you didn’t do anything wrong honey I just want you in a clean shirt “I ran my hands through his soft hair.
His mesmerizing green eyes focused on my face and a bewildered look replaced the terrifying one
“Yes it’s me Chris, I’m just going to remove this shirt ok “I kept my eye contact, as I slowly unbuttoned his bloody dress shirt.
Chris’s eyes stayed on me drinking me in as if he thought I wasn’t real, I slowly finished my task and tried to push the sleeves off his shoulders, but he stiffened
“Chris I’m just going to slip it off gently” I said soothingly, afraid he was confused again
But he wasn’t, I could see that at this moment he knew who I was but he was still afraid
I gently slid the sleeves off, shushing him and telling him he’s going to be fine, when my hands pushed at the sleeves removing them from his arms I gasped …….
I was wrong …..The moment I found him in his bedroom wasn’t my moment of impact…