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There were no roots more intimate than those between a body and mind that had decided to be whole.



 
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Rhiannon McKay

it was when i stopped searching for home within others

and lifted the foundations of home within myself

i found there were no roots more intimate

than those between a mind and body

that have decided to be whole

- rupi kaur

 

Entering a body is different each and every time.

The sensation of the angel’s conscience first slipping into a human vessel is similar to a warm embrace. Since the dawn of time and human civilization, she has taken control of many minds and bodies at His behest. However, after the initial pairing is completed, the human body is quick to try and stave off the intruding force.

The hissing and sighing of organs, the soaring of blood through capillaries, lungs heaving, muscles screaming, it all becomes overwhelming. At first, she is uncertain whether or not she will be able to keep control. It has been decades since her last excursion onto Earth. This encounter, however, is wildly different.

There is no bodily revolt. In fact, there is nothing at all. A blank slate. Nothing more than this woman’s human form, prone to a hospital bed, feeding tube implanted, catheter inserted, every possible discomfort imaginable. The angel has been to hospitals before – childbirth, the death of loved ones, all while she was in control. This, however, is different. She cannot not move, nor react to the world around her. She is trapped within the body of a human vegetable, it seems.

She has never experienced life as an invalid before. What she calculates to be a month passes. This woman, ‘Rhiannon’, has many visitors. She can make out the conversations that are conducted near her. A man’s voice is most prevalent, and that of a woman. The two argue in hushed tones, making the correct assumption that a third party can hear. It wasn’t necessarily who they may expect, though…

 

‘This is not what she would have wanted. Her wishes are very clear.’

‘It hasn’t been 90 days. I won’t sign away her life when there’s still a chance…’

‘Rhiannon’s body is tired, Callum. If she knew this was going to happen, she would have signed the DNR. You can’t hold onto someone who doesn’t exist anymore.’

I’m her husband, Margot. I know what is best for her.’

 

This Margot, however, is correct. ‘Rhiannon’ is gone. There is no trace of her within this body. The angel had landed in the body of a brain dead woman. Her compassion, nay, understanding, for the husband caused her to be torn between the arguments that seem to rage on between the two of them. Until the day Margot stopped showing up. Something about ‘not wanting to be a party’ to torture.

She isn’t in pain, however. On the contrary, she feels nothing. The needles every so often are unpleasant, yes, but there are other things to look forward to. Every evening, Callum comes and sits by her bedside. He holds her hand. Sometimes he weeps, sometimes he shouts, other times he is silent. If he is having a better day, he brings the New York Times, reading the editorials, op-eds and letters with calm precision. Other times, he carries out a conversation with her. She answers, though never in a way he can hear.

 

‘Cassie waits for you to come home at night.’

‘Cassie is a very needy dog, it seems.’

‘You need to wake up, Rhiannon. You need to come home.’

‘Rhiannon wishes she could, I’m sure.’

‘If you’re in there, don’t move a muscle.’

‘Hopefully Rhiannon marry you for your sense of humor.’

 

As they gained on the 90-day mark, Callum grows more desperate. Rather than just a few hours in the evening, he spends whole days at her side. He sleeps beside her, and from time to time, she catches the aroma of food. It never smells wholly appetizing, but as its origin is no doubt the hospital cafeteria, she understands why.

On the 87th day, a grief counselor stops into her room. He is soft spoken, reassuring, even as Callum’s frustration and anguish get the better of his manners.

 

‘You don’t appear to be taking care of yourself, Mr. McKay. When is the last time you when home and showered?’

‘Why are you focusing your energy on me? Why don’t you all just focus on helping my wife?’

‘I’m here for you, Mr. McKay. Your sister-in-law informed us you were laid off recently…’

‘Not laid off. I quit. I need to be by Rhiannon’s side.’

‘Ms. Faye, as well as the staff here, are concerned that you are not fully understanding the severity of your wife’s case. She is fully dependent upon the respirator that breathes for her. A machine feeds her, Mr. McKay. Even if she does wake up… The damage to her organs, to her mind, it is irrevocable. Even then, there is no guarantee it will be Rhiannon that wakes up.’

 

These humans are perceptive, whether or not they knew it. The angel, however, is aware that if she does not prove successful in waking this body from its comatose state, it will die. Callum is growing weaker in his resolve, and he will sign the ‘Do Not Resuscitate’ forms sooner or later.

On the last day, Margot comes.

 

‘At least mom and dad don’t have to see this happen…’ Trepidation, grief, they drag down her normally canorous voice like a sack of bricks.

‘She’s still going to die, Got. I should have made her wear her seatbelt. I should have checked…’ Callum is stuck solidly in denial, blaming himself, refusing to accept what they both seem to know.

 

This ‘Rhiannon’, a beloved wife, an adored sister, was once an independent person. She never allowed anyone to tell her what to do, and she was reckless with her youth. She and Callum had been on their way home from skiing upstate. After stopping for gas, she had never buckled back in. Callum had asked on numerous occasions for her to do so, but she had evidently refused. And so when Callum McKay’s Wrangler skidded to avoid a deer, his wife’s body continued to move – at 75 miles per hour, to be exact, out of the windshield. It was miraculous she had survived at all.

All of this the angel knows. Conversations, doctors and interns discussing her case, her current state, she is wholly aware, even if she cannot response. The likelihood of her waking from this comatose state is often discussed. Everyone is stern, realistic, grim, all but Callum.

Even as his hands trembled, felt-tipped pen in one hand, clipboard in the other, he cannot sign over her life. Margot tries to guide his fingers, her own tearful whispers coaxing him toward the decision they know is best. The sound of the clipboard as it slams to the linoleum floor jars the angel, eyes shooting open.

Eyes.

Open.

The physician, Callum, Margot, all of the guests in her room fail to notice at first. They’re consumed in their own comfort, their own anguish. All until Callum lifts his head from his hands, directing what he believed to be one last final glance at his wife as he remembered her. Never had he anticipated she would be looking right back at him. His chair shoots backwards as he stands, familiar hands closing around hers again.

He is handsome, even as he weeps. He is talking at her, until suddenly he falls speechless. He is registering the look she gives him. Unfamiliar, confused. He reads it exactly at it is offered. As if she is to say ‘Who the hell are you?’ Margot is registering the same response. Their elation, faltered by the revelation that perhaps this is not their Rhiannon. The doctor, however, is fast to respond. Nurses flood into the room, forcing ‘Rhiannon’s’ family to go to the waiting room. Diagnostics, tests, they needed to be run immediately. And they would not know for certain her mental state until the tube was removed, and she could speak.

“Do not jump to any conclusions,” he warns.

Why not? Their assumptions will prove correct in due time. In the meantime, with the ability to now visualize the world around her, the new Rhiannon McKay has much to learn.

March 04, 2017 05:27 pm

Rhiannon McKay

perhaps the saddest of all

are those who live waiting

for someone they’re not

even sure exists

-rupi kaur

 

The weakness that fatigues her every movement makes it impossible for Rhiannon to refuse the help of Callum and Margot. When she is released from the hospital, the family that belongs to this body take every measure in assuring her comfort. Perhaps, they feel in some way that with time, Rhiannon will return. The real Rhiannon.

They walk a fine line between pressure and pain, Callum and Margot. Pressure to help Rhiannon find herself again, and the pain of knowing none of these efforts will heed any results. She begins to wonder how appropriate it is to weigh on the hospitality of their hope, and the responsibility they must feel to care for her, even if it isn’t really Rhiannon any longer.

Callum is out of the house, taking a much needed mental health break, no doubt. Margot sits at the dining room table, surrounded by paperwork, her laptop somewhere in the mess. Every minute or so, her head pulls away from her reading, matching caramel eyes peering over at her sister through the archway. Rhiannon is certain her ‘sister’ has read the same page over and over, unable to focus on anything other than the woman who is enamored with the flat screen television in front of her.

Rhiannon, however, cannot help her fascination. The sheer size and scope, as well as the high definition is enough to have her stationed in front of it from the time the sun rises until long after it sets. From morning talk shows, to the antics of mid-day reality television, all until prime-time evening news. Her husband and sister are able to draw her away every so often to talk, to eat, and sometimes, to sleep.

As Judge Judy launches into another round of comical arbitration, the slamming of Margot’s laptop elicits a cringe out of her. Her sister steps cautiously into the room, hands stuffed deep into her pockets. Sensing Judy Sheindlin is not a welcome third party, she shuts off the TV.

“Callum won’t be back today.” Margot speaks as though her sister does not have eyes. It would have been hard to miss him leaving, suitcase in hand. The hushed tones did little to prevent her from understanding the gist. He ‘couldn’t do this anymore’ and ‘pretend that she is my wife’. This is more than just an overnight departure. She isn’t stupid, but they do not seem to know this.

“Rhiannon?” Her sister is staring her down, tracking her reflection in her sister’s irises. At first, the angel doesn’t answer. Her mouth opens some, the noise, however, is trapped in the back of her throat. When it comes to verbalizing her thoughts, she often fails. There is so much to consider. Namely, if her words were only cause them more pain. She understands, even if she cannot not sympathize. Or verbalize, clearly. “Never mind. Why don’t you go back to your shows, okay?”

Callum is the forceful one when it comes to pushing her. Pictures, home videos, story after story. Anything to jar her back to life. Margot, however, takes a much more gentle approach. She is better able to gauge when Rhiannon is feeling receptive to this repetitive, useless practice.

Registering the defeat and sadness in her sister’s movement, Rhiannon kicks her legs out off of the polyester sofa, bare feet landing with a thud against the wood floor. “Got.” The nickname she had heard many times. It seems to work in stilling her sister’s retreating form. “Let’s look at some pictures again.”

Effort from both sides is important, and this has been a fact she has conveniently ignored. While in the long-term, this façade of hope must unfortunately shattered, the angel is unable to ignore  human who so desperately deserves, as well as needs comfort.

What harm would a few pictures do?

While Rhiannon sifted through the box, Margot takes a phone call. Against her better judgement, the angel eavesdrops.

 

‘I have a job, Cal. I have a life. You need to come back. Rhiannon is your wife.’

‘No, I’m not going anywhere. She’s my sister, and whether or not she knows that, I do.’

‘You made a vow, in-’

‘No, I’m not chastising you. But you know if it were the other way around…’

‘I know. It’s hard for everyone. Take some time, but-’

 

They’re still talking, but Rhiannon meanders back into the living room, a sick feeling growing in the pit of her stomach. She was a burden, to both of these people, in a way they had never asked for. The angel needs to leave in order to enable these people to cope and move on. Looking back into the room, it is clear Margot is firmly distracted by her conversation with Callum.

Creeping around the house, the angel gathers only what she’ll need. A few changes of clothes, stuffed into a backpack, other essentials as well. Before leaving the bedroom Rhiannon once shared with Callum, she pulls her wedding band free of her finger, setting it down on the dresser.

Just as her gaze drifts, an image catches her eye. A lone Polaroid, half-tucked under what she assumes to be this human’s jewelry box. The depiction of a couple very much in love draws a faint smile to her lips, the reflection of which she catches in the mirror.

The angel had not lingered in front of the mirror before now. Other than in pictures, this is the first time she truly sees herself. The traits she shares with Margot are remarkable, now that she can trace them on her own face. Her attention falls back to the picture, which despite her better judgement, she tucks safely into the back pocket of her jeans.

When she reaches the landing of the brownstone, Margot is still locked into conversation with Rhiannon’s husband, the tension evident as they continue to duel. With enough time to deliberate, the angel leaves a note. Closure was key.

 

Callum and Margot,

Do not come looking. Do not fear for me. I am safe, and God is on my side. I am thankful to you both for your love and care, but I am the one who helps, not burdens.

Love,

Rhiannon

 

If these humans are intelligent, and she truly believes they are, they will heed her advice. They will move on. Callum will find someone new to love, Rhiannon's role is replaceable. Margot, however, is alone. No parents, no sister, now. A true orphan. Saint Jerome will look kindly on her, though. Even in the midst of inner-turmoil and grief, she has remained selfless.

With the note scribed, the angel departs. The money and plastic cards would see her most of the way, and faith would fill in the gaps. While it appeared she is without a mission, Rhiannon differs from the mindset of Margot Faye and Callum McKay. She may not be certain of His existence, but her devotion means that despite any obstacle, she will never lose hope of finding true euphoria.

March 05, 2017 01:11 pm

Rhiannon McKay

the world

gives you

so much pain

and here you are

making gold out of it

- rupi kaur

 

The weeks had passed with little consequence.

The angel had risen long before Soleil, out of the apartment and out into the fresh air of a day that had not yet started. The sun was beginning to break the horizon line as sneakered feet began to pick up their pace. Rhiannon was diligent in her exercise.

Leave it better than you found it, right?

Her diet, her activity, it is all meticulous. Often to the chagrin of her wife.

Wife.

The idea was still foreign to the angel. Not love, nor same-sex companionship, but rather, choosing her partner. Plotting her own path. She is walking a dangerously fine line, she feels. Are these truly her choices to make? She has no guidance, neither from Him, nor from the thoughts of the real ‘Rhiannon McKay’. In this instance, she has no choice but to live blindly. And to that effect, the angel makes the choices that fulfill her, with little thought to those left behind in the process. Every so often, a text or call from Margot would come through. They were formal, obligatory, and never exceeded more than ten words.

M: Doing alright?
R: I am fine. How is Callum?
M: Okay. I’m on my way into a meeting. Chat soon?
R: Of course.

Margot is always remiss to discuss Callum with her at all; and even in the instances where Callum reaches out first, it isn’t long before he stops answering. A constant guilt nags upon Rhiannon’s conscious, imploring her to return how to him, despite her suspicion that her ‘sister’ would not prefer such a scenario. She had been the one, after all, to push for Rhiannon to make a clean break and file for divorce. After meeting Soleil, of course, she was more expedient in pressing the proceedings forward.

It is Callum that continue to hesitate.

Rhiannon understands, naturally. It is hard to sign away and deconstruct a marriage and love that was meant to last a lifetime. It was hard for the angel, and she held no extraordinary affection for the man. Laying in the coma, listening to his suffering, however, brought her clarity to the depth of his affection.

It is never easy to listen to any human beg and plead the way he had. If the angel could have awoken sooner to quell his anguish, she would have. Mortals are fond of the saying ‘God works in mysterious ways’, and the irony is not lost upon the angel. Her faith, never faltering, promises that even while she may not know the answer, He does.

The angel had almost forgotten she was running as her mind continues to cycle and process every detail of the past few months.

Almost.

Just as Rhiannon’s feet pound the concrete, legs swaying to round the upcoming street corner, a pedestrian catches her, and the pair go tumbling. There is no grace as the angel is launched back against the ground, skull cracking against the cement. Her ears ring, deafening his panicked words. The pain is so cerebral Rhiannon cannot even attempt to call out, and it is only a matter of seconds before she loses consciousness.

April 08, 2017 02:55 pm

Rhiannon McKay

my tongue is sour

from the hunger

of missing you

- rupi kaur

 

The same ringing resounds in the angel’s ears as she regains consciousness, though the pain it was once coupled with has seemingly subsided. Her surroundings are blurred, her disorientation apparent to the paramedics who are attempting to fit her with a neck brace. She struggles against them, her confusion making her belligerent. She has no idea how much time has passed, but she presumes it has only been minutes.

Yet, there is something different about this body, now. As if an entire lifetime of memories is attempting to fit itself in. And, that is exactly what is happening.

Everything Rhiannon McKay knows, from childhood to the present is flooding into her mind. Every facet of culture the angel had missed knits its way into the fabric of her eternal lifetime. As the puzzle pieces itself together, the angel loses her fight against the EMTs, still unable to coherently express herself.

She can hear laughter. No, <i>giggles</i>, belonging to two little girls, she presumes. As if all at once she sees it -- a young Margot, coloring Rhiannon’s face with sharpie as they near hysterics. How angry their parents had been that day – yet Emily Faye had laughed when she first saw her daughter’s face, her husband was, however, far from amused. It took a week for the marker to wear away from her poor skin, leaving Rhiannon at a disadvantage on picture day.

The angel is laughing, no doubt seeming hysterical to those lifting her backboard into the ambulance. But to her, all she sees is her mother going through packages of alcohol swabs in a desperate attempt to get the layers of permanent marker to give way. She remembers John Faye standing in the doorway with Margot, far less humored than his wife.

 

‘It’s just a bit of ink, Jack.’

‘Yeah, yeah. It’ll be fine.’

‘I guess we’ll stick to crayons with the third…’

 

The memories compound and expand, sending her soaring from childhood all the way to college. Rhiannon weaves her way through the crowd assembled on her dorm floor, bee-lining for solace in her shared accommodations. The rule was, generally, doors that were open were open to all. And Rhiannon had made it abundantly clear to her roommate, the aptly named Liberty, that under no circumstances were strangers to enter her private space. Nevertheless, Room 511 is open to the world. Being near the end of the hall has its perks, however, and it appears no one is inside.

Slamming the door shut, Rhiannon leaves against it with a sigh of relief. And then caramel eyes catch the astonished expression of a young man, hands still holding a portrait of Rhiannon and Margot.

 

‘I, uh… Sorry. The door was open, I – Sorry. I’m sorry.’

‘Just admiring a picture of two little girls?’

‘Jesus, no I-‘ Callum doesn’t catch her humor at first. But then, he was never able to keep up with her dry wit.

‘I’m Rhiannon.’

‘Hey, I mean, sh*t… Hi. I’m Callum.’

 

He brought out the carefree part of Rhiannon she had lost as a child. The Fayes had often tried to hide their financial struggles from their daughters. Just six short months after adopting Rhiannon, Black Monday stole what security John and Emily had. Still, they had managed to make things work, Emily took a second job, while John would piece together anything they could. The fact that they were able to hold onto their brownstone was nothing short of a miracle.

A gift from God.

It is this same brownstone that Rhiannon later moves into with Callum, left to both she and Margot in the will. Getting Margot to sell her half was simple enough. She had joined the Peace Corp after graduation, mourning in her own way. The memories surrounding the loss of their parents is etched out, these newborn memories unable to delve into such details. And just as she begins to fall prey to memories once more, Rhiannon is too overwhelmed to remain awake.

Vague visions of an ER bed, of Callum, of the brownstone, they all pass now as Rhiannon makes her way back to her and Soleil’s apartment. She had been chatting with her wife earlier, but had maintained radio silence since Callum had brought her back to their home. Their conversation had stretched for the better part of three hours. Explanations, apologies, desperation.

Desperation, because it cannot possibly be love that drives Rhiannon to sleep with her husband. Love is what the angel shares with Soleil, yet the memories of her vessel had compromised her defenses. The pull towards Callum and Margot are stronger now, more than ever. After all, the memories validate the unconditional love.

“This can’t happen again, Cal. You have to sign the papers.” The angel is speaking for herself in this respect. For the first time, her own individual love has driven her to sacrifice the happiness of many others. Blinded by selfishness, the angel denies the real Rhiannon McKay the life she had planned for herself.

Rhiannon, come on. That’s not what you really want, is it?” It doesn’t surprise Rhiannon that this man, like most other men, believes that sex can fix the issues at hand. The angel pauses at the door, one final pang of regret sending her back to Callum. One hand slips into his, while the other cups his cheek.

“It’s better this way. For everyone.” Lying through her teeth, the angel plants a kiss against the stubble on his cheek before slipping out of his grasp.

Now, it is time to go home – if it is still there for her after her transgressions are laid out.

April 10, 2017 12:58 am
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