Posted this on my own blog too, just a quick prompt I found me on the interwebs. Enjoy.
When I was a grumpy child, my Uncle Sebastian used to tell me “Vera, happiness is a choice”. I used to reply, “Uncle, if everyone chose happiness all the time, life would be very boring”. It might have been boring, but at least it would be safe, at least it would be bearable, at least it would be. When my Aunt Mabel passed away without warning, I should have forced him to eat his words. At least then he would have eaten something. Mabel had been a sweet lady, always ready with a mug of cocoa and a storybook, but it was Uncle Seb’s death that had been a defining moment of my young life. I remember wishing he would snap out of it, his depression I mean. He didn’t die in a flash of glory like some heroes, but slowly faded a bit each day. Each time I saw him, he’d be a shade lighter. They say people get the blue’s when they’re sad, but he didn’t gain anything; he lost a little bit of himself every time he spoke her name, when he got her mail in the post, when he lay in the bed they’d shared. The man that was once my hero disappeared piece by piece, washed out like a watercolour, deflated like an old balloon, until quietly, fifteen months, two weeks, three days and seven hours after Mabel died, he died too.
Depression gets you like that you know, it’s seductive. Sorrow croons softly to you with one face while it eats your heart with the other. The funeral was ghastly. I was nine, but the pinched and blotchy faces of relatives stuck with me. Apparently “It was to be expected”, “He hadn’t been the same since...”, “At least he was at peace now”. I wanted to scream at them. What did they know? The priest, with his pallid yellow face and ghostly white hair drifted over to me as I sat on my Grandmother’s uncomfortable chintz sofa, silently sipping at something resembling flat lemonade. “Do not worry child, Sebastian is with God now.” I wanted to hurl abuse at this man’s generically pious face, sneer at his kind words. But I didn’t. I bit my tongue and remained silent. He took my bowed head for youthful acceptance or maybe resignation a drifted away again to mingle with the other relatives. Crowded around as they were in huddles of black, they reminded me of carrion birds, picking at the memory of Uncle Seb, dissecting everything he’d ever said or ever done, weighing the merit of his devotion to Mabel against his disregard for the blessing that was life. I felt sick and stumbled bleakly towards the front door, abandoning my lemonade to make a sticky puddle on the chintz sofa.
In the cold November morning, bunched up on the front steps on my Grandmother’s semi-detached bungalow, I cried. I cried, and then I prayed the hardest I have ever prayed. I prayed for my Uncle Seb to come back to me, to be able to hug him one more time and smell the cigarettes and aftershave on his wooly jumper, to laugh at his awful jokes and steal the biscuits from his private stash while he wasn’t looking, to spend weekends locked in scrabble tournaments because he refused to lose to a nine year old. All the love I had for the best person in my life begged him to be alive again. Then, just as suddenly as I had started crying, I stopped. The tear in the fabric of my childish heart was sealed over with a cold and waxy sense of calm. The tears on my cheeks cooled, leaving frozen tracks that I scrubbed at with my frost-bitten fingers. I might not be able to choose happiness, but I sure as heck was choosing not to feel this gnawing sense of loss. The waxy calm hardened into a resolve that encased my inner being, creating an armour impervious to all the teenage angst and adult heartbreak I was due to suffer hereafter. I understood now why he chose this mantle of numbness, but I wasn’t going to give into it completely, I was just borrowing it for a while. At least that’s what I told myself. I was Vera Mason, ice maiden.