I heard silence speak.
It came from my grandmother as she sat on the couch in absolute, stunned disbelief. Her lips never moved. Her eyes never blinked. No sound. No motion. Yet anger, confusion, and sorrow all spoke with loud, clear voices. Somehow movement existed in her stillness.
As she rubbed the back of my neck with a cold, wet cloth, I was able to catch a few of the images that had so captivated her on the television, but before I could make sense of them, my lungs called for more help. I put the towel back over my head, wrapped it around the vaporizer, and took another hit of Vicks VapoRub and steam.
My mother had been out all night and hadn’t come home. Again. She had inadvertently taken my special asthma inhaler with her, and she wasn’t answering her phone. The occasional hits of steam were the only thing keeping my lungs open. I was sweating. I was dizzy. I heard every short, muted breath. They were getting shorter.
The universe was screaming at civilization that something was wrong. I heard that too, yet didn’t know what it meant. And didn’t care. I couldn’t breathe. Civilization wasn’t the only one who was dying.
Fortunately for me, my grandma rushed me to the emergency room in time. A shot in the butt, a blast from an inhaler, and my lungs magically reopened.
An oxygen mask covered my mouth and nose as my head lay on my grandma’s lap. She caressed my hair with her soft, gentle hands. We stared into each other’s eyes for a long while. I flashed her the peace sign. She flashed it back.
I slipped further into another realm, a peaceful trance brought on by exhaustion, dehydration, and a lack of self-consciousness. How beautiful. How free. All the answers sitting in front of me like a daisy waiting to be picked. That was the first time I passed through the door into the void and touched that wonderful, magical place. How simple and easy the trip seemed. I didn’t know it then, but my life’s journey was to become a search for a way back.
I looked at my grandmother as she sat next to me in this sea of energy. She seemed happy and at peace. I faded off to sleep.
I was six.