The bedroom of my second apartment, though the 500 square feet remains near and dear since it was the first place that Jeff and I lived together, was not much of an improvement. Everything was small in that apartment, the microscopic bedroom window notwithstanding. The view was so dark and uninspiring I can’t even recall what existed on the other side of the pane, though if I think really hard, I remember the wooden cover and steps of the back stairwell. It didn’t matter in those days because we were young, and we were in love. In those times, that automatically brightened even the worst of situations. It was small, but it was ours, and in it we learned to be our own family.
Our last apartment before we made it official (both with marriage and home ownership) was my favorite of all, but I couldn’t escape the bad window karma no matter how hard I tried. It was big, and old, and drafty, and it was freezing in the winter because we were never quite ambitious enough to remove the A/C unit that was an absolute necessity in the middle of a humid and miserably hot July. The window, and that is, the top part of the window that wasn’t blocked out by our new and super clunky cooling unit, looked into a parking lot and at the back red brick wall of a dry cleaners. It was situated on the first floor of the west side of a standard issue, old-style Chicago apartment and that folks, is about as uninspiring as it gets. The dry cleaner is gone now, but the parking lot and the A/C unit are still there.
Thinking back to all my old rooms, the only one that ever faced towards the rising sun was the room I called home as a child. Those times were happy and bright, and they were long ago. When we were searching to buy a home in November of 2012, after looking at what seemed like a million different units in all sorts of shapes and sizes, I was disappointed, tired, and certain we would never find something to call our own. But after we walked into our current home, I knew it was the one immediately, and it was partly due to the windows in the master bedroom. It was love at first sight, like someone had taken off my blinders so I finally realized what I had been missing in those last three dreary apartments. The windows are oversized, cover most of the walls, and face north and east. They allow every possible inch of the sun in to welcome you to the morning. I am not a morning person, so I appreciate this. If I have to be up in time to commute via public transportation to work–I want it to be in a room with windows that whisper, “Hey you. It’s not so bad out here. You can do it.” They splash sunshine all over in a way that can’t help but make you fall in love with the mornings. Obviously, we bought the condo.
On June 20th, 2013, months after the winter was over and every room had been painted; after I tried my hand at DYI tiling; after I found the perfect piece of art for the dining room wall and dishes that accented the colors; we had finally settled in to our dream come true and made our house our home. It did not strike me then that June 20th was the longest day of the year. It settles in me now only as irony can in a moment of retrospect of the events that have occurred to lead you to where you are. It was especially bright, and especially cheerful, and I was especially happy that we had made this, our right decision, together. I had no idea, in that moment, when I first opened my eyes on the longest day of the year and drew in the first of my pre-coffee, morning yawns, and looked at the two dogs, husband, and cat all snugged beneath the white down comforter ablaze with the morning light, that life in the image I had known it, was about to be forever changed.
We woke up, got showered and dressed for work. It was an ordinary morning. But as I was leaving, I looked at Jeff and I knew that somewhere in him, a light had died. In khakis, a shirt, and a tie, he looked at me and said, “I can’t go to work today.” I was angry. He had already missed work twice that week, and my immediate fear was not about his health or well-being, but about how we were going to pay for the bedroom with all the light that gently caressed me awake in the morning if he got fired from his job. I made a snide comment about one of us having to go to work and stormed out the door, but hesitated before I slammed it shut.
I wasn’t sure what he meant, but it was the way in which had said it, and the small details from the past few weeks and maybe even months ran back through me like a VHS tape being rewound. Not everything came all at once, because life isn’t that easy, but just enough pieces patched together and I began to see the whole puzzle. I remembered the multiple times he fell ill in the past few weeks. I remembered a BBQ with friends. We were supposed to meet there and he failed to show up to or even call to let me know why he didn’t come. I remembered coming home one night from work, and finding him in bed, with a mess made from the dogs because he had failed to take them out. I knew that this wasn’t a dreaded summer cold, a day of hooky, or avoidance of unfinished business. This was a matter of life and death. I’m not religious, but in that moment, something told me to walk back through the door. I did. Something told me to ask him, are you thinking of hurting yourself. He was.
Though we walked to the ER and he voluntarily committed himself, the whole process took about 14 hours. And that was because we had “good” insurance. It’s funny how the slowest hours of our life are always the ones that looking back, are the biggest blur. I had no idea what I was doing, what was happening, or what would happen in the next minutes, hours, months, but I knew it was the start. That night I went to bed, alone. It was, truly, the longest day of the year. It was the longest day of my life. When I woke up, it was just as bright and sunny as it was the day before, but I couldn’t help but feel like I was in the bedroom of my first apartment, in someone else’s forest. Everything had changed and it would be a long time before I would wake up and see the light again.
Want to read Jeff's side of the story? http://www.lifeimpaired.com/1/post/2014/01/d-day.html