'And were we ever somewhere else,
You know, it's hard to say,
And I never saw blue like that before,
Across the sky, around the world,
You've given me all you have and more,
No one else has ever shown me how,
To see the world the way I see it now,
Oh I never saw blue like that before.'
- Shawn Colvin
The old white building stood where it had always stood. Why paint it white, he wondered.
He shook his head. White is just as depressing as black, he thought. Devoid of any colour.
He walked up to the fourth floor. The elevator was always too easy.
He stood by his bed, stared at his unrecognisable face. Did I always look this bad, he wondered to himself. Perhaps not. Hopefully not. He let himself grin a boyish grin.
The long walk had done him much good. He'd seen more than he'd hoped to see, visited a lot more people than he'd hoped to meet. But he still wasn't quite satisfied. In fact, he wasn't satisfied at all. For They, were still upset. For She, was still very much upset. He'd met Her at the University. They'd shared the same first day, the same first class and the same first chance at unselfish love. She was smart, gentle and painfully adorable. She was pretty. And he was pretty much taken by Her. She was The One.
He sighed. He'd spent most of his time just watching Her. It comforted him. She comforted him. He watched Her stare at his picture for the longest time. She smiled, and so did he. I'm right here waiting, She said. Then She put on her coat and left.
He stayed on by her bedside. Her things were always so tiny. The thousand bottles on her dresser, her little shoes lined up in a row, her favourite gloves by her pillow. He turned around slowly, taking in every detail, every aspect of her room he'd always known. He closed his eyes and pictured Her smile. Instantaneously, so did he.
He now stood on the fourth floor of the colourless building, still staring at himself. I'm a tormented soul, he thought, I don't deserve to be here. Then he collapsed into a chair and shut his eyes.
'You look like crap.'
He looked up to find Brad grinning at his figure.
'You don't look too great yourself', he chuckled, pointing at Brad's silhouette on the bed nearby.
'But the gown does suit you', teased Brad. They both laughed.
Brad was her younger brother, an old friend and one heck of a comedian.
They fell silent. 'So how is She?' Brad asked, 'I can't bring myself to see Her you know.'
'Lovely as always. But you should go. See Her I mean. She's the calmest of them all.' Then he let out a sigh with a smile. She always made him smile. Always.
'So how are you holding up? Any improvement?' asked Brad.
'Yea, I guess so. I mean I'm trying as hard as I can. You?'
'Not good', said Brad, 'Not good at all.' He took one hard look at the ceiling. 'Honestly, I don't think I'm going to make it.'
'Don't you ever say that!'
Brad shook his head. 'I can't leave man. Not yet.'
'You're staying alright?' He shook Brad by his collar. 'You're gonna be here a long time. I promised her I'd take care of you dammit.'
He let go of his collar and looked him in the eye, 'We're both staying. Not for you, not for me, but for them. We fight harder for them, get it?'
Brad didn't get a chance to reply, for at that very moment, She walked in.
She was followed by Natalie, His sister. They visited the boys every morning since that fateful day. They'd leave only to catch those few necessary hours of sleep.
Natalie sat by his side and stared at his swollen head. The doc had explained the seriousness of his condition, but he'd also mentioned how surprised he was at his marked improvement. 'I'd given him 3 days', the doc had said, 'he's been here a week. He's a fighter alright. Never seen a case like his before. Ever. I'd bet my entire life's savings he's gonna make it. But for Brad, I wouldn't be too sure.' She swallowed as hard as she could. 'You're a tough one, big guy. I hope to be as strong as you are.' She was shaking, she always did. I have to be strong, she thought. I must be strong. For Them. She no longer shook. Instead, she pulled away, looked to Her and said, 'Your turn. He's been waiting for you.'
He looked longingly at them from across the room. 'Cry goddammit!', he yelled, 'The both of you!'. But they remained as silent as they'd always been. 'Why do they choose to stay this way?' he asked in a feeble voice. But he received no answer. For Brad had taken off the moment he'd seen the doorknob turn.
'Hey honey', She said. 'I had our favourite soup today.'
'I know', he replied.
'Then I lit the fire, this time the little wood first and then the larger bit. The warped way you always do.'
'I know.' His voice shook.
'And then I sung out your song. I hope you liked it.'
'I loved it. Every bit of it.' Then he lay down his head and cried.
She was a wonderful singer and she'd sung 'I Never Saw Blue' beautifully. He always loved to hear her sing. 'You're a star', he'd tell her. 'Yours?' she'd ask. But she'd already know the answer. 'Forever', he'd reply.
The following day passed like the previous seven. People came, people left. 'They' came, but as always, They didn't leave. They'd camp on the benches right outside the room.
Only, Brad didn't come back.
An army of doctors and nurses now surrounded Brad's bed. 'His blood pressure's shot up!' 'The bleeding's worse.' 'He's not going to make it.'...........'Oh my God.'
He finally found Brad in the forest by the lake. He was standing at the edge of the steepest hill. The wind blew hard, but his hair did not stir. His colour was now that of pure silver. One could make out he'd been crying. 'He' stared at him for the longest time, confused. And worried.
Brad spoke first, 'I told you I'd go.'
'You aren't going anywhere.'
'But I am. Can't you see?' he paused for a moment. 'They came to me soon after I'd left you. They told me I had to go. They told me!'
'But you can't.'
'I'm not ready man. I'm not. I can't leave Mama behind. You know, I saw her last night. She was terrified! I've never seen her so shaken. Mama, I'm so sorry.' His voice shook.
'You're not going anywhere.'
'But he is.'
They turned around. Jeder Daley now stood where a tree had been. He spoke again, 'It has been written. I've come to take you home Brad.'
'Uncle Jed?' Brad said in disbelief.
'Yes Bradster, its time to leave. Come on, we must reach on time.'
'But Uncle Jed...' Brad broke down as he spoke. 'I'm not ready!'
Jeder was pulled to the side. 'Mr. Daley, can't he stay? Look at him!'
'But he must leave immediately. It is written.' said Jeder.
'Can't something be done? Anything?' he asked breathlessly. After a moment's thought he looked up and said, 'Can't you take me instead?'
The crowd around Brad's bed was a new one. 'He's almost stable Sir.' 'I think he'll pull through.' 'Thank God.'
Two hours later, They and She were summoned by the doctor. He spoke in a solemn, grave manner, 'His condition's suddenly dropped beyond that he was admitted in. He's not responding anymore. The ventilator lives for Him. Its unexplainable, baffling and most disheartening. I think he's actually given up', and after a moment's silence he whispered, 'I'm so, so sorry.' He turned around fast as a wheel, unwilling to bear the mere sight of Them. They collapsed onto one another, a single family and Her. While everyone else wondered 'Why?' and 'How?', She had but a single thought - 'But you promised.'
As He prepared to leave, he took one last look at the people he'd always known, loved and been loved by. 'I'm so sorry', he said, hoping they'd hear him one last time.
Then he turned to look at Her. And as always, he smiled almost immediately.
In loving memory of a brother, a son, a friend, a lover, and more importantly, a father figure to many. The purest of souls. The most generous of hearts. We miss you terribly.