I went back to school. I picked up training again. Sometimes, I felt better, but often I didn’t.
Aadhya said grief isn’t over just like that. You don’t just have a good cry and move on. It lingers.
I told her they’d all died a long time ago, even Scott, though I just found out about it. She said it didn’t matter. Grief’s a process, not a moment.
“And sometimes, it’s not even a process,” she said. “Sometimes, it simply is.”
“Like it becomes part of me?” I asked.
“You mean I’ll always feel like this?”
“No,” she said. “But you may always have a corner in you where it resides. Or maybe not. But either way, best not to try to rush it. Just let it be.”
I hated feeling that way.
Aadhya said, “You are safe to feel now. For a long time, you weren’t, and you had to keep up your tough exterior. But you’re safe now. And there’s no rush. You can simply feel exactly as you feel.”
It seemed easy for her to say that. What bad feelings did she have inside? It wasn’t fun to feel sad all the time. It hurt.
I started having dreams while I slept. Or maybe they were nightmares. Nadja said I still cried in my sleep some nights.
The dream could go any way, but it always wrapped around the same ending. I’m alone. Everyone’s gone. I’m in a forest, and I see trees all around me, only it’s not like a real forest where I feel the trees are alive. It’s like a paper forest, and they are cut-outs that have no life, only obstacle, and I’m alone in the center, looking for a way out.
The dream can start anywhere: a market, a school, a park, a movie theater. It always ends in the cut-out forest, with me alone.
During the days, I started upping my workouts. I still trained with Tracy, so I could work out smart and not over-train. But I put everything into it I could.
The only way I knew how to deal with this dream and with the feelings that lingered was to put everything I could into the workout. Then, sometimes, the sadness turned to anger, and I got a relief, at least, from feeling sad.
I still kept meeting with Aadhya. It was like everybody wanted to talk to me: Aadhya, Clara Bjergsen, Nancy Landgraab, and my trainer Tracy.
I got tired of talking.
I’d talk with Aadhya, because I felt like she had a radar on me. She knew what was going on and what I needed to say. I trusted her to look into that cut-out forest and help me find a way out.
But whenever I saw Clara or Nancy coming my way, I quickly went someplace else or started doing something else. I recruited Marquis to be my decoy.
When Clara came my way, if Marquis was around, I’d whistle, and he’d intercept her and start asking her all these questions about the SAT or college applications. She couldn’t resist. When Nancy started zooming in, he’d pull out a volume of Walden or the I Ching. She was a sucker for that. They’d sit down and study some passage, and I’d be free to be alone with my thoughts and feelings.
I didn’t mind talking to Tracy. She never pried. She always had a way of making me feel like I was sitting down to a meal of comfort food, even when I was doing fast reps on the machine.
“You can trust your body, sweet-heart,” Tracy said. “You can stretch it now. You just keep on keeping on, keep working out. You’ll get there. You’re young. You’re strong.”
I started to feel confident when she talked like that. When I remembered Aadhya saying “Just let it be,” and then I remembered Tracy saying, “You’ll get there. You’re strong,” I started to believe them. I started to think, maybe there’s a path through that cut-out forest.