47 – The Loudest Silence

Time may change a great many things, but even twenty-five years isn’t long enough to change the fact that for Sara, the loudest silences are not those that come from others, but from oneself.

Takes place post episode 10×06 “Death and the Maiden,”

circa November 2009.

*******

For anyone who’s ever had to dwell in silence.

And for those who stayed and loved us anyway.

*******

Sara

I have to admit that while Catherine’s faith in my investigating abilities is reassuring, working solo on a quintuple homicide is not, nor has ever been, my idea of a good time. Particularly after more than thirty straight hours on the scene.

And we haven’t even started on the bodies yet. Thankfully, they’ll keep.

Right now, all I want to do is go home, have a long, hot shower and crawl into bed for very, very long time. Of course that won’t happen. I know I’ll be lucky to get even a handful of hours before being called in again.

And while you may joke about what it’s like getting old, I have to admit that I am starting to grasp just how age can make it harder to stay up for three days straight.

Or perhaps I’ve just been spoiled by all those full nights of sleep with you in the bed beside me. Your snoring notwithstanding.

But today, I will settle for a few hours of hopefully dreamless sleep.

I am on my way to the locker room when I noticed the light is still on in what was once and for so long, your office.

Perhaps Hodges is right; I’ll get used to the change — eventually.

Except there shouldn’t be anyone there, not this late in the day. Especially as the latest lab scuttlebutt is that everyone else has managed to close the cases they’ve been working on.

And yet the light’s on.

At first, I think perhaps it is Ray burning the proverbial midday oil, as he is often wont to do.

But it’s not Ray.

Nick’s there, still sitting at his desk. But it’s obvious it isn’t work that’s got him preoccupied.

You okay? I pop my head in to hazard to ask.

He starts at this. And certainly doesn’t appear in any way okay when he looks up.

Rough case? I ask again, although I already have a pretty good idea of the answer.

So his almost despondent Yeah is unsurprising.

And while I have in bits and pieces gotten the gist of Nick’s latest case and as appalling as those were on their own, there’s something else. Something more.

Wanna talk about it?

He gives me and my not so neat jumpsuit a once over before saying, I thought you were working a quintuple.

I shrug and reply, Just finished clearing the scene. Then with a glance down at my watch I add, After thirty-two hours, it’s about time for a break, don’t you think, boss?

That last bit being more of a tease than anything. As Nick’s promotion to assistant shift supervisor is still relatively new, Greg and I can give him a hard time about it. All in good fun of course.

And he smiles, momentarily and almost imperceptibly, but smiles none the less.

In the stretch of silence that follows, I don’t move from the doorway, not to enter or to go, not yet. So it is still Nick’s call, his decision to talk or keep his own council.

After a while, he lets out a long exhale of breath before allowing his face to fall as he murmurs, I don’t know. I just don’t know.

*******

In Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar, Mark Antony tells his Roman countrymen: The evil that men do lives after them; The good is oft interred with their bones.

I’m not sure what good there ever was in Wayne Smith to bury with him, but I do know the horrors he committed won’t soon be forgotten.

Certainly not by Nick, who’s got a heart about as big as his native state of Texas. Something that has always been both his greatest asset and biggest weakness.

Although there is nothing weak about him in this. For compassion, rare as it often is, is never a sign of weakness, but one of strength.

And as I sit here in the car on my way home, I can still hear within the trace of desperation in his voice, Nick’s own desire for his assertions to Tommy Baker to be true. That if Tommy really loves her and Jess Smith really loves him, his having been raped and beaten and probably left for dead isn’t going to make a difference.

He wants to believe this, Nick does. And not just for Tommy Baker. Wants to believe that the people who love you will just love you anyway, no matter what you’ve done or what’s been done. That pure and unconditional love really does exist in this world.

And I sat there with him wanting to say Yes. Yes, Nick it’s possible.

That it won’t matter. That none of that really matters. It is possible. Love and hope and joy and life and healing, they are all possible.

I wanted to tell him this, I still do. And that it wasn’t just wishful wanting on my part. That I know this is true. I know it is.

Because of you.

I had wanted to say as much to Craig Mason, too, when he sat so quiet in the car beside me as I drove him home not even a full month ago now.

More than just the apologies and we were wrongs and I’m sorrys, I wanted to tell Craig that I really did know. Knew what it was like to have a hard childhood. What it was like to be scrutinized and gawked and gaped at. How no matter how many times you moved or how far you went, the whispers and silence and looks still seemed to follow you.

That we really did have this in common him and I.

Been there, done that, as they say.

But I couldn’t tell him this.

For the same reason I couldn’t tell Nick either.

Both would have required way more explanation than I was able, or perhaps more honestly, willing, to give.

Of course neither of these decisions to stay silent were anything new.

The silence certainly isn’t.

Nor are all the words I could never say, the truth I could never admit to anyone but you, I don’t know, out of fear or shame or maybe because I still wanted to believe that if I never actually had to say the words out loud there was still that chance that they might not be true.

Or at least I could keep pretending it wasn’t.

I mean, who doesn’t want to rewrite the past? Edit what’s long been said and done into something that is at least somewhat more comprehensible.

But then why tell anyone at all?

After all, how many years did it take for me to tell you?

For the longest time, there seemed to be a lot of really good reasons to stay silent about what had really happened. About what the insomnia and the nightmares and the anger really meant.

Because I’ve heard so many people, more ignorant than unfeeling, ask how someone, anyone, could let another person do that – hurt them, abuse them, destroy them.

What they don’t understand was that it was easy. It is easy.

I really did think that was the way everybody lived — with the fights and the yelling and the trips to the hospital.

But you can’t tell them that. For them, there is but the simple fact that no one deserves to be abused.

If only it were that simple.

It’s not.

And even after the abuse has stopped, after the abuser’s long gone and somewhere where they can never hurt you again, it isn’t over.

There are still the memories. The fear. The screams and the nightmares. And the shame and the silence, they don’t just end. Maybe they never really do. Not completely.

You can try to keep moving, keep busy, keep working. You can avoid the nightmares by avoiding sleep. Avoid people. Avoid life. Try and avoid dealing with it. Or yourself.

When that doesn’t work, you can attempt to drown it out, but there is not enough alcohol in the world to do that. And Brass was right, there are far more problems than solutions to be found in the bottom of a bottle. I certainly never found any answers there.

And came far too close to losing everything that way.

I never told you, but I actually looked up my mother’s file. I did. Although why I thought doing so would make any difference, I don’t know. Or what exactly I was expecting to find.

After all, it was just like any other case file. Just photographs and sketches, autopsy results, interview notes and witness accounts, tox reports, weapon’s data.

Data, data, data.

None of it told me anything I didn’t already know. Or at least suspect. For there was never any question of the who or what or where or when – I knew those. Intimately. Both waking and asleep.

And what I really wanted to know wasn’t there.

I suppose it all boiled down to one seemingly unanswerable question: Why?

Why had it all happened — to my father — my mother — my family — me?

I still don’t have that answer. Just the question.

Because the night my mother killed my father, I learned that there was actually something far worse than all the fighting and screaming and crying. Something worse than the trips to the hospital and hiding under the bed. Worse than the sounds of the sirens and a house full of strangers’ voices.

No, the worst thing was the silence.

Sure, there was silence before then. And secrets and lies and stories and pretending. Plenty of those.

But the silence that came after —

Even after the stories and lies and pretending passed away, that silence, it only seemed to grow louder.

Until it was deafening.

But not half as damning as my own silence.

I suppose you just learn to live with it, the same way you did with all the old secrets and lies and the new ones, too. Or at least I tried to.

You know, when I first started out as a CSI, every time I would see those women, the ones who had been beaten and battered and bruised, both the ones who lived and those who died, I would ache and wonder which ones really were the lucky ones — the ones who lived or the ones who died?

Although ultimately how little even that mattered. It wasn’t long before I discovered that there would never really be justice for any of them.

And perhaps you really did mean well. With all your lectures on maintaining distance and scientific objectivity and injunctions not to get emotionally involved.

You didn’t know. You couldn’t have known.

Because of that same damn silence.

And I tried to do what you told me to do. I did. Though to you and to everyone else it probably didn’t seem that way.

But I did.

In the end, what hurt worst of all was the moment I began to accept that it was just the way things were, that abuse happened and I stopped being horrified.

I stopped feeling anything, anything at all.

Because that loss of feeling hadn’t been born out of some hard-earned sense of objectivity or distance or professionalism, but pain.

The sort of pain that makes you turn and just walk away and accept the fact that there is nothing you can do but wait until the call comes in for you to return for the body or bodies.

I went to see her, my mother, one last time before I set off for that trip on the Sea Shepherd.

To talk. To ask. It really did take me that long to get up the courage to move past the banalities to what I really wanted to know.

Only to find that there really wasn’t any comfort to be found in whatever whys there might have been. But there was something, something in being able to finally ask the question.

And yet, I am not sure if I am ready to talk about it. Not even with the people I’ve known so long and would so readily trust with my life.

But with the truth, I don’t know.

It was hard enough telling you.

Although I suppose I really did intend to that day after I had gotten back from that time off you insisted I take. But even with all the practicing in front of the mirror, with thinking about what I wanted to say, I can honestly say I was more relieved than anything to find that with the lab being its usual chaotic self, I didn’t have to tell you that day.

I’m not sure I would have ever told you, if it hadn’t been for Ecklie suspending (and wanting to fire) me after that fight with Catherine. And even then.

It was that why of yours that finally did it.

For you hardly ever ask Why?

Which I can understand. Why? is a far more dangerous question. Who and What and Where and When and How are often horrifying enough.

But you just stood there and asked Why? Demanded to know why I was so angry. Refused to leave it or me alone.

And I, I ran out of reasons not to tell you.

And if I couldn’t tell you —

So I did.

And you, you simply took my hand. The same one you slipped a wedding band on not so very long ago. No wonder there is so much comfort to be found in its presence there.

You took my hand then, to let me know that you were still there. You were there and you stayed.

Believe me, most people would have just left, thrown up their hands in frustration and walked out. Or perhaps attempted to say whatever they thought I wanted to hear.

But you didn’t go or try to say the right thing. You were just there.

And no one had ever done that.

You were there and you stayed and then even when you knew all of this, the deep, dark secrets, the truth I spent my whole life trying to hide, you did the most inexplicable thing.

You didn’t go or run away. You stayed and dared to love me anyway.

Through everything.

Do you realize how breathtaking that is?

And I find I suddenly want to tell you as much. Here and now.

At least this time I check the time on the dash before I begin to dial. It’s 2:30 here, which makes it just half past eleven Paris time, a little later than we usually speak, but not too late to call.

So I do.

And your phone begins to ring.

And ring. And ring and ring.

And I can’t help but sigh at the fact that yet again you’ve probably forgotten to turn your ringer back on after your lecture.

Admittedly, part of me believes that there has to be more to this particular tendency of yours as of late than just newfound absentmindedness.

Not that I blame you. After all the years you’ve had to carry and answer and deal with the damn thing at all hours of the day or night and with so few of those calls ever of the good or even remotely pleasant news variety, I’m not sure that I wouldn’t just want to completely pitch the thing myself.

Your greeting clicks on. First, in the same sure, steady English as always, then again in your not quite so sure and steady French.

And then it is my turn to speak. I have never been fond of voicemail. Or very good with it, at least not with leaving messages of the more personal variety. Perhaps that is why the ones I leave you always seem to sound so pathetically disjointed, at least to my ears.

Still, I try anyway.

Hey, it’s uh, just me. And you’ve uh probably just forgotten to turn your phone back on. I was just… just calling in.

And I want to say so much to you. I want to tell you about Nick and Craig. And how I wish I could have said something. I want to tell you how much that afternoon when I finally told you about my family really meant to me. How much all that’s happened since does. How you really are the only home I’ve ever known.

I almost stammer, I love you, but you already know this. And right now those words feel so inadequate.

And none of this seems right to leave in a message anyway.

Perhaps providentially the driver in the truck behind me chooses this moment to remind me – not so very politely – that a green light means Go, so I am compelled to wrap this up.

So I end up saying, I’ll try you again later. Tomorrow. Your tomorrow, before ringing off, feeling a little disappointed in not having caught you.

But perhaps maybe it’s better this way. Some things are just better said in person anyway. Harder, but better. And I shall be seeing you again soon, even if it doesn’t feel soon enough.

*******

Continued in Sanctuary.

*******

Have a question or want to leave a comment or concern and don’t have a wordpress account? Please feel free to email me at kadhmercer@gmail.com

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