“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”
~ Philip Pullman
The past few days have been rough for me. It’s a lyme thing. Partly because of the pathogens that have invaded and taken up residence in my body and partly because of the ongoing treatment to evict them.
I’ve been in excruciating pain. Pain that sets my face into hard lines during the day. Pain that has me whimpering, crying and howling in agony each night. The pain has been slowly escalating over the past few weeks, and now, at its crescendo, my bedroom is no longer a refuge. Nights no longer bracket my days with healing sleep. Instead I descend the stairs into a fiery hell.
I keep everyone awake; my husband, the dogs… even when they sleep in the guest room. My muffled sobs and screams are difficult for them to hear. They find it hard to settle, and they want to be near me, as much as I keep sending them away.
The night before last Ben stole back to our room and held my hand as I struggled. Nothing was helping.
Finally, he began to tell me a story. A story about a little girl who wakes up in a big old house in the middle of the night. She is wide awake and the rest of the house is fast asleep.
She takes her small suitcase and goes to the kitchen, where she packs a few snacks.
“What are the snacks?” I ask.
“Two small square sandwiches, four biscuits and a pot of jam.”
In my head I see each of these things. I wonder about the size of the sandwiches. I wonder about many things. It prompts another question. “What kind of jam?”
“Strawberry.” He strokes my hair tenderly and goes on with the story.
The little girl opens the big front door and heads off into the moonlight.
Soon she comes to a pink forest. All the trees are pink. Their trunks are like glass, lit from within so that they create a soft pink glow. Their leaves are every other shade of pink.
As Ben is creating this imaginary world I am still convulsing and writhing in pain. Tears are streaming down my face. But my mind is no longer so distressed because I am now the little girl wandering alone through this glorious pink forest while the rest of the world sleeps.
Some time in the early morning, I fall asleep for a few merciful hours. And when I wake up my head is still filled with pictures of this night-time escapade.
Over a cup of afternoon tea I ask Ben something that I have been pondering all day. “What is the ground in the pink forest made out of? Is it grass? Or dirt? Or snow? Or something else?”
“I’m sorry,” he says, smiling. “I can only tell this story at night. You’ll have to ask me then.”
Finally, amid all of this current misery, something to look forward to. My beautiful husband is helping me reclaim my nights instead of fearing them.