Comfortably Numb

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~The child is grown, the dream is gone
~I have become comfortably numb - Pink Floyd

I think that maybe the hours have spanned into a day. I'm not sure. Did the
sun rise? Did it set? Is it shining at all? It would seem perverted if it
was shining, bathing people in healthy glows, causing things to grow, birds
to fly, children to play outdoors. I have this funny notion in my head that
since I'm the Slayer the entire world should stop turning for me because I'm
hurt. God knows I've sacrificed enough for the world. Shouldn't it stop
spinning? Cease to exist? Let me freeze moments in time instead of the
jumbled mess in my head?

But which moment would I freeze? Would I freeze her kissing the cut on my
leg? Or would I rather freeze the day she taught me to ride a bike and ran
along beside me, encouraging me to keep pedaling. I pedaled away from her
and she kept up. She always kept up. When I suffered my first heartache at
ten, she somehow sensed it. She brought Chicken and Stars soup to my room
and left it on my bed, never asking me what had happened. Then, without
question, when I was ready to sob in her lap, she held me.

She once told me that little girls walk on your toes as children and walk on
your heart as they grow up. I keep thinking of that for some reason.

Because mom was a little girl once and she grew up, and losing her has
ripped my heart out of my body. The cut is open, exposing me, leaving me
more vulnerable than I've ever been. I can't cry, I can't move, and I can't
wrap my mind around what has happened.

I'm just numb.

Comfortably numb.

There's a note on the refrigerator that she wrote a few days ago. I was
sitting with her, having breakfast, gabbing about my classes and lack of a
social life, and she decided that we should treat ourselves to a trip to the
hairdresser. She thought if I had highlights put in my hair, I'd feel
better. She wrote to remind me that we had an appointment next week.

And next week will inevitably come.

But she won't.

I'll have to cancel. I stand up on shaky legs and gently pull the note from
under the magnet. I run my thumb over it, her familiar looping a's and long
y's stare up at me, and for the first time I feel a tugging of something.
Something real and something powerful that almost brings me to my knees. I
have to shrug it off. I have to cancel. I have to - I have to do something
so that I don't die too.

I lift the phone from the cradle and bring it to my ear. There's a dial
tone. It's deafening in my ear and I quickly shut it off.


I turn and realize that there are other people in the room. I look at them
curiously. Giles looks nervous. Willow looks like she hasn't slept in days.
And Xander has a bunch of stubble on his cheeks and chin. When did he become
a man? Have they been here long? Should I offer them a drink or a snack?
What's the proper etiquette for this? "Huh?" I manage to grunt.

"Are you trying to call someone?" Willow takes a step forward and I notice
that her voice is low. Why do people talk low when someone dies?

I look at the phone in my hand. How did that get there? "I- I don't know."

"It's almost midnight," she says softly. "Kinda late for a phone call."

Midnight. At least this day is almost over. This- this nightmare. I glance
at the microwave. The alien green numbers read eleven forty-seven and I try
to do the math in my head to decide how many minutes have to pass before I
can put it behind me, but I can't think. If I try to think, I can't breathe,
and if I can't breathe - who will take care of Dawn?

"Where's Dawn?" I whisper. Why am I whispering when I don't like that Willow
was whispering?

"Anya and Tara promised her they'd sit with her until she fell asleep."
Xander isn't whispering. Good, reliable Xander. I start to tell him he
should shave, but then he says, "Are you okay?" in a hushed voice, and it
makes me want to scream to cut the silence.

Dead silence. Giles clears his throat and it startles me. I spin to look at
him and drop the phone. It slams against the floor and it's so loud I think
it could wake the dead. I want it to wake the dead. Why is it that the dead
that need to stay dead never do, and the ones who shouldn't be dead stay
away? All three of my friends rush forward to pick the phone up off the
floor. Willow and Xander bump heads. I want to laugh. I want to say
something witty. But witty took an exit marked 'Dead End' and I seem to be

Are there dirty dishes that need washing? Mom can't stand a dirty kitchen.
And if my hands are idle another second, I think I'll panic.

I shamble across the floor, bumping the refrigerator and the island in the
middle of the room before I finally stagger against the sink and stare down
in it. It's empty. Just like me. I wonder if anyone else can hear the echoes
in my head every time someone speaks.

Oh! Bingo! There's a small puddle of spilled soda on the counter. I open the
doors under the sink and pull out a dishtowel. Folding it neatly, I turn on
the hot water and stick it under the steam. I think I'm burning my hand. I-
I can see the water splashing against me, turning my skin an angry shade of
red, but I don't feel it.

"Buffy!" Giles says my name and I feel his arms on me, spinning me to face
him. The towel drops into the sink.

"Huh?" I grunt again. Bereavement has left me very articulate, I think.

"You burned your hand." Giles' big hand is covering mine. I can feel his
warmth as he examines my flesh. I'm almost tempted to ask if he'll kiss it
and make it better. Just like Mom used to do.

Wordlessly, he glances at Willow and Xander, then brings my hand to his lips
and kisses it. Did I say that out loud? He tilts my face and studies me
closely. I try desperately to focus on him, but he's really nothing more
than a fuzzy outline in the periphery of my vision.

"Someone made a mess. Probably Dawn. Mom will get mad and Dawn will find a
way to blame me and-" I trail off. Mom will never get mad again. She'll
never get anything again. Not her favorite coffee made from imported beans.
Not her favorite dinner at Dan's Snack Shack. She'll never know what
happened on Passions with her favorite couple. And she died before we got
our hair done together.

Giles clears his throat again. Why does he keep doing that? It's like nails
on a chalkboard. "Are you ready to go to bed now, Buffy?"

Bed. Upstairs. Across the hall from her room. Where the bathroom still
smells like her perfume, a few stray hairs are probably still tangled in her
curling iron, where her robe is draped solemnly on the foot of her bed.
Where her book is on the nightstand, the bookmark I gave her with a poem to
'Mother' marking the page. I wonder if authors ever consider that someone
may die while reading their masterpieces and never reach the big payoff.

Every good story has a payoff.

Except mine.

Because what good will a payoff be without your mother there to share it
with you? I suddenly hate the fates so much that it leaves a bitter
aftertaste in my mouth.

"I'm not sleepy," I mumble, although my eyelids feel heavy enough to hang
past my chin. "I- I have to call the hairdresser and tell them to cancel her

"It can wait till morning," Willow assures me.

Morning. The sun will rise, won't it? I look at the clock again. It's eleven
fifty-nine. I count off: one Mississippi, two Mississippi, three
Mississippi, four-

It changes over to midnight and I hold my breath, praying that I'll feel
different. That the weight on my shoulders will be lifted. That my mom will
walk through the door and tell me I have an early class and should get some

Twelve oh one arrives without incident. If anything, I feel an even heavier
burden on my heart. It seems to be struggling to beat. and each beat is
punishing -- pushing acid blood through my veins until I'm sore from head to
toe. My lungs feel heavy, full of poison air, and my eyes burn with dryness.
Shouldn't I be crying by now? My chest has that aching feeling that only
comes when you sob so hard that every other breath is an agonizing hitch.

"I should be crying, shouldn't I?" I whisper. There I go again, living the
cliché. Whispering when someone dies. "I'm a bad person."

"No," Xander tells me. I hear sincerity in his voice, but I hear pity too.
"You're all cried out."

"I - I cried?"

"Oh yeah, you cried," Xander nods. I see a brown blob that must be his head
bobbing up and down.

I hear Willow talking to Giles and I pick up one sentence from the myriad of
their conversational chatter. "Maybe we should take her back to the

Hospital. Was I at the hospital? I don't like hospitals. But- but if I could
find Mom and take her there and they healed her -- I'd be willing to amend
my way of thinking.

"There's nothing they can do," Giles tells Willow. "It's grief."

"It's denial," Xander chimes in. I hear them. They sound so far away, but I
hear them over the ringing in my ears. "She's dazed and confused."

"That's the medication," Giles states in his all-knowing tone. "It was a
very strong sedative and she probably hasn't eaten all day."

"Medicine!" I cry. I'm not going crazy. I'm just drugged, right? Mom's not
really dead, I just got medicine and the whole thing has been a
hallucination! I start to laugh. I laugh and I laugh and I laugh. It blinds
me, it makes my throat hurt, it makes my sides ache, and I can hear the
desperation in every contrived cackle that rips from my body. "I thought I
felt this way because my Mother died!" I roar, almost doubling up from the
pain that each bitter bark of laughter brings.


I look up. Giles is still out of focus, but his tone tells me all I need to

It wasn't a hallucination.

I sober instantly, ears still ringing, mind still clogged, hands shaking,
and heart threatening to pound my blood so fast it will drown me. I see her
there on the sofa, splayed on her back, and I know which image time has
already frozen in my mind.

Indelibly inked with vivid watercolors that were mixed with my tears. A
masterpiece created with alarming detail and a punishing stroke of the

And I can already feel time stealing this comfortable numb from me. As soon
as the drug fades and the sedative subsides, I'll be on my own. Naked to the
pain. No manufactured walls to surround me and confuse me and lessen the

I'll be uncomfortably responsive to the image in my head.

My feet move of their own volition and I find myself in the warm envelope of
Giles' arms. I savor it. The parental feel, the mentor's touch, the father
figure that I spent the latter part of my life craving.

It comforts me.

I respond.

A hot tear rolls down my cheek and he catches it, murmuring that it'll be

And I'm just numb enough to believe him.

For now.

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