so, this is lots of serious nick angst; I'm sure this is going to be a common theme for most people after the season finale, but oh well. Huge spoilers for Grave Danger, as well as The Stalker, Overload, Who are You, Boom, and pretty much everything else. Also, I broke this up in chapters because it just seemed too long to keep as one whole piece.
I've been sitting in the same place for a while now. My eyes are closed. When I open them, they stare blankly at the wall. I don't look at anything. I don't look at the gun that's in my hand. I massage the trigger with my finger, feeling its steel, its coldness. I don't want to look at it right now, so I don't. I keep my eyes closed.
This is the stage that they call 'aftermath'. Aftermath is what happens after the traumatic event. I'm not sure where the 'math' part of the word comes in. I suppose you could argue that math itself is a traumatic experience. I probably would have to, before the incident.
That's what everyone calls it, when they have to refer to it at all. To call it 'the burial' is too harsh. To call it 'the accident' would be false. To call it 'that time recently where Nick almost suffocated to death' would be too true. So we call it 'the incident' and leave it at that.
Aftermath after an incident can last a long time. It's been three months since "my incident" and the aftermath is still happening. And I'm sitting here, eyes closed, hand on my gun, trying to figure out what's the worst part of it. What's the worst thing about surviving the incident, about living after being buried alive. It's a long list.
Up there on the list is talking to my folks. I talk to them about twice a week now. Before the incident I talked to them maybe once a month or so. The conversations were always pleasant; the ones with my mother always lasted longer than the ones with my father. I wouldn't want to say my father and I were estranged from each other, but we weren't really close like we used to be either. Usually our conversations went something like, "How've you been? Life treating you well? Well, that's good. I'll talk to you next time."
After the incident my parents called about every other day. The conversations are awkward as hell. When my parents visited me in the hospital, my dad actually broke down in tears. . .something that I've seen about as many times as I've visited Egypt. . .meaning never. Now when he calls, his voice sounds harsher than normal, as if aware that he did something so unmanly in front of his own son that it eats at him inside. It probably does. Every time he says 'I love you' he sounds like he's in physical pain. Still, he makes sure to say it, maybe even as often as twice a phone call.
Mom isn't that much better. Her voice always sounds thick, as if repressing tears. She rarely represses them for the whole phone call, and she always apologies for "sounding so silly". She also tells me that she loves me and makes sure that every word in our conversation is meaningful, as if we may not ever get to talk again. When the phone call is finally over, I have a couple of ways of recuperation: booze, or a lot of Advil. Talking to my parents now always gives me a headache. It's hard knowing that every time Mom and Dad call, they're doing it to say goodbye.
When I first got out of the hospital, my friends refused to let me spend a night alone in my house. Sometimes I pretended that this was silly, but mostly I didn't bother because being alone terrified me. I spent most of that time with Warrick and Greg, both stepping on each other's toes to fill the position of 'best friend'. Sara and Catherine didn't usually spend nights but they'd often be at my house until late, fixing food or straightening my already straightened house. Grissom came over once for about half an hour, and then left hurriedly, as if his shoes were on fire. I doubt that he really had anything urgent to do, but I'm not surprised that he didn't stay. Sometimes I think that he feels out of place in my home, that he wants to support me but doesn't know what to do. Other times I think he's just too busy to come by and our relationship is nothing special because it never was. When it comes to Grissom, my feelings are always conflicted, and that makes me smile a little because that means that some things never change.
Sara and Greg are the easiest to be around. Right after the incident, Greg was so quiet that you almost forgot he was in the room. He'd stand there, shifting his weight around, and with his mouth sewn up shut like he was afraid that if he parted his lips to speak, something inappropriate and horrible would fall out. On the third day at the hospital, Greg finally started to speak a little and made a small joke about one of the nurses that looked like she came right out of that Jack Nicholson movie, that one about all the crazies, Nurse Ratched or something like that. Greg laughed a little at his own joke and Warrick turned to glare at him, as if laughing was something that you just didn't do after your friend had been buried alive. Greg stopped laughing immediately and turned pale and he didn't open his mouth for another two days.
When I felt a little more up to it (meaning coherent and awake and not shaking all of the time) I had the others leave so I could talk to Greg a little about it. For Greg, jokes are fun but they're also a way to deal with stress, and I got that Greg needed to let that stress out in some form or another, and I'd rather that it came out in bad jokes than beating up inoffensive walls. Greg was reluctant at first, but eventually he did begin to loosen up and start telling jokes again. They were always pretty lousy but I laughed at them anyway. Greg wasn't the only one who needed some humor in the days after the incident.
Sara doesn't make as many jokes, but she is surprisingly good at conversation and she tells me all sorts of little things that make me feel more grounded and more here. She'll talk about people at work, or how shitty the traffic is, or how many idiots blocked her way to the coffeepot that morning, and all of it makes me smile, that little life stuff. Catherine tries to do this as well, and sometimes she's successful, but other times not because it's Catherine who has to excuse herself the most often to go to the bathroom and cry. She pretends that she doesn't, of course, but her eyes are too watery and her mascara too smudged to be particularly convincing.
Warrick is around the most often, which is ironic because he's the one I have the hardest time hanging with. Once Warrick got used to the idea that it was okay to laugh after something terrible, he started making some jokes too, and his are good ones, definitely better than Greg's. I like to laugh with him and hear him talk and lose while playing on my PS2. . .I might have almost died but Warrick likes to win, and I appreciate that. I really enjoy those normal times, when Warrick doesn't act like everything must center around what happened to me, but those times don't last very long. Because after we hang out or relax or whatever, Warrick will inevitably want to talk, and when I say talk, I mean 'confess'.
They all feel bad about it, I know that they do, but Warrick feels the most guilty, and I guess I get why. If our positions had been reversed, if Warrick had gone to the garbage scene instead of me, I probably would feel the same way he does. I probably would feel like it was all my fault, like it could have been me in that box, and it should have been me in that box. I understand how Warrick feels, I really do, but every time he confesses that he is really the one to blame, I have to convince him that he's wrong and that he did nothing to be ashamed of. And it's true that he didn't do anything wrong and he has nothing to be ashamed of, but sometimes it takes a lot of effort to make him believe it, and other times I just don't feel like comforting anyone. I feel irrational and selfish and angry and I want to say, "You know what, man? I'm the one who got buried alive, okay? I'm the one who was being eaten alive while being buried alive while starving for breath while trying not to commit suicide. . .I was the one who went through all of that, and I don't feel like comforting anyone, all right? How 'bout you comfort ME this time?"
I think about saying all that and then I push it away because Warrick's only trying to help and I don't want to make things worse for him. But the thing is, that even with all the awkwardness between me and my friends, all the pain and goodbyes between me and my folks. . .all of that is bad but I don't think it's the worst part.