I lie in bed, the shock creating an unreality that obviates any tiredness.

Earlier in the morning, my best friend’s husband rang to say that she had passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. The rest of the day unfolded in numbness. It’s cliché, but there aren’t many other ways to describe the response to such terrible news – it’s an impenetrable and unprocessable disbelief.

Other things tumble faintly through my mind; I was meant to pursue a job prospect. Two years of Covid, lockdowns, mandates, et al, had left me unemployed, but an application for one job had opened another possibility in publishing. I had a couple of freelance writing gigs lined up for pop culture websites. Training was imminent. Things seemed to be happening. Finally.

But none of that was important now. Hearing the news, I didn’t know how to act. I usually don’t know how to act at the best of times, and will hide it behind humor, but this was a day that had grown so dogged that it existed unalterably, impossible to rewind, impossible to undo and, now, impossible to navigate.

Come the next morning I walked around in a stupor, and sat at my computer, thinking I could continue working on the revision of my latest novel. I’ve always been able to write. I’ve taught myself that. Depression, broken leg, chronic pain, anything, I can sit down and write. Too many people think writing is magic, or romantic, or whatever. It’s none of that. The act itself is a process.

Now I retreat into my library, and take from my bookshelf my friend’s memoir – a book about her growing up on a hippy commune outside Bermagui. I’d edited it for her, and remembered in the prologue she referenced a river she’d felt a spiritual closeness to, and that she’d instructed her two sons to throw her ashes into the river after she’d passed.

This prompts the tears, big guffawing sobs that I can’t contain, nor try to. When she wrote this, she would’ve projected the act would be long, long, long into the future – likely well after I was gone. Her adult children, now in their twenties, would likely be in their fifties. She never anticipated her ashes would be scattered into the river just four years after publishing the book.

Once I raggedly gather my composure, I know I can’t remain here. She was the first person I showed this place to when I rented it. There are memories, attachments, everywhere, like the little crystal elephant that sits by my computer, as well as a stone with the word “TRUST” that she gave me years earlier when I had a string of health issues, I was despondent (almost suicidally so), and she was trying to assure me everything would be okay.

I take a walk.

Since my leg was broken, I have strict limits. My right foot is clawed from nerve damage. It’s always a combination of semi-numb and tender. The Complex Regional Pain Syndrome that erupted doesn’t like to be poked, and will exacerbate pain, deliver excruciating burning sensations, generate stabbing pains, and/or will misreport what’s happening down there, like it’ll make me think my toes have folded under my foot, or my foot’s pointing in a direction it’s not, or the area around the break is flexing like it’s on a hinge. About thirty minutes, or around three kilometers, is my limit when it comes to walking, and even that sometimes comes at a cost where I have to sit and rest, or – when the pain gets too bad – even skip a day and let the foot settle.

I walk and walk and walk, taking paths that I often walked with her. I sit on the bench at the dog park where she and I would sometimes take her dog, Oscar. A couple of dogs run up to me, and look at me, as if to ask what I’m doing there without a dog. I walk down the path running parallel to the nearby creek and sit on a bench where she’d let her dog off the leash to explore.

I look at all these places, knowing they will never, and can never, be the same.

I don’t know why I do any of this, outside of possible attempts at reconnection to something that can never be connected to – at least not in the same way anymore.

These marathons become the habit, and I come home so physically exhausted I can’t think of much else outside of the continuing incredulity, that there’s no way to fix this, and ruminate that I should’ve been a better friend, a closer friend, but I hadn’t because of circumstances I should’ve found a way to mitigate.

Eventually, I decide to use an app on my phone to measure the distance I’m walking and find I’m doing at least twelve kilometers each session, the occasional mini-break aside.

My foot should hurt. Should scream. Should seethe with pain. But it bears me.

After the surgery and physio and hydro and nerve blocks and rehab and all that stuff packaged around my leg for two years, the hospital had me partake in workshops learning to live with chronic pain.

One lesson is that the brain only tells you what it feels you need to know – like when the car hit me and tossed me into the middle of the road. There was no pain when I sat up, even though my right leg was broken clear through the ankle, and my foot was detached from the rest of my skeletal frame, and my ankle dislocated. Right then, my brain recognized the danger of me sitting there (where I could be hit again) and got me crawling off the road, my right foot fish-tailing loosely behind me.

It’s happening here – for over two weeks, my brain doesn’t tell me about what’s happening with my leg, how I’m antagonizing the chronic pain and infuriating the Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. All I know is the grief, and everything incumbent within a space that’s inescapable because it’s now an everyday, every-moment existence.

It is this new reality.

It is me.

Ironically, I sleep okay during this time, so physically wasted I have nothing left come the night.

Nothing left but the anticipation of the morning, and doing it all over again.