Magdaīs Diary: "The Flying Doctors", episode 171-173
Itīs getting late and still heīs not back. He does know that he has to start work again at 8 a.m. tomorrow, as far as I know...
I donīt actually want to... I want to go and see him as soon as he gets here, and tell him all those things Iīve been thinking of since Wednesday. So I donīt actually want to, but my brain keeps telling me that I have to go to bed and that Iīll have ample opportunities to tell him tomorrow. But my heart wonīt listen.
I canīt believe itīs only been a week; it feels like I havenīt seen him for at least half a year! I long for him. Dreaming about the look in his eyes when Iīm going to tell him how much he means to me. I just hope I wonīt chicken out on the moment supreme... Making speeches has never been my forte, but perhaps in this case - with so delightful and exciting a message and such a wonderful audience - who knows: it might be easier. Or perhaps he will make it even easier for me, taking the words right out of my mouth before I even get the chance to say īI love youī...
Whatīs gotten into him?! Geoff called us into his office this morning just before lunchtime. I hadnīt seen David yet: I had been on duty in the hospital, and he was having consultation at the base. Or so I thought... Apparently I had it all wrong... For Geoff told us that David had come to see him this morning, with the determined purpose to resign! No less, just like that! He obviously had been spending his time with his fishing-rod to sort out his life, and he had decided he wanted to leave here to go to Sydney and study to become a surgeon! Well, good on him, Iīd say, and Iīm sure heīll be a very good one, but Iīm not so sure I like the way he dropped this bomb on us! Leaving, just like that, and today? What does he think heīs doing?! Doesnīt he care one straw about us? What about the base? Then weīre down to three doctors again, for who knows how long itīs going to take to find a replacement again.
So instead of going home for lunch, I went straight to his place to give him a piece of my mind. I was pretty angry, and I still am. But the door was locked, the shutters were down, the car gone... Obviously he had already left! Without even the smallest goodbye!? Heīs told Geoff what he was going to do, said ītake careī to Clare and just took off?!?
Iīve been angry with him all afternoon, trying to figure out what could have made him act like this. What was our friendship worth if he just leaves like that? Just throws it out of the window?
Well, he didnīt get very far. As far as Iīve understood the story he saw someone setting fire to a shed, tried to stop him, got in a fistfight and was knocked senseless, left lying there in the heavy smoke. Anyway, he came to in time to get out before he choked or burnt or even worse, and heīs in hospital now with a bruised jaw and breathing problems due to all the smoke he inhaled. So he has postponed his departure a bit, which gave a very surprised Vic and Nancy the opportunity to throw him a hasty farewellparty after all. Though Geoff wasnīt that sure whether David would be fit enough yet to go there tonight.
Maybe I should go over to the hospital and ask him what the heck he thinks heīs doing. But right now I donīt feel like it. So much for my fantasies about telling him I love him, and him returning that feeling, hey? Obviously Iīve been imagining things. Why else would he be acting the way he does?! I know that the actual love-fantasy may have been mainly developed by me, but what about the rest? I thought we were mates... at least. Well, if I mean so little to him that he doesnīt even think it necessary to come by and say goodbye when heīs leaving for good, thatīs fine with me then. But Iīm not going over to him tonight to beg for a tiny little farewellkiss on the cheek if this is how he intends to treat his friends. I wonder now whether he really understands what that word implies...
I think I might even go to that party. Have lots of fun and laughs and drinks. Kind of a revenge. If you donīt even bother to come and say goodbye, my friend, then I wonīt spill a single tear about your leaving!
Wow, that was some party... Good that my shift doesnīt start until one oīclock, for Iīve got quite a hangover. Headache and stuff.
I acted like a party animal yesterday... Laughing and grinning and singing and dancing and having fun together. About midway through, Nancy insisted on calling the hospital, to let David have some share in what he was missing out on. Seemed to embarrass him a little, all that praise. Just like him. At that moment I felt something melting inside me, but I didnīt want to listen. Not yet. So I put my mask as party animal back on and tried to drown that nibbling voice inside in a sea of noise and fun. In the end I even became intoxicated, perhaps even really drunk. Now that was a very very very long time ago... Well, I do remember us fooling around with Geoff when he tried to make a speech on Davidīs behalf, and I do remember getting home, but the rest is rather fuzzy.
But now that things have calmed down a bit, I really believe I should go and see him. Iīm not angry anymore. Just sad and upset. I would like him to explain a few things before heīs leaving. So Iīd better be quick and get dressed, before he gets off before I know it again...
Tue 13/2, 10.30
I canīt believe it: heīs already gone! GONE ! Gone out on the plane this morning; theyīd drop him off at Korinda station on their way to the clinic in Karawinga, so he could pick up the car there and continue towards Broken Hill! I canīt believe it... heīs gone... for good...
My dear little flying fisherman, what have I done? Or better: what have I not done? Why didnīt I go and talk with you last night? To straighten a few things out? Is this the result of my revenge? I was angry with you, but not that angry that I never wanted to speak to you again...
Why, David? Why did you leave like this? Itīs not like you... Whatīs the matter? Why?! Donīt you see that I need you? Iīm not sure I can cope here all by myself... You have been by my side all those months, supporting me, helping me, taking care of me, being my friend... I donīt think Iīve ever realized it thoroughly, but Iīm dependent on you, David. I need you here beside me in my work. I need you in my sparetime as my mate, my best friend, as the solution to all my problems. Iīve never really thought about it, but coming to think of it: you are the only person around here with whom I have really established some kind of a relationship. The others are (friendly or annoying) colleagues and neighbours, but Iīve never had any real contact with them. That was something I only had with you. David, please... I donīt know what youīve been going through last week, but if you want to leave here, please, let me come with you! Donīt leave me here, David, please! I need you! And I love you...
But what can I do? Go after him? Doesnīt make much sense. When Clare told me he was already gone, she said that instead of becoming a surgeon, he had told Geoff something like wanting to do something completely different with his life. Without being specific though, so it stands to reason that he may have gone just about anywhere. North south east west... What am I to do? Stay here, knowing that my stupid feelings of revenge last night have caused a definite burning of all my bridges?! I donīt know what to do! Iīm nearly crying at the thought I may never see him again. What have I done?! What am I to do?! I donīt understand. Why didnīt he come to me to talk things over? Like weīve been doing since January, and even before a couple of times? Would he have been afraid that I might have tried to make him change his mind about leaving?
Perhaps I would have... Heīd be right about that. But on the other hand... he has been so īout of sortsī lately, that somewhere I do understand why he wants to leave. I mean the base and even his work as a doctor; not his leaving me without even a word. From what Iīve gathered from him lately, I suspect that Guy is the real reason behind this. Itīs just not possible for the idealistic David Ratcliffe to work together with a flashy statusdoctor like Guy. Guyīs behaviour is just going against all his deepest principles; thatīs what he said himself, and I cannot disagree with him.
Like this morning. The first place I went to look for David was at the hospital of course. I met Guy at the front desk, and he told me that I was too late: David had already checked out. I thanked him and turned to go, but he called after me: "You two make a great pair by the way, you know that?"
I turned back to him. "What do you mean?"
He smiled his wolfīs grin. "Just like a certain dr. Heller, he came to me last night suggesting that I had been making a pass at that Lowe-girl in room six!"
I raised my eyebrows. "I wonder where he got that idea from," I said as neutral as possible, and turned to leave again.
"Yeah, well... we wonīt miss his impertinence in a hurry," Guy grumbled behind me.
That was it, and before I knew what I was doing, I told him in an icy tone: "Has it ever occurred to you, dr. Reid, that you may be the reason for his leaving?!"
He just stared at me incredulously, but I didnīt wait for an answer. I went out again in search for David, and I can only hope that my ībelovedī colleague will do some grubbling through his conscience right now.
I donīt know. I donīt know, but I do know that Iīve most probably lost the love of my life. And that - at least partly - it has been my own doing. One evening of stubbornness: going to a party, ignoring and pushing away the voice of my heart and my conscience, instead of going to talk to him. Thatīs all it takes to destroy something as beautiful as a delicate flower opening up its first leaves in the spring. Iīve been stubborn and stupid, and unless Iīll manage to get in touch with him again, I donīt think Iīll ever be able to forgive myself. Why?! Why did I not go and see him last night?! If he really didnīt know how much I care about him, why didnīt I go and tell him?! This blasted pride of mine! Why didnīt I realize that heīs probably just fleeing from the strain and the stress here? I knew what he was like when he went fishing; why didnīt I understand that this whole week by himself only seems to have multiplied the problems in his mind, instead of sorting them out? I knew how much he needed someone to talk to lately; to relativate the problems he was facing. This whole idea of going fishing may have had exactly the opposite effect of the one we intended...
Oh David... I want, I need to talk to you. I want to help you, to be with you when you need me. Why wonīt you let me?! Why canīt we at least give it a chance?! I love you, David. And I need you. It doesnīt have to be here. If you want to go somewhere else, Iīll come with you. If you can leave here just like that, then I can, too. And I wonīt be sorry, for you are far more important than my work. Guy and I managed with only two doctors last week, so Geoff and Guy should be able to, too. But I want to be with you! I have to go to work now, but Iīll try and figure out a way to catch up with you. Somehow! Even if it means taking the car and following your tracks to the end of the earth!
It canīt, it canīt be, itīs not possible! David... Iīve seen it with my eyes, felt it with my hands, established it with my brain... but it just canīt!
David, lying there in that little room, covered with a white sheet... Iīve been in there. At first together with the others, later by myself. The most stupid things coming to my mind. Wishful but silly thinking, just to make sure it isnīt true. To get that sparkle back into his eyes. That warm, teasing smile on his lips.
Iīve kissed him. After all, it worked with Snowwhite and the sleeping beauty and I know not who else. But Iīm afraid that even in fairy tales such things are based on wishful thinking. For it didnīt work on David. My first kiss. The first time I kissed him, the kiss Iīve been dreaming and fancying about for all those months... that kiss came too late. Too late! A kiss of
Tomorrow afternoon is the funeral. So soon. I would want to keep him with me. To keep him warm in my arms. David... why? Why you? If this really had to happen, why didnīt it happen to Guy? So that things around here could get back to normal and you wouldnīt have to leave after all?
The worst thing is that they canīt even leave him in peace now... Theyīre cutting him up... I feel sick thinking about it, but... Obviously David was registered as a donor. Geoff remembered just after they had returned. I almost hate him for it. So a team from Broken Hill was called in to get out everything they could use in the transplantclinics in Sydney and Melbourne. I canīt stand the thought though... Taking out all the vital organs... and what if he isnīt really dead? People have been known to come alive again after they were diagnosed as dead! What if he does, and then he dies because of... Iīd want to run in there and throw those Broken Hill people out of the theatre... I donīt want them cutting up my David while there is still a chance...
Magda is very brief in her diary about how she experienced this news.
A flashback (preview from another fanfiction) sheds more light on what happened that day.
Davidīs parents were there. But I havenīt spoken with them. I think they have enough just dealing with their own sorrow. Lost their son. Their only son, I think, for there were no other relatives, and Iīve never heard David mentioning brothers or sisters either. Poor people. They kept up well. Like David would have. Pale, set faces, lips pursed. It wasnīt until the end that I saw Mrs. Ratcliffe crying in her husbandīs arms. I couldnīt stand the look of it and I ran away. To give free course to my own tears, too. They seemed such nice, friendly people, his parents. Why does this have to happen to them? Why David? Why me?
Still, I was glad to find something that reminded me of him. Heīs got his fatherīs eyes, and his motherīs nose and ears. Unbelievable, to pay attention to things like that during a funeral. But I couldnīt help noticing. Heīs not a striking resemblance of either of his parents, but it is clear that he is their son.
Why? Why him? Itīs just not fair!! Iīve been asking all the gods I could think of why this had to be you. I begged them to see that this was all a terrible mistake. But I donīt think any of them was listening.
I had to operate today. But I couldnīt... Just when I was about to cut, a picture of David came to my mindīs eye. Lying on this same table, white and still, and those Broken Hill people cutting him up... I couldnīt... I fled from the operating theatre, and on outside where I could be alone for a minute... Jackie saw me running out and came after me, but nothing could persuade me at that moment to go through with the operation. I believe in the end they got Guy to do it.
I canīt... Why did they have to do that? Why couldnīt they leave him in peace, in one piece? Why do I have to think of him with cuts and holes all over, cuts and holes that will never heal? Why did they have to do that?! Why did they have to take out everything useful? Why couldnīt they just leave him alone?
I know... with these things they could save a dozen other peopleīs lives. But still... doesnīt anybody care about himself anymore? Heīs not just a store-room of spare-parts, he is... he is David! And I canīt stand the thought of him being emptied... on that same operating table I have to work on... Perhaps Iīll follow his example and quit medicine all together. Perhaps Iīll never dare to operate anymore...
Things are just going too fast... Why do I have such difficulty in recalling the cheerful, thoughtful and companiable David? Again and again that image is being intruded by the one of that sheet being blown away by the wind. Or that pale, cold man I kissed. Sam, that patient he was with at the time, told me they were talking about some religion that assumes that a human being upon his death turns into an animal. And that David had said that heīd miss the circling eagles so much. If that religion is true, I hope he has become one of those eagles. I donīt know anymore if there is a heaven. If God can be so cruel as to take away David - my David, of all people! - I find it hard to believe that he could have something as good as a heaven. Still, I canīt help hoping there is some kind of heaven. With David circling around as an eagle. There or here. It suits him well. Grand, and mighty, gliding on the wind. The freedom of the sky. He loved flying so much. Not because of the machines, but because of the sensation of freedom. I remember him talking once about wanting to try deltaflying. The eagle. From now on I will always love the German eagle. He belongs to me.
"I didnīt know I was so highly thought of."
Those were the last words Iīve heard from him. Through the telephone, talking to all of us, in the noisy rackass of that blasted farewellparty. I canīt forget them. What made him say so? What made him think that we did not think so highly of him? As long as Iīve known him, the thought has never struck me that he might be suffering from an inferiority complex... It just doesnīt seem to fit him.
It makes me feel bad. Should I have told him more often, more clearly how much I appreciated him? How special he is to me? I know Guy wasnīt that fond of him, and that feeling was obviously mutual. But I remember Geoff speaking of him very highly. Actually: Geoff even seemed to idolize him a little, and Iīm pretty sure he must have mentioned such things to David himself as well.
David, if only you could tell me where you got that notion from... I didnīt know. And I donīt know what to think of it. I really believed you know me and I know you better than anyone else in this town. But things like this make me feel like I didnīt know you at all. Have you been acting out a part all that time? All those months have you been fooling me? Lying to me?
I canīt believe that. I canīt and I wonīt. Youīre mine, and the David I got to know since September is the real and only David. You may have been lying to Geoff about wanting to become a surgeon, but you canīt have been lying to me all that time. You just canīt. I wonīt believe that; you are not capable of lying so notoriously.
Itīs true that I believed the story Geoff told us about you becoming a surgeon. It suited you, even though its suddenness alienated me. And what he said at the funeral, about you instead going off to do something else with your life, to explore all your potentials, that was imaginable for David Ratcliffe, too. But all those other things... Iīm trying to understand what made him say so. But itīs turning the knife of reproach in my heart... If only...
We had a clinic at the Robsonīs today. Kate and I. I had never been there, but it appeared they were very dear friends of David. I remember having seen them at the funeral. Theyīve been regaling us with the stories of how David saved their lives. Several times, it seems. It is great to know that he is being remembered so well. They nearly got me crying, but I managed to save it till I was here. Home. Wherever that may be. Through their stories, I saw him smile again. Laugh. Frown. Muse. That delicious sparkle in his eyes. Why wonīt I see that anymore?
I just want to shrivel up and die...
Itīs just not fair! Life just goes on, with clinics and emergencies and paperwork and the hospital... Kate was singing today. Guy drives me mad... The only one I think is still upset is Johnno; the rest seems to have got back to normal. WHY!!! How can you laugh, how can you sing with this on your mind?! With this dreadful picture blocking out all the good memories?!
It keeps haunting me. I havenīt slept since. Well, a little, but itīs giving me such horrid nightmares that lately I have just decided not to go to bed. Iīm watching the stars instead. Like I sometimes did with David. Iīm still trying to find the Southern Cross. David did point it out to me a couple of times, but I can search the sky all night long and not finding it. Who knows, perhaps it has disappeared right along with him.
I had no choice... An emergency: acute and severe appendicitis, and I was the only doctor around. I had to operate, or the man would have died... It was the hardest operation Iīve ever done... Images of David being cut up on this same table kept jumping to my mindīs eye, but I had to go through with it... I wanted to run away and hide, but if I would, the man would die... just like David. I couldnīt do that... It nearly made me throw up, but I managed to swallow that down until the operation was finished.
Iīve done it now. The first time. They say the first time for everything is the hardest. Perhaps Iīll dare and operate again now. Though I canīt feel like it right now... David...
I remember one day the time I was in Holland. We went to the beach at Zandvoort to see the waves. For there was a real storm. Standing with your back towards the wind made you small. You huddled up, you almost got blown away. But to face the storm... arms spread out, leaning onto the wind... it felt like the wind could just lift you up any second, and then youīd be flying. Flying like an eagle. Gliding on the wind...
Itīs actually quite strange, but I do remember that happening for real in my dreams at night. It didnīt even take a real storm: all I had to do was face the wind, spread out my arms and Iīd ascend. Would David know that kind of dreams? Would he ever have had a sensation like that one on the Zandvoort beach - being on the brink of the wind lifting you up to fly away?
Gliding on the wind. Like an eagle.
Geoff asked me today if I was feeling allright. He thought I looked pale. Well, no wonder after deliberately having missed out on so much sleep. He gave me some sleepingpills. Good on him, I dare say, but I flushed them down the toilet. Iīm still scared to have those nightmares, and besides... they wouldnīt go very well with those mild pep pills Iīve been taking lately to be able to keep going. I know I have to quit that. And soon. I donīt want to get addicted. But Iīm scared. Scared of everything. Today, tomorrow, yesterday... Kate has been crying her eyes out at first, but after all was said and done, she pretty much resumed the daily routine. Oh, I know, I shouldnīt blame her for that. I know people react differently after the death of a friend. Itīs just that... doesnīt anyone around here realize that David is my friend, too? My mate, as they call it? My very special mate?
But what does it matter... There is no cure for this choking ache in my chest. No cure for that eternally ongoing cd in my mind: "What if you had told him?" I canīt tell him anymore, can I now...
I donīt know anymore. Perhaps Iīm going insane. As long as Iīm working itīs okay. Bearable. But the rest of the time I feel like an imprisoned tiger. Pacing around the room, pulling at my hair, an urge to scream so violently that I need all my self-restraint to suppress it. Not to scare the wits out of Mrs. Grey. WHAT IF
The most hateful words in the world! WHAT IF I had gone and talked things over with him that night! Wouldnīt things have gone differently? Would we be a couple now, so close that perhaps we were even carefully starting to think about marriage? WHAT IF...!!!!!
I feel like smashing everything to bits. My room, the base, the Nomad, the town. David used to go and chop wood when he had to work off anger or frustation. I wish I had an axe. But probably better not. With this mental derangement coming on, Iīd probably trash the whole town. The people included.
Perhaps I shouldnīt blame them either. After all, I donīt want to talk about David either. I want to keep my feelings to myself, too. Perhaps itīs the same to them?
I donīt know. Perhaps to them itīs like it was for me when my father died. Back then, I didnīt want to talk about it either. I wanted nothing more than people treating me normally. Treating me the way they always had. And I remember that in those weeks between the funeral and the summer vacation, all of a sudden the hard working, conscientious student Magda Heller had disappeared, and made way to a cock to the walk in raising Cain in class. All to show people that the ordinary Magda Heller still existed. And to try not to think about what happened. Who knows... maybe itīs the same when Kate is singing. The people at the pub chattering and laughing.
But still... why canīt I? I mean: I loved my father very much, too. Then why didnīt I feel that icy hand in my chest back then? That choking pain? Why has David left me so deeply wounded and hurt, and my father did not? I donīt understand it. Perhaps I did feel that way back then, too, and Iīve just forgotten about it. Blocked it out. Though it wouldnīt fit in with my behaviour at school at the time...
It just doesnīt make sense. Iīve loved my father for over sixteen years. He is my father, in the best meaning of the word. And I do remember that I missed him very much in the beginning. I just didnīt tell anyone. As usual...
And now David. Iīve only known him for a couple of months. Itīs true that I developed some pretty strong feelings of love, friendship and attachment to him over that time. But what are a few months compared to sixteen years?
Perhaps itīs the difference of age? After all, Vati was 55 years old. So it kind of fit in in the usual pattern that old people die. And since David was only 26, even a couple of years younger than I am... that doesnīt fit the usual pattern at all, of course. Itīs quite the reverse way of things.
Perhaps itīs just easier to lose a parent. Natural in a way. But itīs absolutely unnatural to lose the companion you had hoped to share your life with and to grow old together with.
Kate has lost her eyesight when a fountain of boiling battery-acid blew into her eyes. Maybe temporary, maybe irretrievable, and I donīt even care. A colleague of mine has gone blind and I donīt care! Iīm almost scared of myself. Am I turning into a medical robot or something? All the feeling is gone. All I could think of when I heard the news was: "Serves you right for forgetting about David so quickly."
I am (and was immediately) aware of the fact that I ought to be ashamed of myself for even thinking something like that. So my conscience is still working, but my heart is not. I know I should be ashamed, but somehow I am not. I just donīt care. Whatīs gotten into me? How can I continue being a doctor if I donīt have any feeling?
Would I be one of those difficult people who never are content with anything? You know: the grass in the neighbouring pasture is always greener; the biggest strawberries grow on the other side of the fence... Could it be that Iīm one of those people who are convinced that their felicity always is to be found over the horizon? At the end of the ever melting rainbow? So that they keep chasing it, hurrying from one spot on the earth to another, travelling all around the world, blind for the felicity at hand in their every day life?
Iīm starting to fear this may be true. In Germany I moved around a couple of times within a few years, never finding the sincere happiness I was hoping for. I left Germany to come to the scarcely populated Australian Outback, and here I am... contemplating if I wouldnīt be happier if Iīd move elsewhere. To New Zealand, to Canada, to Eastern Europe maybe... I donīt know. I have been very happy here. Happier than I recall from any other time in my life. But the biggest strawberry in my garden has been picked away. By thieves in the night. Leaving me with a bunch of miserable little strawberries that seem inadequate to overcome or compensate the loss of that unique big one. I was perfectly happy here. But now that my favourite big strawberry is gone for good, my old restless soul yearns to wander on - perhaps to find a similar strawberry and try and recreate the happiness this one gave me.
Life is like a strawberryfield. The ones in the neighbourīs yard are always bigger, redder, sweeter and juicier. And if you happen to find such a perfect one in your own yard, the birds will come and eat it away in front of your very own eyes. Youīll never get the chance to keep it to yourself.
I am afraid that I am chasing a dream. My dream come true obviously wasnīt meant to be. But if I canīt chase that dream anymore... what am I doing here then? Chasing ghosts of dreams? Or just wandering around like a lost soul, till Providence is kind enough to take me away and free me from my suffering?
I was very happy here. Finally. With David. But now Iīm back to where I was before I came to Australia. Lonely as hell... And itīs even worse now that I know what life could be like.
I canīt, I canīt bear it anymore! I have to get out of here, away from everyone and everything! Everything here, everything reminds me of David, and I canīt handle it anymore! Australia, the land of the vastitude, but Iīve got an icy hand around my heart, an icy hand that squeezes all the blood away. It squeezes when I enter the base. Or leave the base. It squeezes my heart whenever a door opens and itīs not David who enters. It squeezes in the pub, where people laugh and chat and eat and drink. As if David was never there. It squeezes when I see the menu in the bistro, and know exactly what dish David would have chosen. It squeezes when I see someone attentively sipping his wine. Sipping no matter what drink. It squeezes when I see his coffeemug at the base. Itīs still there. It squeezes upon seeing the would-be emptly place on the pinboard. Theyīve taken away his picture. I donīt know who did it, but by removing it, it seems they have removed all memories concerning him. Itīs squeezing my heart. Hurts. Doc MacKenzie is a nice enough man, but that icy hand squeezes my heart when I see him sitting at Davidīs desk. Itīs still Davidīs desk, not his. You guys have already completely forgotten about David, havenīt you?! What were all those fine words, those good memories worth that you were talking about at his grave? Have they been buried alongside with him perhaps? I have known him for a much shorter period than most people here, so my memories of him must be fewer than theirs. But why have they lost theirs, and why do mine pop up in my mind at the most expected and unexpected moments? Making that chilly hand squeeze my heart once more, and I have to call upon all my self-restraint to keep me from running away screaming? Believe me, I have tried. If only that first time for everything would be over. Thatīs what they usually say, right? That the first time is the hardest? Well, forget it. The second, the third, the tenth, the fiftieth time is just as hard. Iīve been living here for a month now with constant pain. A pain that cannot be cured. A pain that flares up, every time I think of David. And Iīve done so much together with him, that there is hardly anything of which I have no memories connected with him. David is my life here. He still dominates it. Like he has always done, as long as Iīve been here. But what can I do? If only I had talked with him that night, instead of revengefully having fun at that farewellparty he missed out on himself. If only I had had the courage to tell him how much he means to me. I could have ignored all ideas of the town gossiping, and thrown myself head over heels into a stormy relationship with him. Anything! But now Iīve got nothing. No David, no dreams about David. What am I doing here? I donīt belong here. Itīs almost like I have come all this way especially for him. And why? To love him, and being crushed next? I have to get out of here. I canīt stand it anymore... I canīt live with these people anymore, who forget about David - their oh so dear friend and colleague - so quickly. I want to go somewhere else. To a place where I canīt blame people for not having David up front in their minds: people who donīt know him.
People say I am still young. That I still have so much to expect from life. Well, I donīt expect anything anymore. Not without David. I have to get out of here. If only I could take him with me. For real, and not just in my heart.
I just have to get away. I canīt stay anymore. I hate it here. The way they just go on with their lives... How can they??? They must have forgotten about him all together... But I canīt...
But whether they really do have forgotten him, or whether they just donīt talk about him (just like me), it doesnīt make any difference. I want to get away, I need to get out of here. I have nothing left to keep me here. Nothing to hope for. Waiting here for him to come back is useless, and Iīm miserable as it is...
Iīve spoken with Geoff this afternoon. And given him my letter of resignation. There was a long silence after I told him that I wanted to leave as soon as possible. And then he gently inquired why. I told him it was for private reasons, as I had written in the letter, too. He nodded, and then he asked if perhaps it was homesickness. Homesickness, of all things! I denied it of course, but now I think it might have been better if I had used that as an excuse. Itīs something everyone would presume quite normal after all, even though I donīt exactly suffer from it excessively. As they ought to have noticed. At least David did... But still, it might have been a good excuse. Well, too late now. For now they will keep on wondering what these private reasons may be, I suppose. Or perhaps not. If they forget about me as quickly as they seem to have forgotten about David...
But Iīm free now. Iīll take my vacationdays, and that would mean I can leave here within a week. The only thing I have to do is organize it. And then Iīll be gone. And Iīll never, ever return to this rotten town.
Is that how they see me? "Youīre the strong, silent type, arenīt you?" Jackie said to me today. Kate chuckled, Geoff smiled, Guy grinned... They all seemed to agree... If only they knew...
Who knows, perhaps Iīm better at acting than Iīm aware of. Silent... yes. If you limit yourself to looking at this past month. But strong? On the outside maybe. I suppose I do have some strength, otherwise I would never be capable of keeping up my appearance. Never be able to do my work properly. In the group I have to be strong. But thatīs only the outside...
If only they knew me when Iīm alone. Desperately longing for a shoulder to cry on, and knowing very well that the one and only shoulder that would do is buried in the cemetary. Out of reach. Desolate, desperate, lonely... Iīm not half as strong as they think I am. Itīs a mask I put on when I go out. Like putting on a coat. But underneath is the real Magda. Broken, miserable, crushed to pieces. With nothing left to live for. Hopeless.
"I donīt want to spoil my image as the strong, silent type. But I do have a few things to say. I know my decision to leave was sudden, and surprised you all. I know you wonder what was behind it. Some things are hard to speak of, even to friends. We all have our private hopes and fears, and I would share mine with you if I could. All I can say is that I would not be leaving unless it was necessary. You are all very - in German we say īliebī - precious to me. And I will never forget you."
Thatīs my speech for tonight. Iīm bound to give one, since there has been a speech at every farewell-party Iīve attended here. So to be on the safe side, Iīve made it up now and memorized it, so hopefully I wonīt get tonguetied when Iīm standing there. And the good thing is, that I have control over what I am saying that way. Itīs telling the truth. Both theirs and mine. So they can stick to their own truth and wonīt bother to listen between the lines to figure out what Iīm really saying. Because thatīs none of their business, and it hasnīt interested them one jot in the past half year either. So why should they start now? That may seem to clash with the line that they are so lieb to me, but when Iīm honest, I do have to admit that I have good memories of everyone here as well. Not only the bitter, indifferent ones from the past weeks. So Iīm trying to be wise and let the good ones prevail over the bitter ones. At least in this blasted speech. Perhaps Iīll learn to do so in practice some day, too.
I donīt want to go. Iīd wish Iīd get some very short-term illness, only for tonight, so that I would have to be in hospital tonight and could skip this whole stupid party. And then sneak off tomorrow without anyone noticing. Just get out of here. Theyīre bound to forget about me even quicker than they did about David, so why should I even bother to listen to their nonsense? "Such a pity that youīre leaving." "Weīll miss you." "Do come and visit us sometime." "It was great working with you." Yeah, right... Nothing but idle chattering; they will have forgotten all about me as soon as my plane is out of sight. Theyīll just go on with their lives as if I had never been there. Some "missing", hey?
Or even better: perhaps I should secretly have changed my ticket, so I could have left here this morning instead, without anyone knowing. No problem, I could have stayed overnight in Broken Hill. And then, when they were all at the pub for the party tonight, they would have discovered that Iīd have disappeared!
The idea is tempting, but I think Iīd better go anyway. After all, the fact that David forgot his manners those last days doesnīt mean I have to do so, too. If they want to throw a party in my honour, it would be rude not to go. So I will. But Iīll be glad when itīs all over.
Sun 25/3, that evening
What have I done, what have I done?! Oh David, how could I...!? To betray you like that... Talk about unworthy... If anyone deserves that word, itīs me. Oh, how could I say such things... betray you as if my love for you was nothing at all... I should never have gone to that blasted party. Or at least not have stayed so long, ending up in far too private talk with Jackie...
Iīm so sorry, David... Can you forgive me? I only said it to keep you to myself... I shouldnīt have. There were other possibilities to dismiss that stupid idea, or at least the subject... But I couldnīt think of any at the time... She caught me completely off-guard, and all I could think of was that I couldnīt possibly tell her about you... Please, David... can you forgive me? I lied to Jackie, but I only did it to protect you. To keep you to myself... I love you so much...
The party itself was pretty much as I expected. So I did my civic duty and shook hands when I was supposed to and gave my speech when I was asked to. But somehow, around the time that everyone was leaving and even Vic and Nancy retired for the night, I got caught in a deep discourse with Jackie. We talked about the work, and ended up discussing our colleagues. (Not you of course; Jackie has probably forgotten about you just as quickly as everybody else.) That was more or less what I was thinking when we had lapsed into a silence. A longing for you, and bitterness towards the others. And thatīs when she startled me with that statement-question of hers: "You love him, donīt you?" She caught me completely off-guard. I thought she was talking of you of course; that she had been mindreading or something... But she continued with the most improbable presumption anyone could ever come up with: Guy! That I loved Guy, and was leaving because of that! Guy, of all people! The last man in the world whom I could ever love! My mind was just racing around, trying to find a way to get out of this, but I was also afraid that this nonsense was what everyone was thinking. But Jackie said she had come to this conclusion all by herself, and hadnīt talked about it to anyone. Well, that was a relief, but I didnīt see a way out of this mess. Knowing Jackie, sheīd never believe me if I denied it anyway. Sheīd just keep prodding and teasing me about it, and the more Iīd deny it, the more sheīd think she was right after all. So - shaken as I was - I saw no other option than to go along with this story. It seemed a sensible thing to do, since Iīd be out of here tomorrow anyway... Stupid, stupid me... Why couldnīt I think of something else? Simply change the subject or something? But all I could think of in this half-panic was that I couldnīt tell her the truth... I had to hold on to my secret, no matter what it cost... and so I betrayed you... Oh David, please forgive me!!
Jackie appeared extremely interested in the subject, and so I felt obliged (almost forced) to say something that would justify such a stupid, impossible love for Guy. I managed to improvise a bit on that wrappingpaperstory, sort of trying to explain that I had fallen in love with what he could be. The nonsense... I really had to force those words out, for you kept jumping to my mind and I wanted to scream... Jackie seemed eager to continue the subject, but I couldnīt possibly. If I wanted to avoid bursting out in tears right in front of her, I had to get away that instant. So I got up abruptly and made some feeble excuse, and got out as quickly as I could. And nearly ran home with tears streaming down my face...
Oh David, please! Please forgive me! I loath of myself, Iīm so ashamed of what I said... I should never, ever have denied my love for you... Keeping it to myself is one thing, but deny it and say that Iīm in love with someone else instead...! Oh David, Iīm so sorry for what Iīve done... Please forgive me, David! Please!!
I canīt stop crying. I donīt know what to do... Iīd wish you were here to take me in your arms and tell me that itīs allright, that you understand... Why! Why did you have to be taken away from me! Why! Itīs not fair! I want you here with me, comforting me, telling me I havenīt been as stupid as I know I have been. Assuring me that this is all a bad dream, a nightmare, and that you are still here, with me. Why, David?! Why canīt you? All I want is to be with you.
26/3, 7 a.m.
My last night with David. I needed so badly to be close to him after that disaster, that I went to the cemetary and kneeled down by his grave. Talking, crying, talking. It still felt too far off, so in the end I lay down on your grave. The closest I can get without digging you up. I wish I could. Dig you up and lie down beside you. There is no other place Iīd rather be. I love you so much.
I couldnīt stop thinking about this little film I once saw. An old couple, who loved each other very much. When the man died, his wife tied a long ribbon around his wrist. It stuck out of the coffin, and she held the other end during the funeral. It stuck out from the ground, and every day she came to sit with him, talk with him, holding the ribbon to feel that he was still near. Time went by, and the ribbon became dirty and worn out of the weather and her eternal fingering. She still came out there every day, and one day, she died right there next to her husbandīs grave, holding on to the ribbon. And when she got buried, they tied the loose end around her wrist before they closed the coffin. So there is a ribbon going from one grave to another, as a symbol that these two people are still united. Even in death.
I wish I had done the same. Spend the rest of my life in this cemetary, holding the ribbon attached to his wrist. Just to have some sensation that he belongs to me, that heīs still with me. Tie the thing around my wrist, and lie down on his grave until I die of starvation. Imagine theyīd found me like that...
Mon 26/3, 10.45 a.m.
I couldnīt dig him up. After all, this could be kind of a place of pilgrimage for his parents, too. Instead I have drawn an eagle in the sand. And put the most beautiful flowers I could find next to it. One of them is a rose. A red one.
Rest in peace, lieber David. Go on gliding on the wind, like an eagle. My thoughts will be gliding there with you. My body is leaving you, but my heart will remain here with you for ever and ever. Ich liebe dich.
I couldnīt believe my eyes... I stood stockstill, staring at the man. Was this possible...?!
He probably only noticed me because I was staring at him in that dumbfounded, astonished manner. Something he did seem to remember though, for he came hesitantly in my direction.
"Arenīt... arenīt you from... from Coopers Crossing?" he stammered.
I nodded awkwardly.
A sad smile touched his face. "Yes, I remember. You were at the funeral, werenīt you?"
I nodded again. I didnīt know what to say. Neither did the man in front of me obviously. We just stood there, silently, and I suppose memories of that black day came flooding back to him as well as they did to me.
After a while he suddenly seemed to pull himself together and asked how things were back at the Crossing. I answered the usual: that it was okay.
We lapsed into silence again. Dimly I noticed people rushing by us. After all, we were standing in the hall of the international Sydney airport.
"Forgive me, what was your name again?" he suddenly asked.
"Magda," I answered automatically. "Magdalena Heller. David and I were colleagues. And friends." I hesitated before adding softly: "Very good friends."
He hesitated, too, and gave me that inquiring look I knew so well from David. "Would you mind... Can I buy you a drink or something?" he offered gallantly. "Do you have time?" He sounded almost anxious.
At first I was inclined to refuse, but then I thought about why I had left the Crossing after all. Not just because of my own memories, but also because of the lack of memory shown by the others. And here I was with a man who most probably hadnīt had his son out of his mind for one second these past weeks. Just like me. It would not be fair to turn him down, too, though I didnīt really feel like talking about David. But I suppose his father did, so I agreed and we went upstairs to the restaurant. We took coffee and went to sit at a faraway table in a quiet and lonely corner.
"Thatīs a pretty heavy bag you have," he said when he put it down by the table. (He had insisted on carrying it for me.) "Are you going on a holiday?"
I shook my head. "Iīm going home."
He nodded with understanding. "The place where you belong."
I swallowed with difficulty. Exactly the same words David had used that very first day... When I had asked him somewhat semi-rhetorical: "What is home?"
"I donīt know where I belong..." I mumbled.
"Where are you going then?" he asked with some interest.
"Back to Germany."
"To Germany?!" Then his face showed some recollection: "You are that doctor from Germany?"
"Yes, I remember David mentioning you." He sighed. "We didnīt see enough of each other. Well, thatīs what itīs like when little boys grow up, I suppose. When he was still at the uni, he used to come home for Christmas and during one or two of the midtermbreaks. But when he started to work... Oh, well, youīre a doctor yourself, so surely you know what itīs like. Busy, busy, busy... At first he worked in Broken Hill, that was not that far, but since he moved to Coopers Crossing, weīve only seen him a couple of times. Weīve been on a visit there once, he has been home once or twice in these years. But we had pretty regular contact by telephone. So thatīs how I know about you."
I nodded silently, and he eyed me quizzically. "You donīt mind my talking about David, do you?"
"No, not at all!" I said startled.
He sighed. "Itīs just... people have such a short-term memory. Back home, the people were really, honestly sorry for us. But then... life goes on, and since David had left home for over eight years ago, I think they assumed our lives just continued the same. I donīt think they understand what itīs like to have two unattainable sons..."
I looked up. "Two? You mean...?"
He laughed softly. Bitterly. "Yes, they are twins. Here." He took a picture out of his wallet and handed it to me. I gasped for breath... Two boys, about eight years old, were looking at me with a rather mischievous sparkle in their eyes. The same eyes, the same sparkle... the same boys. Double Davids...
"Which one is David?" I managed to get out.
"The one on the right," he answered with a sad smile.
He was right. It was David. And another David. But... "You said ītwo unattainable sonsī. Is the other one...?" I left the question hanging in the air, but he shook his head.
"Joss went bush a couple of years ago. We havenīt seen him since. Every once in a while we get a note from him, telling us heīs allright. But we canīt reach him; we donīt know where he is. He doesnīt even know yet about..."
"David," I completed, and he nodded.
I couldnīt take my eyes of that picture. It seemed to hypnotize me, but I was awfully aware of the fact that I had to give it back to his father. So at last I ripped my eyes off it and gave it back. He put it away slowly, and then looked at me.
"Magda... May I call you Magda?"
"Magda... you just told me you and David were colleagues. And friends. Would you... would you mind telling me about him? About what you remember about him?"
He sounded just pleadingly, but I must have reacted with fright, for he put his hand on my arm and said soothingly: "Donīt worry, you donīt have to if you donīt want to. Itīs just... I know so little about his life in the Crossing... I would love to get to know that part of his life a little better, even though it has to come from secondary sources now... But if youīd rather not..."
"No, no... it isnīt that..." I looked away from him, but I knew I couldnīt resist. I had to tell him something. If only to show him that there were still people who care about him...
I told him about my first day in the Service. Jock and Brett Weatherhead, and that terrible accident. And David supporting me, teaching me that under primitive circumstances the doctor has to make cruel, painful decisions sometimes. How his genuine friendship induced me to decide to stay, inspite of all the cruel things I might be coming across. About how he showed me the Southern Cross. Not only that first night, but several times, like that time we lay down in the grass together in the middle of nowhere, to watch the entire sky full of stars. How he became my guide to the town and the people and the work. But there I stopped abruptly. I couldnīt tell him that... It hurt, it hurt so much, I couldnīt continue, I could hardly breathe...
I looked down at my hands. They trembled. I had to do something. Take a sip of coffee perhaps.
Just when I was about to pick up my cup, still avoiding his - Davidīs - eyes, he asked gently: "And now youīre heading back to Germany?"
I was startled and almost tipped my coffee. I took a deep breath to regain my composure before answering: "Yes." Yet it came out pretty unsteady.
I suppose he noticed, for he kept quiet for quite a while. I just kept staring out of the window; I didnīt dare to look at him. But in the end I heard a deep sigh and his voice that quietly said: "Home. To the place where you belong..."
I donīt know how, but those words all of a sudden broke down my whole defence. I burst into violent tears, one hand over my mouth to prevent me from screaming, and one at my heart, where that cold hand seemed to squeeze all the blood away. I tried to stop the tears, to stop the crying, but it seemed I couldnīt control myself anymore.
I suppose he was astonished, but he got up and took me in his arms. I couldnīt stop crying when he held me tight into his chest. Oh, if only David had ever held me like that... Now it was his father comforting me... He stroked my back, my hair... was it really only his father?
I groaned. "I miss him so much that it hurts... Physically..." I got out against his chest.
He just kept caressing my back. But in the end I got a hold of myself again and let go of him. I brushed away my tears and sat down again. So did he. I donīt know if it were the tears, but it seemed he looked at me in a different way.
"I... I couldnīt stay," I stammered. "I canīt. Itīs just like you said: life goes on and hey, itīs over a month ago... It seems everyone has already forgotten, but for me... Memories come flooding back to me, wherever I go, whatever I do. I couldnīt stand their indifference anymore. I just had to go... Leave..."
I looked up, and saw he had tears in his eyes as well. Along with an expression of stunned surprise.
"You... love... my son?" he finally managed to ask, though it sounded just as much as a statement.
I could not deny that, so I confessed quietly. "Yes. I do."
We lapsed into another silence, but I felt I had to tell him the truth. "Yes. I did... I do love him. Though... I have no idea whether or not he returned the feeling. Sometimes it seemed he did, sometimes not. But I just... I just didnīt dare to risk losing his friendship by asking him about it. A friendship which was incredibly important to me in a town where I was the foreigner to practically everyone. A life saving friendship. And precious..."
He just kept looking at me. Embarrassed I lowered my glance, and to save my face I took another sip of coffee. It had grown cold. And I had betrayed my feelings...
He cleared his throat. "My dear girl... Magda," he said a bit croaky, "do you have any idea how happy your words make me? To know that someone at the Crossing loved David - my son - so much, so dearly..."
I looked up in his face. It was soft and touched. Tears blinked in his eyes.
"Thank you," I said somewhat silly.
"Thank you," he replied in earnest, "for loving my beloved son."
We lapsed into silence for a long while. Finally he asked: "When is your plane leaving?"
"Not until 10.30 p.m.," I answered.
He got up. "Well, in that case... would you like some company, or would you rather be by yourself?"
I looked at him. Thoroughly puzzled. "I donīt understand...?"
"I would like to spend some more time with you. Getting to know the woman that loves my David. But I donīt want to impose upon you, so if youīd rather be alone..."
I hesitated, but all of a sudden a question came to my mind: "Will you tell me some more about Davidīs childhood then?"
He smiled. "You bet I will. Just a minute; Iīll have to call my wife and tell her I wonīt come home till tomorrow."
"Well, the daily flight to Leeton leaves at 6 p.m. But now Iīd rather stay with you."
"Where is Leeton?"
"Just west of the Great Dividing Range. The outskirts of the Outback. That sounds awfully far off, but itīs in fact a lot closer to the urban areas than Coopers Crossing."
He went off to call his wife, and when he returned we put my carry-on luggage away in a locker and took a taxi into town. It was great; I hadnīt seen that much of Sydney before. Not with a guide who knows all the best spots. We walked by the harbour, went on a ferry, had dinner in a great restaurant... And all the time we talked. Or better: he talked, for though I have told him some more about my adventures with David, thatīs how it was most of the time. He is obviously very proud of his sons. And he loves them very very much. I couldnīt help wishing for my father to be alive again and talking in the same way about me... Who knows... had things been different, I might have been listening to my father-in-law tonight...
During the evening, he pointed out the Southern Cross to me in the nightsky. Afterwards he asked me several times if I could find it, and it seems I have finally learned: I found it every time. Or could it be that it had simply returned now?
He told me so much; I donīt even know if I can remember everything. It will have to wait and sink in, I suppose. But one last thing I want to write down here. For Iīm afraid I might forget. Though I donīt think I ever could...
It was when we were saying goodbye, just before the customs. He took a steady hold of my shoulders and looked me straight in the eye. And then he said: "Magda, just tell me one thing. Where do you belong?"
I tried to look away to hide my insecurity, but his eyes wouldnīt let me. So I said softly: "I donīt know... Sometimes I... I think I donīt belong to a place, but... to a person. To..."
I couldnīt go on, but he completed steadily: "To David."
I could only nod. What is it with this man that I have to speak the truth? That I canīt lie, not even by omission?! I just had to continue: "I honestly believe that I belong with David... A part of me has died right along with him."
He nodded. "I know the feeling. But Magda: promise me one thing, will you?"
He sounded so urgent that I could do nothing but nod.
"As long as there are people alive, no matter where they live or what they do... As long as there are people alive who love him... David wonīt be dead. Heīll keep on living in my heart, in my wifeīs, in Jossīs... And in yours, wonīt he?"
I was close to crying again, but I nodded.
He smiled cautiously. "In that case, Magda my dear... I think you somehow belong with the Ratcliffe family. Sharing this love of ours..."
I threw myself in his arms again; I just couldnīt help it. He hugged me tight. "I love you, Magda," he whispered somewhere above me. "And if you ever come out this way again, I want you to know that youīll always be welcome in our home."
I nodded, still trying to fight back my tears. But he untangled himself from me, and reminded me of the plane that would be leaving soon. The boarding had already started.
"Youīd better go now," he said. It sounded funny, like he had a lump in his throat.
I nodded again. And for the very last time he took my shoulders and said: "Dear Magda. I hope you will - one day - find all the happiness I once wished for David. I love you, my dear." He bent over to me and kissed me on the forehead. "Thank you. God bless you. And goodbye."
"Goodbye," I mumbled, and went through the customs. I turned around, and saw him looking after me. But when I turned around a second time, he was gone...
Epilogue: The Verb īTo Loveī
This is what - in accordance with the series - did happen.
But what could have happened?
What if David had just left; and not fallen off that cliff?
What if he had safely passed that gorge, with no patient there that needed his help,
and continued on his quest to explore his further potential?
If you would like to know,
and find out what Magda discovered in an alternate universe.
What could (and should) have happened instead: Magdaīs Quest
To the previous chapter: 170
To the credits: credits
Why this diary: preface
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