ODYSSEY OF THE MIND
"You have to promise me you'll survive..."
Rose lay on a cot in third class, trying in vain to sleep. She just couldn't do that...her mind was too full. At the same time it jumped from one thing to another so rapidly. Rose could not focus in on only one thing for more than a few moments. Strangely, she also could not cry. She had even tried to make herself cry...but she didn't feel much of anything. No anger, loneliness, or sadness at all. At least not yet.
Somehow, Rose was at last able to drift away to sleep.
When she awoke, she looked about her surroundings; most people were up on deck, except for her and a few women who were sleeping. She lay there, not thinking of anything for a change. She feared if she thought about any one thing, she would have to think of everything. She instead just stared blankly ahead, not aware of the woman walking toward her cot.
"Excuse me, but I've seen you lying here all by yourself. If you don't want to talk right now, that's fine. But I thought you might like some soup to help you warm up."
Rose just shook her head. She also did not meet the woman's gaze, even as she began to speak again.
"My name is Catherine. If you need anything I'll be right nearby. Would you tell me your name? Please?"
"Rose," she muttered softly.
"Okay, Rose. I'll be close if you want to talk." Catherine started to walk away when Rose changed her mind.
"Catherine." Rose looked in her direction.
"Yes?" Catherine turned around.
"I...would you stay here...with me?" Rose suddenly decided she didn't want to be alone.
"Of course." Catherine sat on the cot next to Rose's and she sat up. Rose studied the woman's gentle appearance. Her stout figure was a bit pudgy, and her hair was a silvery-gray. Her gentle eyes were a soft brown that seemed to radiate pure compassion.
"Are you feeling all right, Rose? You look pale," Catherine observed.
"I'm just a little cold, and tired. I've got no one with me, so I just would like you to sit right here. Are you by yourself, too?"
"Yes, I am. But I was alone when I boarded the...the other ship. But you weren't, were you?"
Rose could only shake her head.
"Where are they? Did they...?"
"No, Catherine. I just can't be with them anymore. It's a long story."
"Oh, I see. Maybe later on you'll be able to talk about it. Do you have a place to stay, then?"
"No," she said softly.
"Well, why don't you come and stay with me...until you can get settled. I own a boarding house in New York. Though I haven't had any actual boarders in some time, now. I'd be happy if you'd stay with me for a while. It gets so lonely there." Catherine looked at Rose, hoping for a positive answer.
"Oh, I don't know. I'd just be in the way--"
"Nonsense, dear. I'm inviting you as my guest. Please, don't refuse."
"All right. If you insist."
At Rose's acceptance of her offer, Catherine smiled slightly. "I'll be so happy to have you. You're going to like it there, you'll see. Now, you do look very tired. Why don't you close your eyes for just a little while?"
"I think I will. But you'll stay here, won't you?"
"Of course, if that is what you want. Don't worry, I'll be right here when you open your eyes."
Now it was Rose's turn to smile. "Thank you." With that, she settled back onto her cot, closed her eyes, and was asleep in a matter of minutes. But this night was to be the first of many, many nights when Rose did not sleep peacefully.
Catherine sat next to Rose as she started to fidget in her sleep. Catherine saw that even though Rose's eyes were closed, she squinted hard and threw her head back and forth as if to dodge something. She did not want to wake her, but she was afraid not to.
"Rose...Rose, wake up. It's only a dream. Please wake up." Catherine shook Rose very gently by the shoulder, not wanting to startle her. Slowly her eyes fluttered open, and she sighed. "Are you all right now, dear?" Rose shook her head, but could say nothing at first.
Rose simply yawned and stretched out slightly. A dream, she said to herself. Only a dream. She looked around the room. Most people had come down below deck by now. It was getting cold and dark outside. Rose smiled at Catherine and closed her eyes again. As Rose drifted off to sleep, her dreams began to come back to her. She looked about her and all she saw was reminiscence of a life she hated. She a world of arrogant people...Cal, her mother...but somehow, she did not see her mother as "evil." Instead, she saw her just as unhappy as she had been, and saw her as being...frightened, now. Because she believed her only child to be dead. Everyone else faded away, and Rose was left looking only into the eyes of her mother...but she couldn't reach her, no matter how hard she tried. Rose began not only to cry, but also to scream at the same time.
"Rose...Rose!" Catherine tried to wake her up. But Rose did not hear her. Or even feel Catherine's hand shaking her shoulder. She just stared at her mother, as she too, began to fade away. Rose sobbed and reached out to where her mother had stood.
It was at this point that Rose's screams turned into words...or rather, just one word. She just kept repeating it over and over, still not seeing or feeling Catherine beside her at all. All Catherine could do by this time was sit there, listening and watching.
"Mama...mama..." It was what Rose had called her mother when she was smaller. When Rose became of a social age, Ruth demanded she stop using it. But now more than anything in the world, she wanted her mother. But...she couldn't go back to that. She couldn't.
Rose cried harder, realizing that no matter how much she wanted to run to her mother right now, she couldn't. Like Jack said, it would kill her inside.
Finally, Rose emerged from the strange state she was in, seeming to see Catherine for the first time. She wanted to say something, assure her she was all right now...but she was so tired. She simply fell into Catherine's arms, holding on to her as tightly as she could, hoping she would have some words of comfort. To act like a...a mother.
"Shh, it's all right, Rose. It was only a dream. You're all right." Catherine soothed Rose as much as her capability let her, but she could still see that Rose above all wanted her mother. But something in her eyes just held a forbidden truth. Something that even Rose herself did not want to believe--she couldn't have her mother.
As Rose finally fell asleep a while later, tears were still trickling down her face. Catherine vowed to do everything she could for Rose...but she seemed to know nothing would be enough. Nothing except bringing Rose and her mother together again. Someday. Catherine sighed and lay down on the empty cot next to Rose. She watched her as she slept, making sure that she would be all right. She felt that she should stay awake tonight...just to make sure.
When it at last came time to disembark from the ship, Rose felt a terrible weight resting on her heart. Partly because it was already dark outside, and raining. But there was more. Though she knew there was no point, Rose found herself scanning the crowd of people, hoping to see her one last time...
As the rain poured, Rose knew there was no hope. She only wished that she had said something more...nice, when she had left her mother. But at the time, she was angry. Rose hoped her mother realized that.
Rose whispered very softly in hopes that even Catherine wouldn't hear. "I'm sorry, Mama, I hope you can forgive me. I...I love you." Barely holding back her tears, now, Rose disappeared with Catherine into the mob of people gathered on the dock.
Much to Rose's protest, all her mind would feel as she arrived at Catherine's home was guilt. She felt guilty that she left her mother, guilty that she had left Jack, and guilty that she was going to stay here with this woman. She was being so kind to her. But why?
After another moment, Rose found the courage to speak up. "Catherine...I don't mean to sound ungrateful, but why have you been so kind as to let me stay here? You don't even know me, not really."
"I just met you, yes. But I do feel like I know you. That probably doesn't make much sense to you. All I know is, I couldn't leave you alone. Especially not now."
"It makes more sense to me than you know. I'm thankful you are taking me in, but I've left my mother all alone. I don't know what she will do, there in that big house, with only the servants to talk to..." All of a sudden, Rose burst into tears. Immediately Catherine hugged her tightly.
"I know you miss her, dear. You've called for her in your sleep already. Just try to calm down, now. We can talk about your mother tomorrow. We can get better acquainted then, too. For now, we both need rest. You can sleep in your own room, or I can bring the cot I have into my room. Which would you like?"
"I...I'd rather stay with you, please," Rose pleaded politely.
"Of course. Come." Taking Rose's hand, Catherine led her upstairs quickly. Rose sat on Catherine's bed silently as she prepared the cot, bringing a warm blanket and two pillows. As soon as it was ready, Rose said thank you, and almost before she could even say good night, she was asleep.
Catherine studied Rose's facial expressions for a moment. There seemed to be a look of confusion on the young woman's face. She did not look quite angry or sad, and by no means did she look happy. Just...confused. Before Catherine could think anything more, Rose began to fidget in her sleep.
"Jack, where are you?" Rose's voice was just a whisper at first, but it rose in pitch as her dream continued. "Jack..."
Catherine was totally confused. Who was this person Rose was calling for? Rose called out a while longer, then started to weep, and finally woke up.
Rose looked up at Catherine and realized what she had been doing. Catherine stared at her, but something in Rose's eyes warned Catherine away from questions. Rose just closed her eyes slowly and turned on her other side, pulling the covers tightly around her frail body.
Rose barely slept at all that night. At last, around dawn, she allowed Catherine to embrace her, to at least give some comfort. She still would not explain anything, and Catherine thought it best not to pry.
"Dear," she began gently. "I think it would be best if you just stayed in bed today. You look awfully weak. Would you like that, would it help, do you think?"
"Perhaps," Rose answered reluctantly. "I think that's really all I need. Rest."
"Yes," Catherine agreed. "Would you like me to set you up in a spare bedroom? I'm sure it would be much more comfortable than that dreadful old cot you slept on last evening..."
"I think maybe, yes. It's worth a try. I am sorry, I must have kept you up all night."
"Oh, please, don't apologize. Let me just show you your room. It's right across the hall, so if you ever need anything at night all you have to do is call my name." Rose just smiled and followed Catherine's lead.
Rose smiled slightly as Catherine opened the door to the small bedroom. A small bed lay on the opposite wall of the room, a wide window at the head. The dark blue drapes were worn, but they served their purpose. On a small end table next to the bed, a small, ornate lamp was placed, seeming oddly out of place in such a simple room. An elongated dresser was placed against the right wall, the simple knobs a tarnished brass.
Catherine walked over to the lamp and tugged on the lamp chain, illuminating the room with an orange glow. She searched through one of the drawers of the dresser, trying to find the nightgown she knew was there. When she had at last pulled it out, Rose looked confused.
"I don't mean to be nosy," Rose interjected, "but where did you get that?" It was obviously something made for a younger woman, and a relatively smaller size than Catherine appeared to be.
"It was my daughter's, this was her room." Catherine looked terribly sad for a moment, but Rose could see the effort she took pushing away her sad thoughts to smile instead. "Now, I'll leave you alone a few minutes to get settled. Just let me know when you're finished, and I'll come back." Catherine closed the door behind her as she left.
As Rose changed, she wondered briefly about where Catherine's daughter was. But she knew from Catherine's expression a moment before that she could not ask.
Now ready for bed, Rose called for Catherine to join her again...she found she didn't like being alone. Could she even stay in this room, by herself?
Rose slipped under the covers uncomfortably at first, then becoming accustomed to the feel. "I...could you...sit with me, for a while, I mean?" Rose asked awkwardly.
"Of course, dear." Catherine pulled up a chair from the corner of the room and set it down next to Rose's bedside.
It took Rose awhile to fall asleep, but when she did, it was very deep. It was not peaceful, but Rose had no realization she had been dreaming until she woke up screaming at the top of her lungs.
Catherine rushed to her side and wrapped her hands around Rose's perspiring body. She took in shaky breaths and shook with chills that she could feel in the very core of her bones. All she could do was weep.
"Just try to calm down, Rose. It's all right. Nothing will happen to you here, I promise."
Rose knew Catherine meant well, but she couldn't really understand...but Rose did not feel ready to explain. She just cried herself out, resting her head on Catherine's shoulder, then drifted back to sleep.
This pattern of fitful sleep continued all throughout the day, and well into the evening. Catherine became worried. She did not know what to do. She could not even define what exactly it was that was troubling Rose so. They had all gone through a dreadful experience. But something told Catherine that there was more to Rose's experience than just that.
At last, by nine o'clock that second evening, Catherine had to ask Rose for at least a partial explanation for her torment. Otherwise things would not get any better and Catherine would be of no help at all. Rose hesitated a long moment before answering her question.
Rose stared at Catherine intently as she spoke softly. "I-I lost...someone." That was all that Rose said. She held no emotion and her tears would not fall.
It was all that Catherine needed to know. "Yes, I see," Catherine whispered. "Well, you can just stay here until you are feeling better, dear. For as long as it takes. Don't worry about that. I hate to leave you feeling like this, but it is late, and I need to get a few hours sleep. If you do need me, though, just call. All right?"
Rose nodded her head and turned over onto her side. She stared at the wall as if in a trance. She pulled the covers up to her chin and sunk into her pillows. She was numb. She didn't want to live in reality any longer. It was too cruel to her.
Later that evening, Catherine was awakened not by Rose's calling out, but by silence. It was TOO quiet.
Immediately, Catherine went to Rose's room, and gasped at what she saw. She could not tell if Rose was awake or asleep. Her eyes were open, but she was not blinking, and she just stared blankly ahead. Catherine decided to try rousing her. But how?
Catherine, thinking that perhaps Rose was just physically ill, put the back of her hand to Rose's forehead. Rose still stared blankly ahead. She felt no warmer than usual so now Catherine was bewildered. She softly began to speak to Rose, hoping that Rose would recognize her voice.
"Rose, can you hear me? I know you've been through a lot and you are very upset, but your being like this is starting to frighten me, dear. Please talk to me."
Rose continued to stare, but somehow Catherine sensed that Rose was hearing her, and decided to just keep talking. She would talk for as long as it took to get a real reaction. Any reaction at all.
Rose heard Catherine's voice as if through a fog. She could not even tell that it was Catherine's voice. All she heard were soft murmurs. She felt at peace this way. She could be whoever she wanted to be, with anyone she wanted to be with.
"Rose, I know you can hear me," Catherine called. "Rose, please come back to me." This time Rose could at least recognize the voice. It was a woman...she knew the woman. Rose at last heard what Catherine was saying but did not know how to call back to her.
Rose quickly discarded the idea of using her voice. She hadn't the strength for that. Instead, she forced herself to turn her gaze in Catherine's direction, and stared directly into her eyes.
"Thank goodness!" Catherine whispered. "Please say something. Are you going to be all right?"
Rose's lips cornered up slightly, not revealing a smile, but just enough to let Catherine know that she was responding. Before Catherine could get another word in, Rose shut her eyes and fell asleep. It was the beginning of a long journey ahead.