There were words she wouldn’t say, though who would believe that, because she would say anything. But some words were forbidden. Because they were magic. And if she said them aloud, the spell would break and she’d crumble. Just disintegrate into a pile of ash that even a phoenix couldn’t reanimate.
It didn’t matter if others said them. In fact, she’d heard them muttered often. Shouted even. But the words only held sway over her psyche if she believed them. And it took a lot for her to believe. So much, in fact, that she’d become invincible to the power of the words when said by anyone except herself. Because she was sure one thing in the world – her own mind. She knew it even when she claimed not to. Especially then, as those were the times she felt the words were close.
It’s a difficult thing for most people to outrun their own thoughts. But she’d found a way. She’d sleep. Sleep and go to the dream world she’d created where lucid dreaming afforded her every ability she lacked in reality. Every answer.
Her dream self was much smarter than the waking self though, and that posed a problem.
It was easy to stay too long. To sleep too long. So she’d reluctantly stopped allowing that to happen, training her body to sleep only three or four hours at a time and waking up, so she couldn’t become too comfortable in her sleep and decide to stay.
It wasn’t an overreaction or ridiculous worry: it had happened before.
To Be Continued . . .
Thinking she’d put enough distance between them, she’d slow her pace for a minute. Almost immediately, it would wrap around her ankle and begin to pull her down as it spread, till she was nearly immobile. And completely enveloped.
The pain it brought was familiar. And comforting. Like a sad song that cut too close combined with memories so vivid they brought back the moment. The people.
And she liked it. Liked giving in to all things dark once in a while and remembering even though it hurt. Just as she liked joking about all things dark when she didn’t give in. Joking like she didn’t give in. Keeping things light, exceedingly and purposely light, was basic physics after all.
Hours would pass then, sometimes days, before she’d snap to, realizing she’d been lulled into complacency yet again. Left to feel like everything was settled and safe, instead of volatile and temporary. And she’d kick it away, pushing forward with purpose. Harder, faster. Setting a pace she knew it wouldn’t catch this time.
Because every time it did, it tugged a little stronger, pulled her a little deeper and fooled her just enough to be a little terrifying.
When you were nine I became your mother, though I never wanted to be. Your real mom, the person everyone wanted to be around because she was so funny, so giving – your real mom was so much more than that. But no one wanted to see it.
Every morning, after her coffee and usually well before we came home from school for lunch, she’d switch to grapefruit juice. She swore the grapefruit was slimming. And it was. I remember stealing a sip as she snatched it away, and as the bitterness of the juice made me gag. Or maybe it was the vodka, I’m not sure which. Either way, I’d discovered a secret that I didn’t understand, one that wouldn’t become clear until almost a year later when she took me to my first bar.
I used to dream about you dying. It wasn't something one would call a nightmare, really. It was darker. But most things are now.
The dream didn't happen with any consistency, but when it did, it would always end the same way:
I would wake up, not remembering where I was at first, the room in a haze. And almost immediately my heart would constrict and I'd jump to my feet, convinced you had died - and that I had caused it. That I'd willed it somehow.
And I would look at the machines - always the machines, as I only looked directly at you when it was absolutely necessary, because I feared doing so would weaken my resolve. They would be beeping rhythmically, slowly, keeping time with your ragged breath, while you hovered between life and death as you had so many times before.
I'd walk to the window then and watch the snow fall on The Charles. It was beautiful. You always seemed to get the rooms with the best views. And you always made a return visit during the winter - mostly during the holidays, so I was able to enjoy them.
After a while, I would return to your bedside, taking your hand in mine to whisper desperately, willing you to hear me and come back to the world. And willing you to change once you did. All the while knowing you wouldn't.
Then I would cry a little, but only a little - and less each time it happened - before the anger would take over and find release through clenched teeth, "Just do it then... Just. Die. Already."
And then I would wake up. And my heart would constrict as I leapt to my feet to look at the machines, convinced you had died - and that I had caused it. That I'd willed it somehow.
She felt the knife before she saw it. Working its way through her skin, the blade was unforgiviing. He was unforgiving.
The pain distorted whatever words she tried to scream and the pillow muffled the sound, allowing only a brief shriek to escape into the night. She craned her head away from him and gulped at the air, inhaling sharply, allowing the crisp winter cold to flash through her body like an electric shock.
Eyes wide, she fell to the floor as the blood began to cascade from her wound and crash sloppily to the ground, reminding her of the waterfall they had visited the year before. And reminding her of all the other places they had visited during their volatile three year relationship: Disneyland, the White Mountains, Vegas, and on and on and on. They had been on a lot of cheap trips. Had shared a lot of cheap thrills. Maybe that was what lead to this now? Was there nothing left to distract them from their steadily growing disgust for one another?
Though it mattered little, she had to know. “Why?” she managed in protest from where she lay slumped beside the bed. She listlessly grabbed for his leg. “Please,” she sputtered as blood sprayed out of her mouth.
He came back to her and hunched down, smiling widely. “Sweetheart, I’m gonna leave here happy, knowing I just denied you your dying wish.” And then he was gone. And a few minutes later – so was she.