My most vivid memory is of sunlight through salt-stained windows. It poured peacefulness into the barren room, speckled with bitty black shadows where the slush of melting snow had been kicked up from the fire escape.
Too much independence was given to a child so small. Even then, I knew normalcy was far from the life I was living.
My days would begin and end with stolen bits of paper hidden neatly around every crevasse of my tiny bedroom. From the time I was able to process my own thoughts, I ached to put them on paper. I would spend hours twisting each event and emotion into delicate words that made my stomach turn or my heart ache. I wrote mostly for myself. Each day, I would turn the bad into something beautiful. A snow day that kept me home from school was always heartbreaking and panic-inducing, but it was never as bad when I could crawl out my window and watch snowflakes dance through the air and race to blanket the ground. Each of my bruises hurt so much less when I wrote about the way the frost reached up and around the iron ladder of the fire escape. Summertime wasn’t as terrible when I could tell myself a story about the dry air ripping dry cracks along skin and dirt and concrete, about the moisture zipping out of every surface the sun could touch.
As I got older, the magic of reading and writing turned into a quick outlet and an easy escape. It was more habit than enjoyment, but still got the job done. It kept me occupied and as content as my situation could allow.
Soon enough, it became all-too-familiar, and I ran out of things to write about. I couldn’t come up with any more euphemisms or metaphors or beautiful descriptions. Hundreds of pages slowly blurred into the same thing. Before I knew it, my writing was boring, so it was replaced by drugs. I was addicted to anything I could find. The fire escape that cradled me through my childhood was now the only witness to each needle that I embedded into my skin. It was the only thing that saw all the poison I forced into my bloodstream.
As fourteen turned into fifteen turned into nineteen, my body turned into a shell that even I wasn’t able to recognize. My eyes were sunken so far into my skull that if I looked into a mirror, I would have nightmares for days. So I threw them all away.
My skin became so pale and fragile it reminded me of paper, and that is when I had the urge to write again. I wrote about the monster that was myself, with holes for eyes and ugly scars and jagged bones that tore through its own skin, and then I would walk to the library and upload each chapter of my life into a story. In each chapter, I would twist myself even further beyond recognition, and I would toss it out there for everyone to read.
Sometimes, weeks would go by in which I didn’t have the strength to pull myself up and off of the floor. I would lie down for days while I was ravaged by darkness. I would drown in a black sea and wake up completely numb; then when I was sober, I would write. I would write about the sea and the monsters and the magic of my serum. I had found a pattern and was actively escaping reality; I was comfortable.
As I faded into something that was straying further and further from “human”, I watched my numbers grow. I watched as thousands of people fell in love with my stories, and I let those people be the ones to hold me. I spent more of my life curled up in the library than I did on my bedroom floor. I still wasn’t clean, but I was sober more often than not, and that was finally good enough for me. I was gaining traction and loving every minute of it.
A short year later, my mother disappeared. I couldn’t be bothered to find out who she was with or where she had gone. All I knew was how alone I was, and the comfort that came with that.
Soon, I was sober enough to buy a mirror. I was able to look into eyes that weren’t so deep, and my bones weren’t so sharp, and my skin wasn’t so frail. I was finally beginning to acknowledge bits of reality.
What they don’t tell you about acknowledging reality, however, is that when you no longer live inside your mind, you can fall in love.
And I fell hard.
I fell so hard that I stopped writing. Every day was spent pushing myself to be a better person and to become more whole. Every day was spent learning how to cook and clean and how to hold a hand. I had no time to write about demons or monsters when all I could focus on was one voice and one heartbeat and one pair of hands.
It was only when Love handed me a small black book with my name stitched into the leather that I began to ache again. I began to write desperate pages full of Love. I began to fill each page with the sounds of Love’s laugh and the way Love held my hand. For the first time in my life, I didn’t need to twist reality in order to create something beautiful; I could just speak reality onto paper.
As my life changed rapidly around me, I was faced with challenges I never knew could exist. As I worked to become better and stay sober, I was also learning how to balance a checkbook and budget for groceries. I was learning how to “effectively communicate”, and how to patch the holes in the drywall near the fire escape.
Soon, that same fire escape that cradled me through my childhood and held me through my addiction was blooming with Love. Love and I would sit on the fire escape with coffee instead of needles. We would watch the snow fall, or the sun rise, or the stars shine. That spring, when all the frost melted from the iron bars, Love went out and made a flower bed on the fire escape.
Love made everything easier and better. It was never Love’s responsibility to keep me sober or to hold me through the hard days, but Love did it anyways. I could be honest for the first time in my life, and it felt so good to be a part of a world that was mostly made of happiness.
Some days, when I look back at my life three or four years ago, the memory of pain is so distant that I can hardly feel it. The fog is so heavy that I can only see the brightest parts of my darkest days.
Love and I would dance in the kitchen, twirling and twisting, reduced to nothing but shadows on the walls. The candlelight and record player made it feel like we had stepped onto a different planet. With each step, we transformed into lighter beings, meshed so tightly together that we slowly became one.
Before I knew it, Love and I were brought to an altar. While we stood before the few people who made a difference in our lives, I swore to cherish and hold and respect my Love. I swore to protect and cherish, and to live fully and take every step with intention.
My life with Love was perfect. It was happy and content and nearly every day was filled with beauty. Of course, nothing is ever perfect, but it always felt right.
Not all of the days were beautiful. There were days where our emotions were too hot to be touched, and days where our voices cut through painful silence just to dig a deeper hole. There were days where our voices were never used, and days where they fell on deaf ears. Some days, Love’s touch was cold, and my hand was withdrawn. There were days where we both watched the beauty fall to the ground, shatter into a million pieces, and disappear as they fell through the cracks in the floorboards. There were days that all we did was cry, and days where neither of us could be bothered to shed a tear.
But still, this was Love, and that made each moment after heartbreak so tender and indescribably warm.
I must have gotten too comfortable in this because I was blind to Love’s pain. I was selfish and too wrapped up in the thought that this life was perfect.
Reality twists around like that sometimes. One moment, you are contemplating the beauty of the world, and the next moment you are rushing into the bathtub and holding the cold, lifeless body of the person you love the deepest. In that moment, you will let out the bloodiest screams. You will be too shocked to be scared. The cold, dark water will soak your brand-new jeans. In that moment, everything you thought you knew will shatter in your hands, and you will watch each piece of you get sucked down the drain with the bloody water.
Days later, you will hurt so deeply. You will question every single action leading up to that day. You will blame yourself for not seeing any signs.
A few weeks after Love’s suicide, you will gather the strength to read the note they left. Dry-heaving and sobbing on the fire escape as the wind grows colder, I am faced with the dying flowers and gray sky. I am faced with too-familiar handwriting and the promise that I had done nothing wrong.
I am faced with a cold reality in which my honest Love was nothing but a very skilled liar.
I am also faced with a series of numbers and a bank address.
“This is a safe deposit box,” Love wrote, “And I hope with my whole being that you use this to make your dreams come true. Write what you know and trust that I will be here to push you in the right direction.”
I won’t begin to describe how empty my footsteps felt as I walked through the bank, but I can tell you how much my hands shook as I opened the box. I stared down at ten neat bundles of twenty-dollar-bills, and how I was filled with rage. As if $20,000 was enough to make up for the pain I felt.
I didn’t touch the money that day. I swore I never would, but I quickly spiraled into something less-than-human, and nowhere close to functional.
It’s been a few months since Love died. I don’t know why none of this feels real anymore.
Maybe it’s the drugs again, but it feels so different this time around.
I don’t know who will find me, here, but I want you to know how content I finally am.
I am comfortable bringing this back to where it began, with cold iron cradling my body as I drift away into a dream world. This fire escape that cradled me through my childhood, twice through my addiction, through my recovery, and into happiness will now carry me to Love.
Please read through this little black notebook. Read all about our love. Know that love exists, and know that this is the end of my story.
I tried to stick around, but I have known since the beginning that there is no life without Love.