Starlight

We thought we were immortal. The air surrounded us, winter creeping into our arms. Our steps echoed in the low light of the stairs. Her pulse grew the closer we got. I turned once to see her eyes in a brilliant glean. The air’s ballad mixed with our steps as we stood in front of the rusted door.  Winter slept in the steel platform draining itself into the soles of our feet as our bodies converged in irregular panting. I tightened my grip. She winced, and her pulse lowered. The cracks of the doors exhaled ash and fuel. Everything came together in the sky. I remember how we first met. We were both trying to fly. We thought we were immortal.

Her dress fluttered in the wind. A thousand frills accompanied a thousand sirens as we came to the edge of the roof. It was barren save for our naive steps. Her hair fluttered with the winds that rose through the building. I wasn’t quite sure how we both failed to fly that day. But when I opened my eyes, I was greeted by a world of white and the soft pulse of her hands over mine. The beeping of that world filled my mind as I closed my eyes. In the distance, was the roaring of an airplane.

“Did you really have to wear something like that, June?” I asked as she twirled on the ledge, her foot nearly slipping. She laughed.

“You’re not complaining now are you, July?”  Her voice rasped into my ears with the gusts of the city. They merged like the lull of a crowd of wheels.

“I’m not. But it’s cold out here. I can’t help but be worried.” She smiled back as she paced on the ledge.

“I appreciate your worry. But I’m not the one who should be taking it.” She stopped in front of me, wrapping her arms around my neck. I felt her weight follow her back. We once thought of having a child name August. We were dumb back then. “This isn’t the first time we’ve done this.” Her smell was intoxicating. “But it really doesn’t change no matter how much I’m here. ” She turned her head back, peering into the streets. I shifted my feet in balance. I readied my arms. I stilled my breathing. The pulses that shot into my hands reminded me of the beating of her heart as she laid her head onto my chest. She wouldn’t let go, even after the doctors came. “This is where we belong.” She looked at me with a smile that paid the night. “Do you think they can see us?”

“Would you want them to see us?”

“I’d want them all to see us.”

“I always thought you were the embarrassed type.”  She laughed, her entire body forcing her way off the ledge. I braced harder onto the roof.

“I’d given that all away the first time we tried. Now I’m as free as a bird.”

“If only we could fly.”

“We will. We’re immortal. No matter how long it takes. We’ll fly.”

“No matter how long it takes you’ll still stay with me?” She pressed forward, lifting from the ledge into my embrace. Her warmth held me together until she pulled me towards the ledge. She came under my arm, pressing me forward towards the filled streets. The lights of the city all raced to find my mind.  In another motion she brought me back, the rush of the city all dispersed with the stars. They blinked like hospital screens.

“I’m here with you now, aren’t I?” Her breath barely reached the sky. “If we could only be stars, we’d already have everything we wanted.”

“If we were stars we wouldn’t be together like this.”

“And that’s fine too.” Beyond the stars were the moon that glittered like a watchful clock. Once filled it would espouse a new month. That’s what we did to pass the time. She would flutter my curtains when the doctors leave. Big dipper to Polaris. Polaris to Little Dipper. She would rave on about all the darkened sea. We would do so until the moon became full.

“If we were stars,” she continued, “we’d be able to die together, without fail.” Her voice lulled into my mind. Her arms brought me back to the ledge. We stood arms in tow, letting the brunt of the city remember our every crevice. “Are we the rulers of the world yet?”

“Not yet. Not even close.” I felt her pulse ring softly. My heart began to follow.

“We’re immortal and yet we can’t even rule the world. What more than to plant our mark when we can.” She laughed.

“It’ll take a little more than just that to make our marks.”

“What do you have in mind for two immortals to be remembered?” I shook my head and let the city swallow me for a moment.

“The stars?” She asked with her hand facing the building opposite.

“That’s right. We have to reach the stars. And once we land, we’ll be the rulers of the world.” She let out a breath that lingered in the air until our next words.

“How long would that take?”

“With just the two of us? It’ll take us a million years.”

“Then I’ll wait a million years for us to touch the stars.”

“You won’t get bored?” She shook her head.

“Do you think we’ll always be together like this?” She asked. Her pulse shifted. That happened once in hospital. The monitor jumped when her warmth left me.

“We’re immortal. Of course we’ll be together.” She pressed her foot forward, hanging it on the collected airs of the city.

“They all seem so small. Everything about the city doesn’t seem so scary anymore. It’s like we’ve become the stars. We can die together like this, even if that is the only time we’ll be together.”

“We’re lightless stars.”

“If we’re lightless stars, then no one will ever know we exist.” I shook my head.

“It just means that we’d have died a long time ago. Eventually, even our lights would have reached the Earth. And eventually, even our stories will be told.” Her eyes glistened in empty flashes.

“In that case, we can’t leave each other. Those hundred years will be so lonely otherwise. It’s good that we’re immortal.” Her grip tightened. Her dress fluttered with the city. I closed my eyes and let the air of the roof swirl into my mind.  We thought we were immortal.

This Is My Journal of a Time I Saved Someone From Suicide

December 23, 20–

The idea of keeping a record of my events, or, of my events soon to be, seems like a desperate attempt at trying to abide by some kind of tacit urge to find worth in a world that never asked for my worth. You see, why else would I begin to write a journal when I’ve lived for twenty so odd years on this earth? Why now, of all the twenty years? It would make sense to say that if I were to keep a complete track of all of my days starting from the day I was born that this act of keeping a journal be not one of insidious self praise. No. It would then be habit, a part of my life. But, now I am keeping a record of my events, or, of my events soon to be. You see, to preface–Actually, saying, “You” is quite odd. It is not in the fact that “You” are reading this that I am addressing some kind of “You”. In fact, I’m going to be reading this. So why am I referring to me as “You”? It just somehow comes to be like that, huh? If I were to give myself a psychoanalysis on why I decided to address this to a second person, then here’s my take on that:

            To my patient, Cadence —-, December 23, 20–

            To give a brief analysis on my patient’s psyche, it appears that she suffers from an  overtly enhanced state of worth. In other words, she believes that she truly is the center of  the world, much like those scientists of the past believed that the galaxy revolved around  Earth. Thus, she seems to interpret her life as having much more meaning and much more flagrance than it really does. She chooses not to admit to the fact that out of the seven billion people on Earth, that she to them, is merely a number in that sum. She simply cannot come to terms with the idea that everyone in the world is not following her daily exploits.

            I asked my friend Anna for advice when writing in a diary. She seemed like the type to always keep one, the type to write gossip and her crushes, and how much she hated every girl in her high school clique who isn’t working at a suicide prevention center. She liked to call it a “space.” It’s a space where I’m supposed to be able to write anything that I wanted without worry that someone will see it. I was very familiar with the term “space.” I had to use it all the time when I picked up calls. It was one of the stock advices that we gave most people.

            “Find a safe space,” we would always say. Having a safe space allowed people to think without worry. It allowed them to be the center of the world for just a few moments, and for them to recollect themselves. I’ve always told people this, but, at the same time, I haven’t always been the best at finding a safe space either. Sometimes I wanted to ask them how they did it, how they managed to find a safe space where they didn’t need to kill themselves. You see, the reason why I can’t often find a safe space, is that my safe space, isn’t safe at all. It’s strange, I know. Maybe I’ll write it down here, so that you can see what I mean.

Oh, I just laughed.

You see, it’s funny to me, that I keep writing, “You”. It’s more like “me,” because I’m the one who’s going to read it later. But, the me who’s going to read this, is going to be different than the me who wrote this. So, it might be appropriate to say, “You” after all.

I laughed again.

Just so that I know, so that I can remind myself, I am writing this at 10:34, right before I go to bed. Well, actually I started at 10:00, but I’ve been writing for a while now. I’m going to take a break, so that I can stay focused. There’s something important that I want to write down here, it’s about my day. You’ll see.

Okay, I’m back.

I guess, I’ll start from the beginning of my day. I can skip all the stuff about getting up and heading to work. I already know my routine. Well, maybe it might be important if I lose my memory. I probably won’t, but I might one day. Sometimes I really do feel like I’m losing my memory. Like a certain part of me begins leaving my body, like I’m being extracted on a surgery bed, every part of me being probed by some kind of steel blade. I feel like that sometimes, honestly. They come for me because I’m doing so well for myself. I think they’re jealous. But that’s why I always carry with me my green pills. They keep me warm. And they keep me focused. I haven’t had them in a while now. I’ve been getting better, I think. That’s what my doctor says.

“Hello?” I said as I picked up the call in the center. My work place was dead silent, as silent as the dead. We each had our own rooms, soundproof, so that we could talk in peace, just like the dead. But, we prevent deaths. That’s our jobs. They say it’s very important. But to me, it’s just a job.

“Hi,” they said. Isn’t that strange? Hello and hi both have the same meaning, but there are two words for them. They remind me of them. What I mean by “them” are the people trying to find me and take me away from my body. I don’t like using pronouns, but I really don’t have a name for them. I’ve only called them, “them” for as long as I’ve been seeing them.

Oh.

Why don’t I give “them” a name then?

Actually…

It’s really hard. Thinking of a name. I wonder if this is how parent’s feel. Name’s are a strange thing. They could mean the world, or they could be meaningless. What about my name? Cadence. I wonder what that means.

“How are you?” I asked. I heard breathing on the other side. Not hard breathing. Light breathing, like they were thinking. I always have to imagine who I’m talking to, since I won’t ever get to see them after our call. Sometimes I get repeated calls, where I talk with someone for more than once, but never in person. I imagined this person to be a girl. I think she was a girl, her “hi” was pretty feminine. I think. Let’s see, she probably has long black hair. No lipstick, a girl like her would not wear lipstick. Or maybe she would, to cover up her depression, she uses all kinds of makeup. Okay, so maybe lipstick. Judging from her voice, probably a university or college student. Let’s say she’s tall. And white.

I didn’t know I was racist.

Okay, focus. What she said… What she said… Okay, so after I asked, “How are you?”

She said, “I’m about to kill myself.” Her voice wasn’t shaking, like I thought it would. In fact, she was stern, cold, and focused. But she wasn’t done.

“What the hell do you think I am? How am I? I’m about to go drive a knife through my neck, how do you think I am!?” Then, from her cold demeanor, was a sudden rush of lava, a volcano erupted. My co-workers never told me to retell my stories like that. They said I was being insensitive. I don’t get it. I’m just saying how it is. Sometimes, they would even laugh at me, and give me the suicide prevention talk because they think I’m crazy. I hear their whispers. Only Anna isn’t out to get me. I think. Hopefully she isn’t. She’s the only one I like. Everyone else is always teasing me. I actually haven’t been to anyone else’s rooms. I wonder if they are all white and quiet like mine.

Okay, back to it, I’m sorry.

“I’m sorry. I didn’t mean it like that,” I said. She sighed before answering.

“I know. Give me some slack. I’ve been thinking about killing myself for the past twenty four hours. I’m irritable as hell right now and my friend just asked me if I was “okay.” No I’m not okay, I’m about to drive this knife through my throat.” Her voice never faltered once, an uncanny resolution.

“Why do you want to do that?” I asked. Usually, it would be for my job. This time, for some reason, I was interested. Not just for my job, but as me, Cadence. Something in me began ringing as I said this. Not the person on the other end of the phone. But in my head. It was the ringing that usually preceded the steel blades to come. I may have developed a fear of knives because of them.

“That’s a good question. And let me answer by asking you a question. Why do you live?” Somehow, I knew her voice was filled with sadness. An indescribable consternation, I imagined, flooded her.

“Why do I live?”

“Right. Why do you get up in the morning? Why do you go to work? Why do you care?” I couldn’t come up with an answer. In fact, the longer I tried to come up with an answer, the more my head began to ring until a loud banging began residing outside the door to my room. I couldn’t make it stop, and the only thing that brought me back was her voice through the phone.

“Just forget about it. I’m wasting my time. Thanks for trying though, I’m going to go ahead and slice my throat now. No hard feelings, you won’t be blamed.”

“Hold on!” My white room was quiet. Eerily quiet. I began shifting my feet under my desk, feeling the soft foam shift under my weight, and I sighed.

“I can’t give you an answer right now,” I began, “but that doesn’t mean that I don’t have one. You can’t just tell me to tell you something so–” I paused. Everything in my white room was quiet and soft. Nothing bounced. Only absorbed.

“Profound. I can’t just give you an answer like that. It’ll take me… At least a day to think about.” She laughed. She laughed into the receiver.

“It’ll take you a day to think about why you want to live, and it took me a day to think about why I want to die. Okay. Then, why don’t I give you a day? Give me an answer that won’t make me shove this knife down my throat.” She hung up. Without a second thought, she was gone. And I guess, the rest is history. That was really the only part I wanted to write down. The rest of my day, much like my job at the suicide prevention center, is just something I go through nonchalantly. And so, it all comes to tonight. Where I’m now writing this journal and recounting everything that I want to write down, everything that I wish to store within this safe space. Tonight’s a lucky night. They haven’t come for me yet.

I guess, a good name for them, would be the Blades. That’s the short form. The Steel Blades, in full. Only because every time I see them, they brandish steel blades and wish to gut me like a fish.

Anyway, I need to spend the remainder of my time in bed pondering about her question again. I had been doing that before, and that led me to start a journal entry. Here we are.

The Mirror

I stared at the mirror unable to recognize who was staring back. I tried blinking, but the image didn’t change.  I tried closing my eyes, but upon looking at the mirror again, I still could not recognize who was staring back. I thought maybe the mirror had been swapped, and that I was looking at a picture. But if that were to happen, then I would wonder who would have broken into my room late in the night to do so. And why they wouldn’t have just smothered me in my sleep instead of leaving me to this fate. I had a rule in this room. It wasn’t my rule, but the rule of the people who sent me here. I was given this room filled with ornamented glass, centuries old wine, and a coaster. The coaster was my favorite part of the room. It stood unabashedly on the finely carved wood table, and waited for me to settle a fine glass of wine onto it. I couldn’t keep track of how much I wished that I would be that coaster. Such a life would be wasted on me, but I wished for that life. I needed that life. The rule of the people who sent me here was simple. At least, that’s what they called it, simple. But nothing really ever is simple. The glass in which I drank my wine was made in a way that could never be formulaically simple. The coaster that was so delicately hand crafted could never be simple. If I ran such trivialities in my head then I would no longer find the need to bring a knife to my arm. That was what they told me. Simple.

If I broke any of the rules, then they would know. And if they knew, then I would have less of a chance of leaving this condition. Except, if I were to die in this condition, I would die alone, and I would die with no records of me ever having lived. That is what they told me. The first step out of my condition would be to look at myself in the mirror, that is what they told me. That was the rule. I had to draw a picture of myself every day in great detail as I looked in the mirror of my living room. I had the paper and pencil sprawled in front of me, and the wine glass setting on the coaster, and the whine of the refrigerator somewhere to my side. That whine kept me sane as I stared into the eyes of whoever was in the mirror. If I failed to produce a drawing, I would have broken the rule, and there were no other mirrors in this room. I considered the wine glass, but I could not see through the distortion. Rather, I preferred not to touch my wine glass. I wished for it to sit on the coaster forever. I looked back in the mirror. I didn’t know who was staring back, but I drew my picture anyway, thinking I could figure something out with what I had. My room was insulated, with nothing but those few things that I could use to keep myself alive. The white walls seemed like it wanted to swallow me, to transfuse my body into its composition such that it wouldn’t be a white wall. I understood it’s sentiment.

I drew what I saw in the mirror and then inspected every last line that I had produced. It didn’t look like anyone special. Just a man with slicked hair and a clean shaven face. His eyes were a bit too large for his face, but his mouth and nose were exactly where they should be. His shoulders were broad, and his upper body was well toned. I could not draw a lower body since the table was blocking. I didn’t recognize this man, not in the mirror, nor on the paper. It made me frustrated. I didn’t have much in the room to uphold this frustration, and if I were to break out in frustration rules would be broken. I knew of no other way to expunge the anger that welled up in me, in my inability to recognize who was in the mirror. I couldn’t call on anyone, I couldn’t tell them that the mirror I stared at was not the same mirror from yesterday, nor the week before. It frustrated me that on that particular day, of that particular week of that particular month that my mirror was different. It all seemed so haphazard, slapped onto my everyday routine just to vex me. My anger couldn’t be subsided, I knew it couldn’t. The white walls that paraded me knew it couldn’t. I would never be subsided as long as I had been given such freedoms as drawing on a table with a wine on a coaster. My arms flung unrestrained and my bare feet stamped on the white tiles below me in a fit. The wine glass fell and shattered onto the white tiles, becoming almost transparent as it did so. The coaster remained on the table unattended to.

I continued to thrash about until my feet were swollen. The pleasure ebulliently filled my body and I felt everything stop for a brief moment. My muscles all relaxed and I looked at the picture I drew. It was still unclear. I looked back in the mirror. It still wasn’t me. The whine in the refrigerator stopped, and the entire room rung white. My breathing relaxed, and I looked to the door that existed to keep me here. There was a note plastered on the bottom of its frame, stuck in with a nail. I walked over to that door and lowered myself to inspect the note. I had often been given such notes on strange occasions. Certainly such an occasion was due, but I had no way of telling. The note read simply, “You’re doing well, keep it up.” And in smaller print, “Don’t hurt yourself, alright?” I felt obliged to answer the notes, and in the morning following they would disappear. I grabbed the pencil I used to draw and scrawled my reply to them. I said, “Today I can’t see the mirror. Did you guys switch it?” I knew I wouldn’t get an answer, nor would I ever get an answer. There was nothing else left in that room for me to do, and the only connecting room was the kitchen. I walked over in hopes of finding something to ail me.

The kitchen was much smaller than the room with the mirror. It was perhaps half as large, with the same white walls. There was the refrigerator, a table in the middle for dining, and a sink. There were no cabinets, but beside the sink was a knife, a plate and a fork. I wasn’t allowed to touch anything in the kitchen unless there was an absolute emergency, or so they told me. Usually food would be prepared for me by the morning I woke up, but I figured they wouldn’t be able to tell whether I did enter the kitchen if I didn’t touch anything. This gave me a giddy sense of clandestine, like I was a patient hiding something  from his doctors in a cuckoo’s nest. I grabbed the knife in passing before I left the kitchen, unknowing if its use would help me.

I walked over to the mirror and looked again, hoping that I would not have to resolve this in the few ways that I knew. I could not recognize the man in the mirror.  My patience grew thin and my entire body shuttered as if I was glass being shattered by a hammer. I had no way of keeping the rule if I had no proper way to see my reflection. I would not be able to leave this condition. And as such, I figured that by partaking in the methods I knew  how to perform, the methods that would lead me to salvation, would not be so bad. If my breaking of a single rule would prevent me from making progress, than what difference does a few rules. I brought the knife to my arm, and let my mind drain itself from all extremities. The refrigerator started up again. I plunged the knife into my arm, and slid it up my wrist. I then brought it out and watched as the white tiles were painted red. My mind didn’t waver, and it remained clear. A surge of immeasurable pleasure ran my entire body, but it only lasted for a few seconds. I drove the knife into my arm again, and again, until my arm could not be held. My body remained in a state of bedlam, but I knew that it was just from deprivation.  I brought my arm to the mirror, and I recognized that arm. It was my arm. I was overjoyed that I fixed the problem. I pushed back the table, and then brushed my face against the mirror, watching as I smashed my head into the glass, and as the reflection became mine. I smiled as the shattered glass had depicted my image in a near perfect state. I was overtly ecstatic, unable to contain my joy. I wanted to express that to the world, my perfect image. I began drawing.