Content warning: The following contains an honest depiction of suicidal thoughts/tendencies, mental illness, recovery, depression and mentions of the institutional violence that can make these worse.
You’re used to the hallucinations, by now, so when your ex-girlfriend walks past the window with a cold realness to her that she didn’t even have when you knew her, it spooks you less than it could. It’s been three years since you swallowed a bottle of Amitriptyline, sliced yourself open and tried to give yourself to God. Angels don’t have anything to stress about.
Instead of a halo and a blessed sense of purpose, though, you got scars on your brain tissue, new medication, and a piece of paper that “strongly recommends” a caretaker. You can’t afford one, of course. If you could afford anything, you wouldn’t have tried to kill yourself in the first place.
She walks by, and the clue – the thing that lets you convince yourself it really is just another ghost – is that she’s wearing the same T-shirt that she did in eighth grade. “Hot Dog”, under a picture of a dachshund. It’s stupid, but you loved it, still love it enough to remember it. The yellow of the shirt blurs when she passes through your haze of upwards-drifting pot smoke.
And then, she turns to look at you.
It’s a beautiful night, the first time you and her talk about how much more inviting death seems. You talk around it, in pretty language and codes and implications, but it’s there, sitting in the center of you. The fear, drilled into your souls, that there is no place left for you. For her, a girl stuck in a body she didn’t want – never wanted – and for you, the lost, old soul who can’t conceptualize themselves as more than a scatter of points on a graph. You do this, you like that. Not enough data for a picture. Please try again.
It’s not an idea based in nightmares, either. It used to be, you could avoid the news. You got it from your parents. But as you and her have gotten older, you’ve started figuring out how to read it on the internet, from Boing Boing and Facebook and Medium and Gizmo and all these sites with a thousand, a million, a billion different shrieking views on the state of the world.
She moves away to Montreal, several years later, after the two of you drift apart, suddenly repulsed by the darkness you see in each other. Not darkness, exactly. But the secret – the whispers of you’ll never be happy.
It’s a wonder you haven’t hallucinated her before now. You could find scars on your brain she probably left without even knowing. She was a cruel person, never on purpose, but always in pursuit of some greater truth, some moral victory. The thing is, that was why you liked her.
It’s been three years since you tried to make yourself into a blood-stained angel, and you still hear voices from the radio urging you to finish the job. Still see the promises on the edges of knives, still imagine the way your muscles – tired, afraid – would finally relax.
But the ghost fades away, finally. You’re alone, except for the memories. And you draw a line of smoke in the air, drawing a scene unintelligible to anybody but your own damaged synapses. The life she might be leading. The dreams she might have now.
Then you draw some of yours as well. Dreams you’d forgotten about. Not goals; just flights of fancy.
Impossible, of course. But what the hell. It’s not like suicide worked out for you anyway.
It’s not the blessed sense of purpose you hoped for. It’s weary, it’s spiteful. It’s an agonized, desperate scream into the void, waiting to see if anything sticks.
But hell. You’ve made it three years. Might as well make it four.