Thinking she’d put enough distance between them, she’d slow her pace for a minute. Almost immediately, it would work its way around her ankle and slowly pull her down as it spread. And unless she immediately took action, it would continue to grow till she was completely enveloped. Nearly immobile.
The immediate response required to stop it was not always possible. Not always what she wanted. 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 into 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. And it took constant vigilance to keep that light on - and all things dark at bay.
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 furious pace and burning with a brightness she knew it wouldn’t catch this time. A flame it couldn't extinguish.
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.
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.
Trouble is, I haven't been able to deal with your death because you gave me too much time to prepare for it.
Trouble is, it felt like you died so many times I'd begun to think you never would. And I called your number a few times after you died, holding my breath.
Trouble is, I miss you so much, some ways even more than I miss Dad, and I know this would surprise you because it also surprises me - and it's one of my biggest regrets.
Trouble is, even though you broke my heart endless times and the thought of spending one more night at your bedside probably would've made me insane, I still would have been there.
And the real trouble is, the one time I tried to think of myself first and didn't rush over to get you to the hospital when I heard it in your voice, you died. The one time.