After I found out you were dead, I asked if there was anyone with you, or if you’d died alone. They told me don’t be silly. She killed herself sitting in a car alone. That night I dreamed I was with you in that car, holding you, that I was what you wanted out of a lover. That I was there holding you, while you died, and you were smiling. I woke up, desperately wishing it was true.
I wonder if, after you die, you can remember things like the color of the hair you had while living. You had blonde hair, and sometimes you dyed it colors like green, red. I was always jealous of your hair. I remember when your piercings got infected, and I couldn’t stop staring at them while you talked, red and angry around your mouth. I’m sorry about that.
After you died, I crawled into myself, damp and warm and dark, and wished for everything. I wanted to cut off my hair and bind my breasts, change my name and tell you, we are the same, we fit, you can stay here. You have a place to stay. I thought of doing these things like they were spells I could cast with salt and rosemary and lavender and sage to bring you back from the dead, and I’d be waiting by your grave for you when you finally clawed your way out. None of these things would have been a lie. Maybe looking at me, someone would think I am lying, that there is no other body I would want to feel comfortable in but my own, that I don’t sometimes look in the mirror and reject what I see and long for rougher lips and a new torso cut from marble. But I have these wants contained inside of me, too, and my body would have been just as sacred to me had I been born with the right arms. The kind of arms that would have kept you here.
Is it too much to think you might’ve fallen in love with me? Maybe I am strange, an outlier, more an aching thing with limbs always reaching for love, which I find in everybody. But maybe I could have convinced you, taken you to the movies, bought you your favorite candy, held your hand and told you I thought you deserved to feel like everything you‘ve ever wanted is yours to have. We were teenagers. We could have fallen in love.
I have learned from love that it cannot make anyone stay, but it is still a dream I have in the middle of the night sometimes. I see your face everywhere. I carry the weight of your absence around with me like a stone in my pocket. In my dreams I can feel your face with my hands, I can hold it in place and tangle myself into your hair while your breathing slows. In these dreams I never try to save you. When I’m awake I think of every way I could have, but when I’m asleep and with you, I am just that. With you. I wake up with clean air, and I pinch my hands. I look at myself in the mirror and scold, “Why didn’t you save her? Why do you get to wake up with clean lungs and why did you let her die?”
Is it selfish to think of any possible bargain I could make to keep you alive? Is it selfish to want your love if it meant I could keep you? If any of it meant that everyone you left behind could keep you?
You killed yourself, and I went through my memories like a house, looking for traces of you that I could have as a token. I have your wrists, and the night we made bracelets together. There are parts of the body that mean life more than others. Breathing is a function of the lungs, and if you are breathing you are alive. A heart still beating is a body still alive. If your wrists are intact, you are alive. I get to keep your wrists, since you didn‘t want them anymore. Do you remember your wrists now that you’re dead?
I forget the color of your eyes. They were either green or they were blue, but I can’t remember. I remember the hook in the shape of your nose that made it rough instead of smooth. I remember your lips, but not your teeth. Your eyebrows were a shade darker than the hair on your head. I can only remember that you wore an orange jacket, and light blue jeans that flared, but past your ankles I cannot see your feet. Maybe the shirt I can remember you in was pink. Sometimes I think I remember all of you, but I realize I am only stitching bits and pieces together, from what I remember and what I’ve invented for you since you’ve been gone and I’ve been forgetting. I try not to construct you into another version of Frankenstein’s monster. I cannot remember you that way, of all people. You were not a monster, despite what you were told. I don’t want you in my mind that way, and so I hold on to what I have of you, and let go what’s gone.
I take the liberty of calling you my girl, sometimes, when no one is looking, if only to feel like calling you that might’ve saved your life. I cannot say that there was nothing I could have done. I cannot say I could have done something. Suicide is not like cancer. Suicide is only punctuation in the middle of an unfinished sentence. There is nothing I can really know other than you were alive once, and you are dead now.
This world feels lonely. I arch my back and feel the cracks in my spine, but I don’t understand that. I don’t understand what keeps us here. These bodies. I don’t understand how we perceive each other as these bodies first, and everything else that we are as only secondary. I don’t understand that to kill the body is to kill the rest. I do not understand how these things can be. Death as a gradual slipping away of life I can understand. But to kill it, not at all. Murder and suicide stopping laughter before the joke has finished being funny, turning a smile into something more horrific, something in pain.
I suppose I’m sorry about that, too.