“Stay the night.” I whispered into her ear, almost begging as if my life depended on her stay.
“Much I’m afraid, the night has come to an end earlier for us than for everybody else.” she replied with a delicate smile. Her white teeth looking like pearls in the darkness.
She then proceeded to put on her long black coat, preparing to leave. I grabbed her arm in a quick, desperate move.
“What if I were to tell you I’m afraid of the dark? Would you then stay?”
“I would say, then, that the best way of beating any sort of fear is to confront it” she looked at me with a gaze that felt almost maternal “And moreover, to confront it alone.”
I sighed, heartbreaking in the process.
“Will I ever see you again?”
She left out a little, cheeky laugh.
“You ask too many questions.”
“And you answer none,” I said, looking at the floor and dragging myself to go and sit at the messy bed behind us. “Please, just tell me. Will we ever?”
Her brow changed, from her usual happy and cheerful attitude to one of genuine concern. She then walked towards me and sat on the bed, next to me.
“Most men,” she said, measuring her words carefully “with some luck, never see me again. In fact, if I were to guess, most, if not all would count themselves happy if they’d never met me, to begin with.”
She caressed my knee, comforting me as if I were a child.
“But you haven’t haunted most men as me…”
“I haven’t haunted you.”
“That’s hard to believe, given the evidence.” I said, looking at the ceiling to try and hold the tears that statement had brought on to my eyes, and to avoid the look I knew it would produce in her as a response.
“But I haven’t.” she said in a tone that sounded not birth of anger, but of sadness. “I don’t haunt people. Everybody seems to think the same, but I don’t. I mean… What would I gain from that?”
“Well… your job.”
“My job!” she replied in the midst of a sob and an angry cry “My job, my job, my job. It all always comes down to that, doesn’t it? My job!” she screamed, hid her face in her hands and began to cry. “As if it were to give me any pleasure as if I did it with glee.”
I said nothing, my tongue tied by my stupidity and my fear of saying something even worse.
“If you people only knew” she continued while trying to compose herself, whipping tears and smearing her mascara. “If you people only had the slightest idea. I’ve heard your cries, your prayers, I’ve received your hate, your curses, and all because of my job. And all the while you think of me as a sort of un-feeling monster who’s impervious to your grief.”
She stood up from the bed, at first running for the door, then violently turning around to face me.
“I’ve had seen men come to tears, overcome by pain, I’ve seen women lose their voices over cries for lovers to come back. How dare you, or anyone else, link me to these things and still believe my job is one that I enjoy?”
“We just…” I said, finally, after mustering up all the courage in me. “You, take from us and… We just.”
“You just need someone to blame…” she finished, filled with both contempt and sadness. “That’s all you do, you need someone to blame, for everything. You are so, unable to come to grips with even your own nature. The mistakes you commit, the things you never do or say. And label a consequence the cause of something.”
“I…” I began before falling into a waterfall of tears “I’m sorry…”
She stopped, even slightly gasped, at me breaking down.
“Don’t…” she said as she approached me, kneeling to see me, face to face. “Don’t do that…”
“But you’re right… All of this… It is all my fault… I’ve dumped everything away.”
“Hey” she held my face on her soft, warm, hands. “You haven’t dumped anything away.”
“Of course I did… that’s why I see you here now. Isn’t it?” I moved away from her grasp. “I wasn’t strong enough to bear my load and now look at this; the darkness, my sorrow, you leaving. I know where this all leads to. I’m sorry, I genuinely am. I just couldn’t… couldn’t take it all… Ever since…”
“Ever since her death” she said, softly. “Right?”
“Yes…” I admitted. “Since then.
I just, I felt so… broken, so alone, so lost. I wanted it to end. I was weak.”
She came up to me and embraced me tightly. Like if she wanted to touch my heart with hers.
“You were not weak… There’s nothing weak in feeling the way you did.”
Our eyes locked together.
“Then what was it?” I asked, not really looking for an answer.
“Feeling. Just feeling.” she replied.
“Wish I never felt.”
She reached to me and planted a tender kiss on my lips. It was warm and sweet, yet filled with melancholy, like the part of a sad song that closes a relationship.
“Then you would have never felt my kiss, nor any kiss you ever received, not even hers.”
“Perhaps, that’d had been for the best. Where there’s no joy, there’s no pain.”
“But there’d still be no joy.” She whispered.
She kissed again, then let me go and walked to the door. She turned the knob but stopped for a brief moment.
“Trust me.” she turned and looked at me “If there’s a thing I’ve learned after so much time, is that the sweet, even if brief, is always worth the bitter.”
She opened the door, and for the first time, I saw the void on the other side.
“What should I do now?” I asked.
“And If I can’t find a reason to do so.”
“Then, make your reason to find a one and help others do the same.”
Finally, she walked out and closed the door behind her. I crawled on to the bed and fell asleep shortly after.
Exactly at what time I woke up, I’m not sure, but the sun was brighter than I’d ever seen it. The empty bottle of pills was still in my hand. I put it away and stood up to look at myself in the mirror. I was a mess of swollen eyes and matted hair. There was very little I remembered about last night besides the bottle of pills; just this very odd feeling of heartache mixed with love. Moreover, I was still there… still alive.
I sat at the edge of the bed with my hands on my face, not knowing what to think about my situation. What should I do now? What could I do now? I looked around the room in my quest for meaning and came across a familiar sight. It was a picture of my girlfriend, Katie, and me at some barbecue some two or three years ago. Even when the doctors told her about the cancer she still smiled the same, like if the sun was inside of her. I remembered what she used to say when people asked her how did she deal with it, how did she found the strength to move on:
“I think” she’d say “That it is because I have a reason for it. I can go on because I want to live, and who knows, maybe when someone sees me living, they’d want to live too.”
“’Make your reason to find a one and help others do the same.’” I whispered, in a bit of a shock, with a tear in my eye. “I’ll try.”
Fotografía: Stefano Majno