“Better to be slapped with the truth than kissed with a lie.”
~ Russian Proverb
I hate the sight of blood. It makes me nauseous, so nauseous I get instant sweats and my knees buckle. But that’s other people’s blood, of course. For some reason, staring at my own was simply fascinating. I suppose that’s a good thing. There was so much of it, it was surreal, as if I was staring at a work of abstract art some fabulous artist had created in my bathroom. Had all that blood belonged to someone besides me, I would likely have been too busy embracing the adjacent porcelain salvation to have ever appreciated its beauty. And it was beautiful; deeply and profoundly beautiful.
The real beauty in that moment wasn’t my blood, still fresh and bright red. It could have been. There was so much in the tub, I can’t imagine how I managed the strength to pull myself out of it. Hand prints smeared on the slick, white enamel proved it had been a struggle. Next to them, the razor still sat, an innocent witness to events it had never intended. A feather of red had sprinkled onto the bathroom wall when my hand shot out to catch me as I fell. Crimson stripes marred the floor where my feet painted a picture of my last futile attempt to crawl to my phone. The puddle spread around my body was oddly shaped, diluted in part by vodka and shards of broken glass, and begging me to interpret it, like a cloud above a warm, summer lawn.
It was a fascinating scene, all the sanguine details of which would have delighted me had I found them in a painting, but it was the centerpiece of this artwork that captured me.
A young girl’s face, tormented by grief, and her agonized sobs as she clutched my naked body against her chest, were perhaps the most beautiful things I’d ever witnessed in my life… except there was that unfortunate circumstance that I was no longer actually alive. I’m not cruel. There is no part of me that ever wanted to see her suffer that way – in any way. But she loved me more than anyone on this planet, and never had it shown any more plainly than it did in her sorrow. Her hand smeared my cheek with my blood as she caressed my hair away. She adorned my forehead with kisses. Rocking me back and forth, trying to force animation into my pallid, bloodless flesh, she begged me over and over not to go where I had already gone.
At first, I didn’t recognize the girl who held me, or my own fatal role in the scene as I struggled to hold it all in focus. The bathroom didn’t look like mine. It was supposed to be an ugly, yellow-and-brown, 1970s deco nightmare I had worked hard to decorate to tolerability. I stood for the longest time blinking at the bright light reflecting from white walls and wondering what had become of my scented candles and why I couldn’t smell the Evening Musk before my gaze finally settled on the two girls in the middle of the floor – in the middle of all that blood, my blood. I didn’t recognize the girl who held me, but I knew her.
“Flower,” she kept crying, and then occasionally, “no,” or “don’t go,” would accompany it.
It was more than a little bit confusing. That’s not my name, but it was as familiar to me as if I’d worn it for eternity, and it was quite clear that it was my body she crooned it to between her sobs. I’d had many long conversations with that face in my mirror – my mirror that was no longer on the wall where the giant, red feather of blood was now splashed.
Confusion swooned me. I was sure I should know her name, a name that danced away from my tongue in a dream, coaxing me to follow it. But as I stared at her, that’s when it all became peacefully beautiful.
She was beautiful. No, no one is beautiful when they cry. I know that. But I couldn’t really see her face that way. Not the way it should have appeared. Instead, I saw it in all the ways I had ever seen it at once. It was as if her image transcended time, and every laugh, every little mischievous wink, every glint of her hidden admiration for me shimmered there simultaneously. She was radiantly beautiful, easily the most beautiful girl I had ever seen, and the truth was overwhelming and undeniable.
There is no such thing as pain when you’re dead. What there is in its place is inexplicable. You can only scream out wishing it was pain, begging for pain to replace it – scream out into a void where no one hears, not even you. If only just one more time I could have heard, “What’s the matter, Honey? You were talking in your sleep again.” But I could not.
Events came rushing back to me, many and varied, each as abstract as the alien scene before my eyes. There was the tennis court incident, and my argument with my boyfriend, and then that awful letter when I got home, and finally, the phone call I knew was my ticket to death before I even touched the numbers. My mind blocks out the truth. It had blocked out the two most important truths of my whole life.
Her hair was the most beautiful, golden, natural blonde you ever saw. She had a crooked face, just slightly, so that one of her eyes always seemed like those mischievous winks could have been accidental. When she smiled, her cheeks pulled her eyes up into a slanted pixie grin that made me want – no, crave – to get into whatever trouble she was up to. She’d been my best friend for as long as I could remember, and the most beautiful thing of all, in the middle of all that blood, was the undeniable truth.
She really was in love with me. I wanted that love. I was in love with her too, and I wanted her to help me raise my baby as she’d promised. There was nothing for me to do but watch and admire the beauty, the beauty of her love, of her devotion, of her personality, of her shimmering multidimensional memory. So I gave her a name, as beautiful to me as the love I left behind, and as beautiful as the pain I’ll wish forever I could feel in her place.
I’m so sorry, Jessi. The one thing I can’t do is live with my mistake. I know it’s no consolation for what I put you through, but I didn’t mean to. I didn’t know what I was doing. I miss you.
© 2013 Anne Schilde