Your laughter soars loudly to me from across the hallway. I can see you grinning brightly, flitting here and there amongst the scattered group of people in that social butterfly way of yours, never truly landing. And I think about how tiring that must be for you, never finding rest or respite. Because I know the truth apart from the apparant freeness that you so desperately struggle to keep hidden beneath your face, your skin. I know the person behind your surface, can see through her now that the orange doesn't blind me anymore. I know that your smile disguises a million unshed tears and a billion more red ones cast in the lonely dark of night or the bleak hopelessness of day. I see the dark-rimmed eyes that lay sunken into your skull where everyone else sees just a perky glow. I know that you do not sleep at night anymore, that you haven't slept well for years.
You have barely hinted at the nightmares of the past, but I can see the haunted shell of the future. The thing about having something hidden in your past is that you spend every minute of the future building a wall that makes the monster harder to see. You convince yourself that the wall is sturdy and thick, and one day, when you wake up and the horrible thing does not immediately jump into your mind, you give yourself the freedom to pretend that it is well and truly gone. Which only makes it that much more painful when something happens, and you learn that the concrete wall is really as transparent as glass, and twice as fragile. I am scared you will shatter where I cannot catch your fall.
I want to hug you, to let you know that I am still here. But you shy away from me, (even though no one else can tell the difference), as if my touch could transfer something that would without warning cause you suffering – when all I want is for you to be healed. Afraid of pushing you, I play like a passive, waiting and letting you make all the moves. But you refuse to make any, can't even talk to me like we used to, as if you purely cannot even bear the weight of my knowledge of your silent pain.
That's the thing though, because before I had just suspected, but you seemed so level-headed I just didn't figure, didn't ask… and I am so sorry for that but now that I know, your trial is not nearly so quiet. In fact, it screams to me from all angles. Things constantly remind me of you now, and I pray for you all the time. I wonder how you are fairing, how stressful your day has gotten on top of an already stress-filled life. I wonder how you manage. And then I remember that you don't, not really. Because I know your tactics: distracting with a joke, overwhelming with a flavorful personality, chattering in a breathless stream so fast no one realizes you're not saying anything truly personal at all, hiding behind humility to swathe your embarrassment and low self-esteem, your ready-made excuses – should anyone bother enough to ask - and beautiful clothes to cover your scars.
I know the way you exist by compartmentalizing, and how, like the survivor of an accident –which in some ways you are – everything hits at once, forcing their way back into your life abruptly, not caring about the damage they inflict as you in turn and yet simultaneously experience shock, anger, fear and so many other nameless emotions that clutch at your soul to make you feel so black and worthless. Wondering how often this happens to you (and not willing to admit to myself the evidence of the sheer number of times), I know that if you could only take some time to prepare and go through them all one by one, processing and filing each away, then you would truly be able to go on. But I also know that you can't do it alone, and that is where I want to come in, the place I want to fill. I want to hold you when you cry, pick up the pieces of your beautiful yet broken life so you won't lose any and keep them safe for you until you have the strength to mold them back together.
You see yourself as weak, a failure. But I know that is not true. I see your power. In fact, in many areas you are too strong. You would not have gotten where you are today without it. And please don't take that the wrong way. Yes, you are hurting, yes, you are not perfect and yes, you have problems, but without that inner strength there is no doubt in my mind that you would not even be alive today, much less able to spread the kind of joy that you do and fulfill all the accomplishments that you have or affect so many people in a positive way. If only you could see those things about yourself. That is one of the areas where you are too strong, in your hate for yourself, and also in your stubbornness in having to protect everyone around you, in not rocking the boat, so that even as you're drowning off the side, you still tell everyone else to keep on paddling to shore.
You put so much energy into hiding your fears and supposed "failures", being what you think other people want you to be, that you don't even know who you are and you spend all of your time running around so fast just trying to compensate for what it is you think you lack that you cannot see the tiny parts of you that are wasting away. You pride yourself on your ability to withstand intense pressure and pain, when in reality you just know how to use it because it hurts you so much more than you would ever dare to hint at. You think you are unworthy of comfort, love and protection. You don't even allow yourself to cry, yet you make your skin bleed for you. It breaks my heart. I just want to kiss your wounds and make everything better like a mother does for her child, but I can't.
I know that is why you allowed me to find out, because you want help, because you are smart enough to know when you are in over your head and unable to handle things anymore, but I don't know what to do for you. It has taken all my energy and willpower not to go over your head and tell your parents; purely because I promised you that I wouldn't and because I do not want to see your heart ache any more than it already does. But please, at least talk to me; let me into your world so that I know you are not alone, so that you know you are not alone.
I catch your arm gently to prevent you from floating by me and give you my most loving, trusting gaze. "Hi. How are you?" I say, trying with all my might to keep my yearning for the truth out of my voice, even though we both know our words now have double meanings.
"Oh, hey! Yeah, I'm fine!" You lie effortlessly right through your laughter, not even looking me in the eye before you pull away to disappear in another persona of happy smiles. I struggle desperately to find a way to keep you here with me even as you slip through my grasp and unwillingly I get a vision of you all alone, sprawled on a tile floor, empty and lifeless with a pool of bright red blood unfolding swiftly around your priceless frame, a silver blade glistening menacingly in the midst of your delicate fingers.
Suppressing a sigh while I shake my head to rid myself of the image, I watch your back as you travel on your way with careful masks. And even though I know that neither of us understands the rules, I can't stop feeling like a helpless pawn in your game. Then I sit down on the steps, put my head in my palms, and sob, fiercely wishing my crystal tears were enough to count for both of us, especially you.