It's a slow burning, really, healing, hatred, hope, intertwined, a reminder that you're alive. I never listened to my heart beat, before. But after, after, I held my hand to my chest and started counting, counting. Each beat I heard told me I was alive.

Five. A phone call. An infant waiting at home. Holding him for the first time, feeding him, watching him, helping him tie his shoes. An ally.

Ten. The new baby. A perfect, beautiful child. Entrusted to me. Little brother. Little bird. A child I began to see as a son.

Twelve. Hazy, I opened my eyes to see a sliver of light. Legs, attached to a chest, attached to arms. A man, one I knew well. Coming towards me. Hands, reaching, touching, invading. I closed my eyes.

Fifteen. I floated above my body, watching the boy grunt, with my wrists in one hand, my body pinned, he destroyed me. The booze was thick in my blood, my head swam. I had just left hell, and he took away my hope. I gave in, gave up.

Fifteen. I woke up. That was a surprise. The vomit, I suppose was to be expected. But waking up, yes, that was worth it. I don't know if it was a conscience decision. I remember lining the bottles up, one by one. Four. Full of Who Knows What. I remember chasing them with vodka, a handful at a time. Thinking, would it really be so bad if I didn't wake up. Yes, vomiting was to be expected.

Eighteen. The car crash. The initial scrape of metal on concrete, the minute or so that I still don't have, a minute of my life missing. I remember looking to my right, and seeing the cars coming towards me, thinking; I'm going to die. That paralyzing realization. Relief. Closing my eyes. And then I was on the side of the road, in park, as if I had just woken up. Scorned. You'd think that I'd believe in god by now.

Death is hungry for me. I've skirted the line for so many years. Starving myself until I saw stars. Eating until I couldn't swallow. Vomiting until I spat blood. Scarring my arms, legs, shoulders, heart, just so I could see solid proof, yes, I am still alive. The pills, the cigarettes, the booze. Putting my hand to my chest, and feeling my heart, beat, beat. Counting, feeling, knowing.

I am twenty years old.

And I am alive.