Where did I go wrong?
I lost a friend
Somewhere along in the bitterness
And I would have stayed up with you all night
Had I known how to save a life
Isaac Slade - The Fray
Somewhere downtown, in a tiny car that rolls down the dark asphalt, your friend rising shotgun tweaks with the radio until The Fray croons from the static-y speakers.
"Oh my god, I love this song", she squeals, and your other friend, sitting beside you in the backseat, nods enthusiastically and looks in your direction for empathetic approval.
You smile and nod, because it's what's expected of you. They turn up the volume and sing along, and you try not to let your voice break as you join in, purely out of obligation, faking smiles and enthusiasm, and note , without much surprise, that none of them knows much of the song except the chorus, and you don't feel like filling in the words, not tonight.
Inhale. Hold your breath, Exhale.
Hope is a fragile thing – you wonder how yours is still going so strong.
So many times that you can't even remember, you've found yourself in this position – forcing air down your lungs, believing in the promises of the self-help columns on the internet, forcing yourself to relax, if only for a minute, and take a deep, satisfying breath. Each time, you fail, and emptiness – like lead, or water, or sheer vacuum – fills you instead.
Deep breathing, silence, dim lights and soothing music – each an empty promise of a better place, a place of peace and tranquillity, a place away from the voice in your head that's telling you oh-so-poetically that there's light at the end of that tunnel – that there's no pain in four-storeys-down-and scattered-on-the-tarmac. Your breath hitches and your chest constricts a little more, and something within you breaks as tears leak out of the corners of your eyes.
It's a little soothing, however, feeling the hot liquid run down your frigid face, like a tender caress you cannot even fathom relishing in real life.
You force yourself to move your arm – one last song before you take the leap – and thumb through your phone till you can find what best resonates with the screams in your head. Somehow, through a cruel twist of fate – that song comes on instead.
Let him know that you know best – cos after all you do know best.
The tears start afresh, and you put off the inevitable for another day – something about the words stop you, and your legs have turned to lead anyway and there's ten feet to be walked between your bed and your balcony, and you let yourself believe in the words that somewhere out there, someone out there does know best, and your hope gives you enough energy to get up off the your bed and wipe your eyes.
Hope is a fragile thing – but it's all you have.
At school, you watch as your friend- no, scratch that – classmate walks into the classroom and takes a seat.
You count the benches between the two of you – one row ahead and four columns aside, and your chest aches at how little effort she puts in staying away from you – you've been cast away and deserve no second thought, and the lack of a conscious pattern stabs you in the heart. You wonder if it'll hurt a little less if you catch her looking at you someday – with pain, longing, or even resentment and anger in her eyes. But she looks on ahead and laughs with her other friends, and you know they know very little of how – and if – you exist.
So you turn towards the window beside you and rest your head against the cold wall, relishing in the company of the inanimate, and wonder if there's someone out there who collects broken people. You could probably use that.
You stay up all night, sitting in your balcony and freezing in the cold breeze, but very little makes your bones ache anymore – any more than they usually do. The sky turns from violet to indigo to an inky blackness and back to a faded purple again, and the sound of the birds chirping sends a flutter through your heart, and you remember why you love watching the sunrise from this place so much – even though the tarmac is still only four storeys away, and before you know, you have enough strength to stand up on your own two feet and grip the parapet with your own two hands and your head is buzzing from lack of sleep but you feel alive, after what feels like centuries spent in slumber, and for once you breathe in air and your lungs take in nothing but oxygen, and you vow to yourself that this day will be different – that today you'll kiss your mother goodbye and eat a full breakfast and participate in class and ignore her stupid laugh. And for once, the tarmac doesn't look like a sleep to scatter peacefully upon.
You'll be here within nineteen days again, after yet another wave of sadness threatens to take you under, but for now, you feel infinite.
"Wow, you actually know all the lyrics", your friend says with some incredulity, and you smile and shrug it off because she is nothing like what you've really been looking for, and it's more than enough that you're sitting in a car with people your own age for once – and why ruin a good thing with talks of drowning every night?
So you sit and you smile and you hope she doesn't notice the cuts on your left forearm, and you mutter the lyrics to yourself as she turns her attention to the others in the car.
You hear Isaac sing about staying up all night, and you smile to yourself at how hollow the promise sounds, for you've looked and you've looked and no one's come to rescue you from the tower you built yourself, and something about the thought seems comforting, somehow.
It's been three months, nine days, and sixteen hours since you last stood on the balcony, your hands trembling, praying for someone to pull you back. The song finishes and you for once you laugh and say, "Oh God, that song's so dreary, right?"
AN – Yet another piece I wrote for a competition, the prompt being what does the song evoke, for you? Writing the piece was deeply cathartic however. I'd love to hear your thoughts about it.