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It wasn’t right;I had never seen her this way: with ashen eyes and shaking fingers. There was nothing that i could do but hug her and hope, hope that maybe for a minute I could make it better for her. I gave her the biggest hug I could. It was if my arms were the one thing holding her body upright. I can’t remember how long we stood in the hallway. She was limp as a rag doll and fell into my arms like I was her mother. She wished I was. We both knew it. Finally, I released my arms and she slowly pulled back.
“I’m sorry. This is so pathetic, I’m such a mess.” she said as she zipped up her sweater and wiped her tears with the edge of her sleeve. There was paint splattered all over this grey sweater. She tried to pick at it when she didn’t know what else to say or what to talk about. She had given up on trying to wash it all off. I started to wonder if maybe she started seeing herself as one of her art pieces. Trying to sweep a paint brush along her wrists, adding colour over her eyes to brighten her face.
“Sweetheart, you don’t have to apologize. Its okay to cry.” I reassured her.
Or I tried to. I took out a card with my email and phone number on it and handed it over to her. She looked up into my eyes and smiled through the tears.
“Thank you so much.” She hugged me quickly, gaining a little more strength back.
“I better get going to class, I’m probably late already,” She said and walked quickly. There was a slight light to her smile, to say that she took pleasure in missing class. And I don’t blame her. I watched as she dragged her heels along the floor to the undesirable location of math class.
It was then that I realized that i had somewhere to be, too. The next english class, to speak to a group of grade eleven students. I shook hands with the english teacher and introduced myself. I tried to put the sad image of sophie behind me, to think of at another time. The students were sitting on the top of the desks, loudly chewing pink bubblegum. Their conversations echo through the walls, bouncing back and forth like a game of tennis. When I finally got their attention, I froze. For the first time in a really long time. I forgot where I stood without confidence.
I walked out the east doors to my car, buckling myself in and letting out a big sigh. My forehead hit the steering wheel a little too hard. I drove back to the office, parking right in front of the main building for Mental Health Services. I scanned my key card, walked in the doors and without making any contact with my co-workers, went straight to my desk. Going about my daily things. Tidying up my untidy desk, scattered with notes and pens which were normally sorted by colour. Mainly Lime green, my absolute favourite colour. As the day went on, people started passing my desk and heading home. I stayed at my desk organizing events and returning phone calls and emails.
By the time I got home, it was 8:30 p.m. I normally always leave the office by 4:00 p.m. I wrapped myself in a soft blanket and sat on the couch. I turned on my phone. There were emails. Four of them. They were all from her, Sophie. I read them all carefully. Trying to dissect each word before returning any messages. She was desperate. For help, for understanding. But more importantly she was desperate for a friend. I had to try and be that for her. It was all that i really could be for her, I hope it was enough.
One Email Read:
Hi T, This is Sophie. I am feeling really alone in this house. Everyone else is out. They all have lives. At least more meaningful lives than me. I can’t leave the house without freaking out and having a panic attack. Even when there is someone here, its like i’m invisible so I just hibernate in my room and go under my covers to cry. Whats the point anyway? Nobody really cares. No one would even notice if I was gone… For good.
At first, I didn’t really know what to say. It was a while before I actually did reply to her. And when I finally did reply, i hoped it would touch her in an understanding way. We started emailing back and forth, almost every single day. It went from a simple “hi, how are you” to a surprising amount of kitten pictures and jokes. Each day I woke up to a message, my lips curled into a smile. Thankful to have this irreplaceable person in my life. I didn’t see her as often as I’d like to, or as often as she wanted to see me. But I tried my best to make it work for the both of us.
The sun was golden as if flourished behind the dark, deserted apartment buildings. Time bent as I gazed into the sky and everything was silent for a moment. For a moment, the cars screeching and yelling stopped. The air was still and quiet. That was something that Soph and I had in common. A love for the country, for the quiet and still. We both knew how the noise felt in our bones and bodies. How it felt to be consumed by fear and discomfort. But that was the best thing about our relationship. We understood one another, on a different kind of level. There are more emails that worry me. Her words are more hopeless than what they have been in a very long time. She tells me that she wants to walk out into oncoming traffic but the only thing stopping her is exhaustion and me. I felt like hugging her. I told her that and she smiled. I can see how a dark veil has sheltered her vision. Believing everything that her illness tells her, doesn’t know how anyone could care for her or love her. She kept on describing herself like dirt, getting walked all over, getting used by the people she thought she knew. I was afraid for her safety but I put my trust in her, and she did the same for me. She told me when she wasn’t okay and when she was.
I emailed Soph, telling her about our program at the Mental Health Association. The program is called Living Life to the Full. The course can help people change their lives by learning how to deal with their feelings when fed up, worried or hopeless. She responded unsure, asking if it costed any money and if her parents had to know that she might be doing it. I figured that it might be easier if she knew that I was one of the instructors of the course.
I was happy that she was considering it, and I understood her anxiety about it costing money and going to an unfamiliar place once a week.I told that she could do it online by reading the books and doing it by herself. Which she did, but she got overwhelmed very quickly. So we discussed the possibility of doing the course in person at a cheaper cost of forty dollars instead of one hundred, which worked better for her and her mom - who was paying the
I kept going about my day, sitting through meetings and listening to what others’ had to say. I never knew when to expect sophie’s humour to take a hit,but when it did I was in a meeting and started laughing up a storm. Everyone peered at me with confusion and annoyance as I tried to calm myself down. The Director scuffed his shoes and coughed and he continued speaking.
After my meeting was over, i quickly got my papers ready and put them in my bag, also grabbing my lunch bag. On the drive home, I got stuck in rush hour. There was one long line of cars honking at one another. In my rear view mirror there was an image of a furious man, in his late 50’s. His beard was white and grey but you could tell that he dyed his hair as an attempt to look younger, but it didn’t seem to work at all. He raised his middle finger to the bumper of my car. Calling me the target or the reason of the mass of cars swerving and swaying in and out of lanes. I caught every single red light.
It seemed like hours before I got home. Sophie emailed me. Each email was one word.
Myself. There is no one else who will help me.
"Sophie? Are you okay? I am here for you" I responded right away. Normally I wouldn’t reply at night because I turn my phone off around 8 p.m to get ready to go to sleep. But something about tonight was different. I was wide awake in the darkness of my bedroom. She promised me that she would make it through the night.We made a plan for the day after. A Self-Care Day.
Sunday morning came with the sound of police cars and ambulances as my early alarm clock. I noticed the bright blue sky, the sun made the strands of my blonde hair shimmer within the heat of summer. I got ready to pick Sophie up, who lived on the other side of the city. It was worth the twenty dollars of gas that i needed to get. I looked into the golden mirror, which hung tilted on the bathroom wall. I don’t really make an effort to try and adjust it. JC called out to me just as I was splashing my face with warm water.
“Hey!, where are you going so early?”
“Its almost noon!,” I said, yelling back to him. His laughter echoed and travelled into the spacious bathroom I was standing in. He doesn’t really need to know where I’m going or who I’m going to see. Besides he didn’t need a whole background story on Sophie. Just that I was going out for a little while.
I’m in my messy silver car. There is a lot of evidence of my boyfriend here. For example, the garbage. There are subway wrappers all over the place with the remnants of yellow and red inside. I should’ve taken more time to clean it up. I start the engine and look in the rear view mirror. Its clear. It is a thirty minute drive to Sophie’s house. When I arrive at her house, she is sitting on the step looking off into the distance. Her house is pasty white and has blue borders around the edges of each door and window. So lost in another world that she doesn’t even notice me pull up into the driveway. The fence is partially built, circling the rim of her backyard to the front yard. I open my door and walk to her.
“Hey,” I say.
“Oh, Hi,” She responds, attempting to smile back at me. She locks the front door, kisses her dog goodbye and we get into the car.
“Aren’t you really hot in that.” I ask noticing her black sweater and skinny jeans.
“Yup.” She says, itching her arm.
She covered her skin to hide her scars. All of which bombarded her arms and thighs. They were cross hatched going up and down. Some were pink or purple. Some were completely healed, white. Some were raised and more prominent, but some were beaming red. I remember the time she told me she cut her cheeks. It was an out of body experience. It always was that way but something more triggered her to do it. I didn’t ask why, I just listened. We decided to go to the park. She brought her camera to take pictures. She glanced out of the window for the entire drive. It was like she was trying to take it all in, like she wouldn’t be around for much longer - but i knew that she would be. Even if she didn’t believe me when I told her. We walked around the green and into the gardens. When I saw a bunch of mushrooms in the ground I suggested we kick them. Let our anger out in a healthy way. She agreed 100 percent. We swung our feet until the mushrooms went flying for miles. For the rest of the day, we went to the mall and then to the art gallery. Once I had to leave i left sophie to tour the gallery on her own. Something came over her. Just as I was walking away, she came running behind me and hugged me. She didn’t want to let go and neither did I. But I had to.
I didn’t see sophie for months. We talked by email and over the internet. She updated me and I updated her. Summer came down to a close with what sophie thought was her final breath. I didn’t know she tried to kill herself until I got back into the city. There isn’t a day that I don’t think about her. She thinks that it’s only her that thinks so much of myself but it goes both ways. I made a promise that I would never leave. I don’t intend on breaking that promise. After all, She did let me know of a fact. That the pinky swear originally indicated that the person who breaks the promise must cut off their pinky finger.