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You were my closest friend in those times. You would listen when I would talk to you, whether it was two o'clock at night and I was in bed, or it was early morning and I was on a bus ride. As time passed and I attained more friends, we were quieter, although I could still rely on you when no one else was there. I suppose that you were the only predictable asset in my erratic life.
Yet that was all back when life was better. For all your good company, you couldn't stop my mother from drinking, my grades from failing, or make my future seem hopeful. Neither of us knew what happiness or peace was anymore; they were only foreign emotions left over from childhood. Every night we were exhausted from despair, and every day was no more than a dull and melancholic mantra. The mantra of disappointment when the payments failed again, the loneliness when another friend would forget my existence, and the fury when my mother would try to justify her addiction was all exhausting to endure.
As the days passed, and change didn't come, our tolerance faded to an ultimate conclusion. It was a silent agreement that we would put our misery to rest someday. Only the timing was uncertain.
That last day, we were home alone. My siblings were away at school and my mother was requesting her free paycheck at the "government office". I had not eaten, talked or even cried in the hours since I'd woken up. Our tears didn't come anymore- not for months- and so parts of the agony stayed trapped in our hearts. Not even writing or a physical hug from one of my loved ones could cure it. I left my note on the kitchen table, next to today's bottle of whiskey.
We pushed open the unlocked door and walked into the cold world of late autumn. School had started, though not for us. We were long past those days that gave us a reason to get up in the mornings. In the silence along Centennial Drive, accessing our chosen place was easy. Few people occupied the apartments and the town was quiet in the morning. Without a word exchanged between us, we soon stood on that balcony on the tallest floor, feeling the icy wind rattle the leaves on the oaks. The world certainly is prettier when you're sixty feet off the ground.
I knew I couldn't hesitate long. The sick feeling of anxiety was forming in my empty stomach. As I felt your hand grasp mine out of the air, I turned around to look at you in surprise. You had grabbed me firmly, as if you wanted to stop me from falling. Maybe you had forgotten that jumping hadn't left my mind for the past few months.
I asked you what you were doing, but you would not answer. For a moment we were again silent, watching the cars roll by, their engines no louder than whispers. All the while I could feel your older, longer fingers wrapped around my little ones.
Without moving your lips, you reminded me that the ground below wasn't soft. I looked back at you in confusion, and your sapphire eyes stared back with a stern gaze, as if I were a child about to touch a heated stove. You said not a word, and yet I could feel myself shiver in spite of the fur in my favorite sweater. I found my feet would not move when I tried to take a step, and realized you had an arm around my shoulders. You were asking me what I was doing, and I answered with the phrase you had heard so often.
"I just can't take this anymore. I've no hope left."
This time, I heard you answer. Your voice was not faint, and yet I barely heard it through the chaos in my head. You said one sentence, ten words that rang through my chilled frame like ripples in water.
"What if I were here, then what would you do?"
I was robbed for words. You seemed to know that I had tried to forget it, because I took one more step away from the safety of the platform. The ground awaited us. And what would await if I gave in now? A distraught, drunken parent, siblings that would pester me as they always had, and a piece of news to wash over the town like the wildfires. I thought of that instead of your words, keeping my eyes sealed to stop tears leaking from them.
"Would you allow me to fall?"
Your voice echoed again in my ears. I raised my head from my slump and glared at you for a moment. As if just to spite you, I prepared to take a larger stride when I felt your hands close tighter on my shoulders. Now your voice was overtaking the sirens echoing in the distance, reminding me of my limited time.
"If I'm not allowed to die, then why are you?"
I became still at that. The truth of those words was so obvious that my mind tried desperately to refute it. I threw out the best excuse I had, my voice barely a whisper as I gazed, unblinking, at the road.
"You're not even real."
You said nothing for a moment, wrapping your arms around my body. For the first time, I could feel the warmth of your face, and even smell a faint fragrance in your hair. It had been so long since you had embraced me like this, so much so that I wondered if we had ever felt you any closer. In the remotest recesses of my mind- a place you hadn't visited before- I wondered if I was losing my distinction between reality and the world of my mind.
I wanted to forget about you. I wanted to squirm out of your arms and make the few more steps that would end in death, and you would not release me. You held me still and even warm for what felt like a nothing time, like what forever might be if humans could ever measure it. You were telling me so many things. I told you that I had left too much of a mess behind to ever be fixed, and you told me that it was all manageable and that the only permanence would be my demise. I told you that this was the only way I could escape the pain and deadness of my life, and you reminded me I would never know for sure how the future would turn out. I told you that I didn't care about how everyone would feel anymore, and you answered that you knew I was lying.
And despite my better judgement, despite my heart's one-hundred-and-eighty beat race, I still ignored you. I had heard this all before and it hadn't changed a thing in the end. Words had stayed just that, and I knew not even you could save me.
Your grip on me slackened before I jumped downwards, and the ground came the fraction of a second later. I had no time to suffer, because I did indeed have a thin skull. It was only in that sliver of time, suspended in mid-air, did I realize the most painful truth of all.
You never really existed.
Written by Grizzly Bear