My Friend

There’s a whisper at the door. Angels have feasted on my new friend, on her hair, turned it golden, and made it glow. Demons leak through the creaking floorboards and watch us carefully. They bow over and attach themselves to her feet, slowing her rhythm until she cannot remember the last time her heart beat. She does anything to numb the pain as they flood her bloodstream and tell her nasty things. The angels are gone, there’s no room for them here anymore.

The whispers grow louder. My friend’s lungs mourn oxygen as a flower mourns warmth in the winter and with a last breath they shrivel, together, the flower and my friend, the petals and her hair, her skin, the stalk and her bones, her teeth, the leaves falling to the snow like her blood hitting the shiny wood floor, until there’s only a ghost standing in front of the mirror, pulling shards of ice out by her fingertips wondering when the frostbite will set in.

Does she realize angels have touched her? The demons live in her now, it’s almost pointless to contest, all it would take is an MRI to see her heart is dying and it’s pathetic because we love her for her beauty. We love her for her beauty but we despise the words that might come out of her mouth–words like tar spread across her lips, a much thicker concoction, made of blood and pain, except it doesn’t hurt her, it just chokes her and leaves her feeling as if she had missed something desperately–something like air, the air her lungs have been craving, starving themselves unwittingly for, because she couldn’t swallow and talk and breathe all at once, and the demons made her pick the former, never the latter. Instead of air she gets regrets and ice and a mirror that reflects what the angels gave her and what the demons took.

The demons leave when she wipes her mouth, black hatred smearing across the back of her hand like lipstick. They leave when she can no longer stand up straight, when she can no longer let loose the volley of words that aim to maim–because maiming is so much worse than killing–because the people are driven away from her chill and there’s no one left to hurt, not even her friends, not even me, not when she hurts me and I evaporate and watch from a distance. My dear friend’s warmth is entirely put out, as she finally takes a look at what they did to her and finally tries to stand tall. But it’s the trying that’s the hardest, and everyone knows it, and everyone watches her knees tremble and her bones shatter under the weight of the world on her shoulders–this self imposed weight that is born of a newfound guilt–but still she stands and she raises her hand to her reflection. She doesn’t flinch, this friend, this girl, this angel, but the mirror does, the mirror bows away from her and vibrates in a way that mocks praying, mocks the girl’s knees, mocks the ground she stands on because everything is suddenly unstable.

And that’s when she realized there were never any angels or demons. They were in her imagination and it was her that drove people away and only she that could save herself. Everyone watches while the mirror cracks and crumbles and my friend is left staring at a wall that needs another coat of paint because of everything that’s been ignored, the paint on the wall is certainly at the top of the list, and it’s a relief not to analyze herself anymore, not to stare at her reflection and into her eyes and at her lips and nose quiver, wondering where the air in the room has gone. Now she can close her eyes–she does close her eyes–and she can sit down–she does sit, ungracefully, because no one is watching and she knows it, she’s fully aware of the empty room around her now that the pieces of the mirror on the floor only reflect the ceiling, bouncing off-white cream-colored peeling paint back at itself and we’ll see how much time it takes for the paint to pull away from the plaster, to hate itself like she does.

Now she sits and breathes for the first time in years, because for the first time the air is warm and the ice inside of her melts and her lungs uncurl from the fetal position they had taken up inside her chest, safe under her ribcage. She’s the flower now, her lungs singing praises as the stem breaks through the ground and the tiny bud splits open, showing the world beautiful colors they never imagined.