[TW: Melodramatic suicide]
I lean against the metal door, the cold of it biting through the inadequate barrier of my jeans and jacket. My head throbs, skin pulled by the bandaid I stuck to my forehead to pull that split skin shut. It had looked disturbingly like a grin, gape-mouthed and toothless, on my forehead, like mockery. My head still throbs under it, though some pain is worth it, worth everything.
The wind tugs at the photograph in my hands, and I clutch it tighter to my chest, wincing at the sound of crinkling paper. Like somehow every wrinkle will become a crack in your dear body, though isn’t it too late to think of such things?
I let the skyline, gray with clouds and spiked with buildings, draw me away from the door, to the cornice that surrounds the roof. This is an old building, an ornate one. There is no fence, no railing.
It is on the edge of the cornice I sit. The stone is cold and hard beneath me, but I can still imagine myself in a different place, a different time. Instead of the dirty city stretched out before me, I see a stage. Instead of stone beneath me, I feel thinly cushioned wood. Instead of the wind, I hear the scrape of wood on wood. I can almost envision you then, sitting in that piercing spotlight, so upright and noble, yet sturdy, comfortable. Comforting.
These are the harsh truths that I have learned, in the time since our gazes locked across that theater: Strength offered in silence is ignored. People would rather have the pretty vase than the graceful pedestal upon which is sits. The world tears up those who offer themselves tirelessly, body and soul for their art, and casts them aside as soon as the first crack or splinter worries a thread in their overpriced trousers. Only the perfect image matters, not the far more interesting reality beneath, with its knots and imperfections.
I cannot say how many times I tried to reach you, but always circumstances got in the way, always other people running interference. Our only time together was across that stage, with that light an impenetrable wall between us. Not enough time, not enough time, and then time was up. That last day I arrived just in time to see you be hustled onto a waiting truck, to snap the photograph with my iPhone.
Oh my love, my love. I didn’t realize. If I’d known, I would have acted then. But we always tell ourselves that there will be a later, at some other time when we are better dressed or more prepared or just not so busy. I was a fool.
I look down at the paper in my hands. At least I have this one token, this stolen moment in time. How many dreams I’ve had over this picture, imagining myself reading a book with you, or leaning back comfortably against you at our desk, or saucily pretending to be Liza Minnelli in Cabaret before we both dissolve into giggles.
Now just fruitless dreams never to be realized.
It was only today that I learned the truth, spoken in such an offhand way by a person I had only just met. How we got onto the topic of you, I no longer remember; I think rage knocked it from my head. All I can recall of the conversation was the amused, dismissive laugh and the words that broke my heart, the words that made me break open my head on his nose: “Are you kidding? After an entire run of getting thrown around and jumped on? All the chairs were falling apart. We had them recycled.”
Recycled. As if you are something so disposable. No. I do not wish to dream in a world like this.
I close my eyes and place myself back in the theater, with you across the stage. But this time it will be different. This time, I rise from my seat to launch myself across the stage to snatch you up.
The show can go on without us both.