The day she saw me it had been years since the second time we met. She was smiling. And I was hers.
The first time we met she was crying.
It was a dark room. A numbingly cold and rainy night. Thunder roared above the roof, light flashed from the nearby window. An old familiar face sauntered in, absconding from the lit hallway on tiptoe, floating to her bedside like a wraith from some forgotten abyss. She remembers it as a skeletal face, but I know she exaggerates. She was frightened. I was not.
His breath was toxic enough that if he whispered to a match he might set it ablaze. I know her eardrum burned as if it were made of sulfur when he told her what was about to happen. Mines did not.
Afterward, he said she should have loved it, the way he showed her love unlike any man might or can, a way a father ever could. That night she still felt like his daughter. I did not.
From the corner of the room, I watched. Even as she covered her eyes to some parts I could still see through her fingers, through the stultifying shadows. The sheets. She closed her eyes. I did not close mine.
Five years later, many nights like that onward, I saw her again. This time I was locked inside a box above the sink in her bathroom. She reached over and grabbed for my shoulder but when she pulled at me she disappeared. The world spun and spun again, and then she reappeared and was crying. She ignored me then but I know she sees me. She always has, on the surface of water, as the shadowy doppelgänger tailing behind on the ground and on the shiny lenses of her ex-boyfriends glasses. I hope. I hope she sees me.
And right however when it was most detrimental, she felt me.
On the rim of the tub while her dorm mate rapped impatiently against the door, the blade pressed icily beneath the fat of her palm. Sweat beaded on her forehead, a chill rushed down her arms.
I felt the world move vertiginously away from us.
"It's so much easier to give in. Don't," she heard a voice chide from in her head. Her fingers shook, the blade cast to the tiled floor. She climbed into the tub and rocked while she cried. She wanted someone to hold her. Then, I could not.
Six years later, she was sitting at a table with a stack of books, twiddling a sharpie with her fingers. The book was entitled: “To Everywhere See Our Awkward Self.” It was a book she had written. It was one about how she had found me in the most peculiar places like at the railing of a bridge, before a dangling noose, and a college bathroom. I was surprised, flattered, and doubtful she had ever seen me at all.
It appears she knew something about me after all. I did not.
I read the book. It told her story. It told our story. However, it was the final lines on the last page that touched me the most.
They read: "Courage. It has often been portrayed as some chin-up, thunderous stomp through the dark. A valiant knight that while steering toward his impending doom is unshakable. I disagree. Courage can skulk, my friends, tearfully so, while the pain passes by even; so pure and powerful it leads you to believe you've always sustained without. I know better. Courage can be dainty flesh and fragile bones; it is the spirit of a broken child staring back at you from a mirror in your darkest hour. Courage—I owed that to her, that child, I owed that to myself. You owe it to yourself, too. By seeing courage is the only way to survive."
She signed her name on the front of the book before handing it off to a boy, a perfect stranger. She smiled at him but it was less out of politeness and more at the irony she had found just therein. The boy appeared to her in that bookstore just same as she once appeared to herself. The way I unrecognizably appeared to her.
On the front of the book she signed her name, our name. It was the first time I'd realized in all the years that she was mine. Courage—I was hers, she was mine.