Black Satin, Black Lace

The first time we met, she found me under the bridge she absconded to when the voices talked too loud. There was just a bit of shore before the land broke out into a river, partly contaminated with city filth. She brought out a pack of twenty and we smoked until the box was empty.

“Lydia,” she said.

I only nodded.

I sought her out every time she tried to run away from home. We’d sit at a park bench and she’d paraphrase Plath and Maynard and we’d eat at cheap cafes while I attempted drawing her into the pages of my journal. She took me home once and seduced me in black lace. It was awkward and funny and we laughed under the satin sheets.

Whenever I saw less of her, I felt like I wasn’t alive. I only existed around her. As if I had skin only for her touch, and a voice only meant for her ears. I felt like I heard her thinking when she was asleep, a barely warm body against my side.

Sometimes, I could see through my hands. She couldn’t.

“I don’t want to be your ghost,” I told her.

She didn’t understand why I was so afraid of not existing. But I think that changed her. She bought blades the other day. She spent more time in her bathroom, wore fuller clothes, and spoke softer than she ever did before. I never meant to hurt her, but around then was when I started getting really angry.

From quiet pleas to aggressive seizing, Lydia didn’t respond to any of my attempts to stop her. White lies slipped from her lips like foggy breath in winter. Her arms were scarred and she kept the lights off when she changed her clothes. We fought more. She’d call me a ghost, and I’d threaten to kill her, but she’d shrug and say it’s what she wanted. That only made me more mad.

One night, intoxicated and delirious, she held my hand in hers and traced my fingers with her own. Then she opened her palms to me and asked, “Am I disappearing yet?”

I grabbed her wrists and jerked her towards me and told her to shut up or I’d hit her face. She chortled and rolled her eyes.

“What would you know? You don’t even exist to yourself.”

She struggled to release herself and the healing cuts on her wrists rubbed against my skin, instantly making me let go. I got up and got dressed and she looked at me with puzzled eyes.

“We should go out,” I said, cryptically, and she slowly pulled over her t-shirt and followed me out.

We walked for a good half hour, back to the oasis beneath the bridge where we’d first met. I brought out a pack of twenty, and we smoked till the box was empty.

“I want to be real to you, Lydia.”

“We see each other every day, we fuck, we go out for food, we fight, we sleep together. It’s like I can’t even get rid of you for a moment. Don’t ask me absurd questions.”

I gripped her shoulders and pressed my fingers into her skin. “God damn it, Lydia, AM I REAL OR NOT?”

“Why don’t you find out tomorrow when there are bruises on my fuckin arms? Don’t think a ghost could do that.”

I let go and put my hands to my face. I could feel hot tears behind my eyelids. I knew I was being paranoid but I didn’t know or even remember what I did when I wasn’t with her. I couldn’t understand if my brain was messing with me but I was scared and angry, because she wouldn’t answer my question. Did she know something I didn’t?

She was watching me through her veil of dying smoke.

“I have an idea. Let me prove it to you that you’re real, even without me.”

“What does that mean?”

She gave me a tight-lipped smile and got up. She brushed the seat of her jeans clean and started walking ahead.

“What are you doing?” I asked, starting to panic.

But before I could even get up, Lydia had broken into a run and was quickly wading in the grey river. I stumbled forward to get to her before she did what I knew she was going to do. She was swimming now, and was surprisingly fast. Waste that had buried itself half-heartedly in the riverbed was catching between my toes. I was too slow, and she was too far. I didn’t know if I could swim but I was damned well going to try.

I frantically pushed the water behind me, trying to keep myself afloat and move faster, and when I looked up to spot her, I could see only the tip of her head. I shouted her name – a futile exercise. I felt slivers of plastic cut into my skin and pass through me, like fish making way through seaweed. I could hear a ticking in my head – or was it Lydia’s? – as my body began to tire of fighting the current and attempting to swim in the muck. Lydia was nowhere to be seen. I pushed further but I felt like I was drifting away. I could see the shore through my hands.

For a fraction of a moment, a jolt surged through my being. It felt like a fight, a losing fight, and it was gone just as suddenly. I couldn’t see myself anymore. The ticking slowed down, sounding muffled and strained, like it was drowning, dying –

– what am I? –

– and then entirely stopped.