Walking through the bookstore, I saw a man. He was tall and thin, could catch the raindrops on the tops of his black and white sneakers. He looked at me with soft eyes. His cloudy blues reflecting in mine. The top of his head was snuggled neatly into a winter cap, dark green with stitching along the side. His hair was neatly brushed to the right, a style I've seen too often. I wondered what he was thinking as he softly put the paperback on its shelf. Was he feeling lonely, too? And, what made him come to the bookstore late at night?
I sat in the cafe, at the round table in the corner overlooking the sidewalk. I always sit in the same spot. It's familiar. Catching the tiny drops of rain in the reflection of my eyes, I rested my chin on my fist. For a while, I just sat and gazed at the people passing by. Their eyes gently meeting mine, wondering what time the store was open till. Every once in a while I would politely smile, acknowledging the presence of the wandering stranger. As I started thumbing through pages of the music magazine I had picked up, I was surprised to see the man sitting across from me. Confused as to why this random person decided to sit at the same table, I grinned at him as I said hello.
His expression deceived me, at first. He grinned, barely baring his cigarette stained teeth. Looking at me as if I should've recognized him as an old friend. And, from a glimmer of an old memory, I soon recognized him as someone I used to know. We sat and talked for what seemed like hours. Each time he started a new sentence, I just stared at his pale white skin. Acne scars and blotchy red patches covered the sides of his face. He laughed at his own jokes, something I found all too familiar. He seemed to enjoy his own presence as much as mine. I could've easily left this man at the table by himself and he would've continued to amuse himself. He told me he was a student at the local college, a writer. And, when he asked me what I did for a living I hesitated, feeling the soft breeze of the passing people on my dry skin, and said that I, too, was just a student.
I watched his shadow on the floor. Moving a few inches every time he cocked his head back to laugh at what seemed like nothing. A sudden rush of sadness drowned my body. I finally new who he was. We talked about various things. The weather, school, old friends, and new projects. But then he started to talk about his past life. How he knew, with conviction, that he was a person who committed suicide. I honestly didn't believe him. I thought for a second this man could be mad. Sometimes, we all think we used to be a different person in a life before our own. Perhaps, someone famous or even a different species. But the way he described himself, before he inhabited his current body, made me believe that this guy was for real.
“What makes you think you were so lonely before?” I asked him. “I mean, how do you know you killed yourself in your past life?” He hesitated for a moment, tilting his head gently to the left.
“ I know because it's the way you look at me with those sad eyes.”
Caught off guard for a split second, every memory rushed back into my mind. Like a fast moving thunderstorm, the clouds rolling in, every second of that past life soon flooded my soul. Before I was the person I am today, I was someone different. I was a lonely soul on the brink of complete despair. All I wanted to do was die and never walk on the earth again. I used to be a young girl, pale white skin and long blonde hair. My eyes hidden behind dark rimmed glasses. My arms guarded behind a veil of black hoodies and long-sleeved shirts. I slept with my window open, even during the winter. The air rushing through my window made my skin react to something that seemed alive. I was a frequent drug user, trying so desperately to escape my own emotions. At my weakest moment, my lowest of lows, I had lost thirty-five pounds in one summer vacation. I walked around town, a frail looking teenager in baggy clothes—a secret anorectic on the inside. I used and abused whatever I could get my boney hands on. A nasty trait that seemed to run through the family bloodline. My grandfather, my father, my mother (at one point in her life), my brother, and then me. I stole from my parents. I never cried on anyone's shoulder but my own. I didn't tell anyone I was so desperate for their help. And, even if the help had come sooner, I probably would've declined. I was so far gone from the reality of that time. I chose to never come back again. I chose to simply, not be.
“Why do you do this to me?” I asked him, tears streaming down my face.
“Because that's what you get when you see yourself through someone else's eyes.”
I cradled my face in my hands, briefly smelling the bitterness of nicotine on my skin. I didn't understand why he decided to talk to me. I couldn't understand why he chose to remind me of the person I used to be.
A year after my last suicide attempt, I decided to live as the person hidden deep in the depths of scar tissue that blanketed my soul. I came out to my parents and brother as a transgendered individual. I told them that I had to do this in order to continue living. Despite their almost automatic rejection, I moved three hours away from my hometown to start my transition. I weaned myself off of the drugs that I had abused, but I couldn't stop all of the self-destructive behaviors. They had become a great part of myself, like an adopted sibling or an evil angel that constantly sat on my shoulder.
When I lived away from my family, I felt a sense of peace—calming in the way rain gently pours down the windows during the summer. I had cleaned myself up a bit, no longer going on week long binges of whatever pill or powder or herb I could find. I established a few friends in the year and a half that I lived in Middle-America. I was even making the best art in what seemed like forever. But, often times I would find myself locked in the bathroom, either drunk or high, digging razor blades deep into my skin. My tears would fall on the floor much like how droplets of blood would fall from my arms and legs—thick and heavy. I soon became lost, again, in the darkened world I somehow suddenly fell into. Even though I had already begun my transition, my problems surfaced again.
I live at home, with my family. Now wondering more than ever what would've happened to me if I had stayed down south. Would I have jumped from the bridge I was standing on that rainy afternoon just before calling my mother for help? Or, would I have stuck it out and failed every class I took that semester? The problem with my mindset, now, is that I often have times of weakness and complete despair. The heft of the forty-five pills that I hold in my right hand, as I type this piece, is a reminder of the grasp death has on my being. And, the bleakness of the suicide note I wrote a few days ago reminds me of the thoughts that will always ravage my brain. Sometimes, I like to look at myself through someone else's eyes. It gives me that distance I need to look at my self as a whole instead of a thousand lonely pieces. And, most times I like to visit that man in the bookstore—the one that was once a part of a happier me. Because, without him, I would have nowhere to go.