It’s not so much that she wants to run away. She just wishes she could feel better — no, she could be better — in a place which isn’t here. Wherever here is. It’s always the wrong place anyway.
She’s afraid of the sky. And when you ask her why, she’d always say
“it just looks so heavy. I’m afraid that one day it will fall down on me and crush me.”
You could never figure out what she stared at when she propped her pretty bony elbows on that white windowsill and stayed that way for hours on end (the paint was chipped but she said that only made it more beautiful, more like home, even though she never quite understood what that word meant), ignoring the clock and her surroundings.
It was like she had faded out into a world of her own. And then one day you figured out that she wasn’t looking up at that dreaded sky or down at the ground which was too solid for her tastes. She always had this feeling that it would swallow her whole if she let her guard down, and early on already, you were worried that she would crack under the strain of all her anxieties and restrictions. She wasn’t looking at the gently swaying strong-trunked trees either, no. Nor at the pavement or at the house across the street. If you had asked her, you know she would have told you that there was no house across the street. She either saw too far or not far enough. This is the kind of confusion she lives in, only for her, it make perfect sense.
Some would call her delusional, but to you that is the only thing which makes her real.
You were never one to be superficial, until you met her. She taught you all about skirts and bracelets and never seeing past appearances. More importantly, she taught you that everything was just an appearance. Make-up and souls are exactly the same: perishable. But after you’d spent some time with her, what you really started to notice were her wide, baby-blue eyes. They shine like light bulbs or stars or waves on the sea. Something distant and lovely in an empty, stereotypical kind of way. Like her feelings, probably, or her clothes. But not her thoughts, and definitely not her words. She really has a way with words, either that or they have a way with her. It’s hard to tell sometimes.
Usually because it’s so devastatingly easy.
You used to love her pale, slender wrists. There were strands of her soul in them, you thought. Because they were so perfect, but so very fragile. It took you longer than it should have to realize that they were as far from perfect as it’s possible to get. (“Unless you’re an angel,” she would say. She doesn’t like angels, probably because she had to fall to become one.) It took you longer than it should have to realize that they were much closer to perfect than it was healthy to get. For anyone. Even for her.
And it occurred to you then that she’s just like you. And me. And everyone else. Because we all have our windows which we stare out of, and either we’re focused on the ghostly, tragic reflection of our all-too-familiar face on the glass, or we’re gazing too far out into the distance, into things which aren’t even there. And in either case we’re too captivated by our own thoughts to see what’s right in front of us. It was obvious, you tell yourself over and over again, obvious that she was too thin, that she wasn’t natural, that the slightest breath of wind would suffice to knock her over. But for months you didn’t know. You still blame yourself for it. You feel so powerless because you are so powerless. There is no control when it comes to dust.
And it scares you, it really does. Because you didn’t realize how alive she was until you found out that she’s actually dying.
You watch her, sometimes. Often. Like an artist watches a work of art, or a new mother watching over her newborn; she’s enchanting. Her neck is bony and her legs are splinter-thin and her arms are barely there at all. It’s so beautiful that it makes you sick. No. It makes you sick because despite what you know it’s so beautiful, just like she is. And it’s her, the only her you will ever see, but you know it isn’t her because it’s just her illness, and you catch yourself searching for the girl she used to be, the girl she should be, in the contours of her frail body.
You will never find her; you haven’t asked her yet. You think she’s trying to be invisible. Invisible enough to scald your eyes. You don’t see her much anymore. Maybe she just drifts by you when you aren’t paying attention, or maybe you’ve been avoiding her because it makes your veins throb to know that there’s nothing you can do, or maybe she’s gone off somewhere where you can’t reach her, let alone understand her.
She doesn’t blame you for anything. Except maybe for pulling her away from that window. And maybe, maybe, for forcing her to stay when all she wanted to do was get away.
Like water, she slips between your fingers whenever you try to touch her. A few days ago you assured her that the sky would never crush her; you didn’t add that it was because she was so insubstantial she may as well be a part of it.
The problem is that she can’t grow wings. But that was the day you realized that when she stares out the window, she’s actually looking at something: