Photo: Vu Phuong Anh
*Trigger warning: suicide, rape
“She’s horrible. To her, I’m never enough.”
She bit her fingers as she muttered those words. I could tell she was shaking a little. She didn’t look at me. She was looking at her toes which were tiny and painted red. Red suited her well. She, to me, was like red — fierce and luscious.
But I knew it wasn’t all what she was. And I loved the fact that I could see her well beyond the controlled way she tried to portray herself, which she had hoped could fool me like she’d fooled all the men crawling into her bed. Though she was quick to realise I wasn’t one of those men. I was much smarter.
Lily opened up, slowly yet genuinely.
“Every day I have that fantasy of being run over by a car, or maybe a lorry, a bus, anything that could hit me hard and fast then knock me out cold. I want to die. The thought of death is so comforting.”
I tried not to react as the thought of death had never been comforting to me; in fact, it’d always left me uneasy. But from her, I took sharing about it as a token of trust, of vulnerability, and it was more important than whatever death might mean to me. Death suddenly wasn’t uneasy. Death got me all calm and fuzzy inside.
I held her gaze, asking her, “What makes you have that fantasy?”
She replied in an instant, “Her. She told me to die.”
It upset me. “Come on, I’m sure that’s not true.” I protested.
I wasn’t sure. I didn’t know anything much about her mother to be sure what she would say or would not say. But I hope it wasn’t true, or else I would have trouble forgiving myself for all the ugly, dangerous thoughts towards that woman.
Lily didn’t confirm or deny. She just looked sad, really sad, small and weak. And it hurt me deeply.
It wasn’t the first time she had mentioned her mother. Since we first met months ago, that woman had always been in the background of all her stories, being the uninvited guest to our relationship bond.
Initially I didn’t think much of it, but soon I realised Lily’s unconventional, if not dysfunctional, family wasn’t just a long-gone story; it was the root-cause to her unending pain. It drove her devil-may-care behaviours which were, without fail, perceived as an irresistible force by men, but ultimately destructive to all parties involved, especially her.
The horny, foolish, emotionally inept men (obviously) didn’t know she wasn’t joking about loneliness or suicide or hating her mother, for she always sounded witty and cynical while purposefully giving off a sultry, confident air. No. For fuck sake, she was crying out for help. She was bleeding from the inside.
I wanted to embrace Lily in my arms and tell her I knew, I knew it all and she didn’t have to pretend she was strong. She could let her guard down and let me in and I would hate her mother for her and with her. I would cut all the men who added to her misery. I was loyal and protective like that. I felt her like I felt myself.
“If I died, would you die with me?”, she asked, face straight.
“If someone killed me, would you kill that person for me?”, she continued, no funny business.
The sun was shining brightly outside in mid-July. It was too early for killing, I thought. But I was pleased she wanted to know my answers.
We hadn’t known each other for that long but it did feel like forever. I believed she was my soulmate. We were similar, yet different in a complementary way. I needed her and she needed me. We were two perfectly fitted pieces of a complete puzzle — the puzzle of who we were individually, of the long, tiring journey leading us to where we were then.
Having her by my side, I felt understood and strong and whole. I was equally fucked up but I no longer had to be apologetic about it. I saw my raw and edged beauty in Lily. Lily was glowing and so could I.
I told her, “I wouldn’t let you die. You can’t die. We’re immortal.”
Death made me feel uneasy. Lily’s death would suffocate me… to death. There, you got my answer. I would die with her and it wasn’t even a choice. I would lie down next to her, hold her hand and end this life with her, and it wouldn’t take a second thought.
But listen, Lily, it was too early for that. We were young and beautiful and fertile. We would one day blossom like the flower in your name. You have to trust that. Right then, I still wanted to live, and frankly, we deserved it more than all the scumbags of this world, so I had to keep her alive too.
Lily chuckled to my answer, her cheeks slightly blushing. I couldn’t quite guess what she was thinking but she seemed content. She relaxed herself on one end of the mattress placed in a corner of my minimalist apartment studio. Our feet accidentally touched but none of us moved.
She talked about her first love, second love, and the many lovers whose names had been buried in the loss of time but whose careless touch was still burning on her skin. She talked about being raped at the age of 19 and her retelling it to a few men she trusted, none of whom knew how to react. She talked about being silenced and mistreated by the same people who claimed to understand, respect and admire her.
She wanted to run away to be free with the trees and the rivers, to tune in with nature, the mother earth, and find her femininity, her true self. She wanted to stop suffering, stop feeling like she wasn’t enough. She had had enough in this short lifetime. And so, she wanted to kill that woman, her mother, the source of her sorrow, she said.
Lily picked up the apple knife from the floor next to where she sat. She looked at me with a playful, ambiguous smile. I figured she was demonstrating what she would do to her mother if she had the chance. But she started to put the blade on her wrist. My eyes widened, I could see a drop of blood coming out. In panic, I jumped on her and took the knife out of her hand. I shouted angrily, “What the fuck are you doing??”
“What do you think I’m doing?”, she asked me with a cold, hard face which sent chills down my spine. Meanwhile, I kept my position on top of her, pressing her shoulders against the wall.
I was confused and shocked.
“Why are you hurting yourself? Shouldn’t it be your horrible mother who deserves that? Why are you hurting yourself?”, I asked repeatedly.
“What mother?”, she frowned, with a hint of mockery in her voice.
I didn’t understand. Then as I watched a line of fresh blood running down from her wrist onto the white bed sheet, it suddenly clicked. There was no mother. Referring to a third person, she had never addressed anyone as her mother. It was me assuming it was her mother the whole time. Dammit. It was her. The horrible person to whom she was never enough… was her.
“Why are you so surprised?”, she asked, “You are in all this, remember?”
“What?”, I completely lost track of what she was saying.
“This”, it was her turn to abruptly grab my wrist, the knife held in my palm shaking, close to falling out, “Do it, or don’t. Tell me now.”
I didn’t know what to say. My mind was all clogged, I couldn’t think straight. As soon as my grip loosened, she took the knife from me. We locked eyes as she slowly continued slitting. Strangely, I could feel my own wrist being cut open. I could see blood running down my own arm, dripping onto my thighs. I started to feel light-headed, like I was hallucinating and about to faint.
My front door was suddenly slammed open. A woman stormed in, instinctively knocked the bloody knife off my hand then tried to stop the bleeding with a piece of cloth she found in her handbag. I had no energy or will to resist any of her doing. I let her squeeze me in her arms while she was crying and screaming my name. Lily. Lily. Stay with me. Lily…
What happened next was quite a blur to me but I remembered her calling the ambulance, people rushing in and out of my place, me trying to say, mum, I’m sorry, the whole way to the hospital but not being able to open my mouth. I had forgotten that my mother, real mother, was supposed to visit me every Thursday, and when she couldn’t reach me at all, knowing me, she knew something had gone terribly wrong. It had happened before.
Fortunately, the cut wasn’t that deep. I was saved and able to return to my normal life after two weeks. However, this time, I was officially diagnosed with chronic depression and psychosis.
From then, I wasn’t allowed to be on my own or have any sharp objects in my apartment. I had to take meds daily and see a therapist bi-weekly. Good news — they seemed to help but sometimes, to be honest, I wasn’t sure if I would like to be helped. I wanted my friend. She told me again and again, we would one day blossom like the flower in your name, Lily, and I let her go on and on.
Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. All names and events are fictitious.