When the darkness comes back
by neni demetriou
Suffering from anxiety and losing the one you love feels a lot like penance. And I can’t breathe; and Father, forgive me for I have sinned.
I used to slay my demon with my pen.
Used to exorcise him from the night, my mind, from my dreams, our bed; used to silence the hauntings that echoed in the catacombs of my brain with a touch of your hand.
Just breathe, you tattooed inside my ear, and I fought back against my belief that the world was only moments away from collapsing upon itself.
But one sunny day I reached up and your markings where gone, bloody teeth marks left in their place, and I knew who tore them apart; and the darkness was back.
I guess it must’ve slipped in through the window I left open after you decided it was time to go; just in case you wanted to come back home.
That’s when I knew: sometimes the demon wins.
Now I find him in the dirtiest places of my heart, humming to the beat of your last words.
I hear him loudest at night, right between turning down the lights and turning up the voices in my head. His voice is rough with memories—distorted and vibrating beneath my skin—his breath heavy on my chest, pushing down until I’m convinced I’m exhaling for the very last time.
It’s in this bed—the one where your side is stone cold and I see the weeds are rising tall over the bones of our last night together—that my thoughts grow roots, holding my body down in a graveyard that’s littered with our “I love you” and “Oh God.” And I’m not exactly doing anything to escape.
My demon’s chants is the soundtrack that buzzes in my ear, as I watch my pillows turn into tombstones, my curtains the willows that sing to the song of my soul’s weeping, my sheets your skin my tongue and lips worshipped. Trying to drown out his chants translates into playing the song that was on when the world disappeared from beneath my feet on that warm, New York City, May afternoon on the corner of 84th and York. And I’ll write.
Write, over and over again, hoping my words will become one with his psalms that will cast the right spell, resurrecting the dead—because there’s only one thing that’s missing from this eerily peaceful night.
But writing is hard, and writing is tough, and writing is a compulsion but so is the darkness, and it’s the most excruciating experience of my life when I write to relive the past, but letters form words anyway and I see my demon swirling around in the black ink I use to scar paper with, as I pen words of forgiveness for all the hurt I rammed through your soul.
I must be doing something right because the ground starts to tremble and I can see the resurrection, so I turn up the music and keep writing, as I feel my demon burn beneath my fingers, feel him roar inside my lungs, as I bring us back from the dead.
Except it’s wrong. It’s all wrong, because your smile isn’t perfect any more and your dimples sit awkwardly in your cheeks, and I know exactly who is wearing your face, whispering how you live inside another girl’s body now. I guess mine was too sour, too bitter. Too full of dark creatures that came uninvited on the good days when I thought I was cured, that invaded unexpectedly on the bad ones when I couldn’t bear to face the universe.
His cackles shake the earth, and the song is on repeat, and your—his—face becomes a carousel of everything that went wrong between us, and I’m not quite sure I can keep down what I’ve eaten, because you are—he is—still laughing, telling me you don’t want any more words, no more sorry’s, no more me—I’ve done enough damage. Telling me I can’t keep bringing you back and unearthing the past, but I swear I need to keep writing for you until it stops coming out as, “Forgive me.”
Forgive me for draining your light, forgive me for being so unfair and asking you to shine on the ugliest and sickest parts of my soul. Forgive me for not being the person you thought I was, for staining your heart with my blood-stained hands when all you tried to do was love me. Forgive me for not loving you enough and not in the way you deserved—but I swear loving you was the only thing I felt was really good at.
Bringing you back night after night, trying to rip you out of my body has left scars all over mine, and its to these gods I pray, as the darkness seeps through my lesions, colouring in every single sentence I ever wrote that drove daggers through your heart. It’s in this mausoleum that I can sit still, slow down time, touch your face and remember you, remember us, and how we were. Where I can remember the beginning—because I do not want to remember the ending.
And I stop the music, the undead returning to their graves.
I remember the first time I saw you—when the darkness lifted and everything in my head went quite—on that cold, New York City, January morning on the corner of 12th and Broadway, right outside The Strand Bookstore; your fingers on the spines of used book. A vignette into the future where your fingers would trace, Breathe, on the worst of days.
How curious, don’t you think? The first chapter of our story—me, a writer; you, a photographer—written outside my favourite bookstore. I did not know then, that the epilogue was already written by him, that my demon was holding the pen that authored our story. That it wasn’t a novel at all—it was an elegy of letting go.
And I knew then what a writer could and could not do.
A writer can hurt and nail feelings to paper, can raise the dead and bridge the gap between past and present, can bleed anxiety into fiction. A writer can tear through feelings and butcher memories, writing away the depression that begs for the sun where there is no match to light.
A writer lives to write and writes to live, writes to save their soul while I write to heal the wounds that still scream your name.
Just breathe; forgive me.
Perhaps the only thing a writer cannot do is rewrite the way we ended—believe me, I’ve tried.
neni demetriou is a fiction writer who fell in love with New York City after living in Los Angeles for two years. With an MFA in Writing from CalArts, she’s a Content Strategist by day and the Social Media Associate for Slice Magazine by night.
Image: Radomil via Creative Commons.
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