"And if you're still breathing, you're the lucky ones
'Cause most of us are heaving through corrupted lungs,
Setting fire to our insides for fun."
Youth by Daughter
Death, illness, despair sweep spirits away with a breath, a sigh, and leave the bodies to rot away with the living and the suffering and the dying alike.
When our hope has left us and there is nothing more to cling on to, we crumble apart. Piece by piece. Brick by brick. Stone by stone. Hair by hair and nail by nail and scab by scab and cell by cell. We watch the girl with the pigtails and the pink ribbon, the one who still laughs and sings with the birds, and there is sorrow in our eyes. We watch her and pray that for her sake and for our sake and for the sake of all human vitality that she keeps the color in her cheeks that matches the color on her dress, and that the light in her eyes that is lit by the smallest thing and has not yet been extinguished will never be.
We see her in our sister and our ally, too young and too pure for this life.
And it is a fact that people fall and collapse into dust.
Faceless men and women, nameless children.
They all disappear.
And when Pigtails and Pink Ribbon is gone and the sparrows are quiet because their companion has stopped in the middle of the song, there is no longer anything to watch; Nothing flashes in the features of our faces.
And what then?
Helplessness consumes us. We consume us.
We are torn apart from the inside out. We search for oblivion.
Scars, marring the paper of our skin like a scraggly line of grey forced from our hand by a tremor in the arm, like the scratches in the surface of a glossy tabletop from a chipped old mug that is no longer in use, sitting alone with the dust and the dead flies. We are defective, damaged, broken, beaten. We are bitten lips, red and raw and swollen to match bloodshot eyes and deep under-eye circles. Anxiety and trauma lift their heads in the form of cracking knuckles, craving sugar. Losing control. Being alone. It is an undetected illness by the ignorant and undeniable to the rest.
We see it in our neighbor, our mentor, too torn apart to be mended and too hurt to be healed.
Bloodied and bleeding, we let our veins run dry and drip out all our sins. Crystalline tears leave trails in the black soot of our cheekbones, too prominent, and dissolved secrets seep out of our beings along with the salt. Bruises, purple and yellowing, cover our skin until we cannot even feel the pain of the blows that are inflicted upon us. And we only stop when we have hollowed ourselves and each other out. Empty. With a deep cavity containing the darkness of the shadows we see at night, the shadows that haunt us in our waking dreams and our nightmares, the shadows beneath our eyes and the shadows in them. Numb. Deaf. Blind. Void.
We question whether we will ever be able to finish, to survive, to make it through to see the dawn instead of the eternal dusk that has become all too familiar. While we would like to tell ourselves yes, we answer that question before we ever get the chance to speak out, and our answer is the wrong one: our answer is no.
We have lackluster fantasies about defrosting our hearts that for too long have been encased in ice.
And we sit outside in the cold just to feel the chafing sting of the wind, because that's the closest we can get to feeling again. Although we know in the back of our minds that the rain that whips our faces is nothing like love, at least it helps us remember what love used to be. Even though we lock our memories up in cages of denial and lies, somehow one always manages to slink through the bars, on tiptoes so we don't realize in time to shove it back in the cage and lock it in place. Secure and silent. And interestingly enough the majority of the time the memory that steals away into our conscious thought is a good one, though it leaves us with a bad taste in our mouths.
We see it in the little mad girl who is only loved by those who are going mad themselves.
And although our feet continue to take us from place to place and our limbs continue to operate and our stomachs continue to churn, our brains have lost the ability to process. We are breathing ghosts, lifeless yet living on. Only perceptibly alive by the graphite outline around ourselves, drawn in at the hand of an otherworldly source; A schoolgirl, a smile, as elusive as that evasive hope that slipped through our fingers when we were gripping it as tightly as our fragile bones would allow.
We are humans who have gone bad.
Words that once mattered, we no longer hear; People that once meant, people that once meant something palpable and real, people that once held within themselves the definition of meaning itself have no meaning whatsoever; A lullaby sung by the eternal voices of grandmothers and ancestors in unison fail to evoke emotion; Tells no longer exist, not in the way we once knew them; Ticks of a facial muscle, a hand, a knee quivering continuously up and down like a reflex, have departed the human vocabulary that is physical actions.
Like a silhouette, we are ebony.
Once we have burned up until nothing remains to burn and all the carbon has fluttered off of our charred selves like dead leaves falling from a dying tree, the calcium in our bones is blackened and we have completely and utterly combusted in every sense of the word, then this is the only tell there is: blankness. That is the tell of a man, a woman who has died alive.
We know it because he is that man and I am that woman and we are together in this living afterlife.
And we find ourselves fading away.