The hair on the back of my neck stands and the unmistakable feeling of being watch settles deep in the pit of my stomach. I cast a glance around me, trying to figure out if it’s my min playing tricks on me or if there is indeed someone watching.
It takes a while, but I find him eventually, his beautiful face impossible to miss in the sea of people surrounding the bar.
I’ve heard about him, from friends and family. I’ve read stories about him, and in that moment, when our eyes are locked, I feel naked. It feels like he’s seeing straight through to my soul, learning every single secret I carry with me. And because of his name and his reputation, I avert my eyes first and pretends he doesn’t exist.
“Do you know him?” My friend asks.
As the word leaves my lips the bartender sets a drink in front of me, smiling sweetly while pointing towards the beautiful man. “He said to say hello” She calls over the thumping bass in the background. Then she’s off again, heading towards another costumer.
I cast a sideways look towards him again, pushing the drink away from me with a frown. I know the games he plays, how he wants me to lower my guard long enough for him to wheedle his way in. So I know better than to take his drink.
“I’m off to the dance floor” My friend grins. “And you should go talk to mister handsome over there. If not to talk to him, then to at least thank him for the drink” Then she’s off.
I watch him as he pushes his way through the crowd, zeroing in on the empty stool my friend left. He takes it without asking, his knees pointing towards me, giving me his undivided attention. I knew he wouldn’t take the hint. I knew he’d try again, and that he’ll continue to keep trying. Again, and again. He’ll follow me until I give him what he wants.
“I’m -” He starts, but I cut him off before he gets further.
“I know who you are” I answer, turning my head in time to watch as a small wave of shock forms on his features.
“You know me and you still won’t give me attention? That’s a bad move”
I shrug in response, turning away again, not wanting to give him anything, trying to will him away with my silence.
I don’t know how long we sit like that, but eventually he gets up from the seat with a heavy sigh, his hand gliding along the counter top before coming to rest on my forearm. Then he leans in and lines his lips against my ear.
“You’ll regret not giving me attention”
His words makes a shiver of fear run down my spine before it settles and spreads in my stomach. I know I should turn around and give him what he wants, but I’m not ready. Not yet. I need more time, just a little more time.
My friend rushes to my side when he disappears into the crowd of people. She puts a warm, comforting hand between my shoulder blades. “What happened? Are you okay? Seriously, who the hell was that?”
I hold my breath and turn to glance over my shoulder, my eyes searching for him. I find him leaning against a wall in the back of the club, watching me like a hawk. He’s angry at me, pissed off actually. And I don’t blame him, because in a twisted way he’s trying to help me, like he was wired to do, but I won’t let him, so he gets mad.
“That was sadness” I whisper
He follows me around for weeks, months, lurking in the shadows in the light of day and hiding in dark alleyways when night has fallen. He tries repeatedly to get my attention, when I’m at school, when I’m out with my friends, when I’m trying to sleep.
I pretend he doesn’t exist every single time, I pretend until he won’t let me anymore.
It happens when I’m on my way home from a night out. I’m walking with my friends, having absolutely no care in the world when an hand grabs me by the elbow and drags me into a nearby alley. An arm gets wrapped around my throat from behind, the forearm pressing tightly against my windpipe.
“You should have given me your time”
As soon as the words leave Sadness’s lips another man emerges, his steps echoing loudly as he walks towards me. I struggle against the arm pressed against my throat when I see who it is. It’s the most feared man of all, not just for who he is, but because everyone knows what to expect when he arrives. And as soon as I see the look in his eyes I know I’ll get beaten to a pulp tonight. Because that man doesn’t mess around. He doesn’t ask for attention, he takes it. He doesn’t want you to talk to him. He wants you to bleed, nothing else.
His name is depression.
I have no idea how I manage to withstand his beating. Hell, I don’t even know how I still manage to breathe after he’s done with me. But for some reason I do. I’m curled into a fetal position, laying whimpering and whining onto the cold asphalt. My face is completely bashed in, and I ache absolutely everywhere. A couple of ribs are broken, my leg is at an odd angle, and my lungs burn every time I exhale.
I’m an inch away from loosing my life, I can feel it in my soul. This is where depression wants me too, just inches away from death. It’s how he operates, how he was taught, how he’s wired. He stops his beating when people are a breath away from death, to give them the option to either give up or continue.
With a strength I didn’t know I possessed, I crawl out of the dark alley after they leave. I drag myself back to the curb before I roll over and collapse onto my back. Several of my friends and family walk past me, very few of them stopping to take a second look. Some try to help by offering a hand, but when I take too long to grasp it, they continue walking again. Some only pretend to help, pressing a knee into my chest to keep me down while grabbing my hand to give off the illusion that they’re trying to pull me up. I quickly loose count of how long I lay there, and how many that passes me, but it feels like an eternity. I’m stuck there on the pavement, cold and alone in complete and utter darkness.
I debate with myself whether or not I should give up. I wonder if it would matter, if people would miss me. The healing process is slow and painful, and I’m tired.
My eyes starts to droop, and I feel my body wilting, slowly but surely shutting down. I flex my fingers, one last time, a desperate attempt to hold on to something.
The tip of my fingers touch something warm and soft and I lift my head with a start to take a look.
“Hey” He whispers. His voice calm and smooth, making warmth spread in my bones. “You okay?”
“Not really” I manage to choke out through my chapped lips. “You?”
“Me? I’m fine, I just saw you laying here and thought I’d join you” He turns his head towards me, offering the sweetest smile I’ve ever seen.
“He didn’t get to you too, did he? Depression I mean?”
“Then why are you laying here?”
“You can’t get up yet, so I laid down instead” He shrugs like it’s no big deal, like he didn’t just give me something to cling to. Like he didn’t just give me hope. “Take as long as you need, we’ll wait for you”
“We?” I twist my head to take a look, searching for more people.
“Yeah. We’re a whole bunch. People who already love you and people you’ll meet later in life, who’ll love you too. Your family, a few friends, me. We’re many” He explains as he smiles that sweet smile again. “We’re all waiting for you”
“I don’t think I can do it on my own” I confess, feeling weak and powerless, because I feel like I should be able to do this alone.
“We’ll help when the time is right” He interlaces his fingers with mine, giving my hand a comforting squeeze. “I promise”
Little did I know that the man who laid beside me, offering strength on a silver platter, would have many names and roles in my life. He’s happiness, love, joy, laugher and hope. He’s frustration, anger and fighting. He’s gentle, patient, and kind. He’s loving kisses and warm hugs. He’s dirty clothes on the floor and laughing at my bad jokes.
He’s my best friend.
He’s the father of my child.
He’s the love of my life.