He scanned the contents of her desk out of curiosity, quietly assessing what her life had been like in his absence. There was only a notebook, a pen, and a mildly abused ashtray. He pondered what genius came up with the idea of crafting such an aesthetically pleasing object to contain the remains of cancer inducing dust.
She sat with her legs crossed, knees close to her chest, her mismatched socks stood out brightly against her otherwise plain dress. With a book in one hand and a cigarette in the other, she was attractive in a damaged goods kind of way. Lips you’d like to kiss but only infrequently. The sort of girl you’d allow to spend the night, but couldn’t wait for her to leave in the morning.
He wished he could say they sat there in a comfortable silence like the old days, but things had changed. She’d asked for her stuff back, and when he handed it over she wouldn’t look at him. How he yearned for her to glance his way and see the sorrow in his eyes, but she looked everywhere except his direction. She stared at the book now with such intensity, he doubted she even knew what she was pretending to read.
The silence continued to expand till he felt compelled to make his exit. He stood up and studied her one last time for any signs of affection, any excuse to give her a kiss, a hug, even a handshake. He remembered her laugh, and wished she would laugh now, how effortlessly she could have made the tension melt away. He searched her face for traces of a smile but all he found was indifference.
There is no greater enemy to our better judgment than pride. He felt a wicked anger slowly rising in retaliation to her disdain, and forced himself to walk away without looking back. If he hadn’t been so blinded by his contempt, he would have seen her shoulders drop with the air of one completely defeated by life. He might have seen the tears roll down her cheek and heard the sound of her heart break. He would have fallen to his knees if he saw the anguish on her face, the signs of a soul so broken that one glance would make you cry. He would have felt the emptiness she carried inside, and understood her suffering. He would have known it was the last time.
When he found her, it was too late. The horror of seeing her cold, lifeless body on the bathroom floor will never leave him. Her once glowing skin was a sickening tinge of blue, there was no longer a heaviness about her, only serenity. He opened his mouth to scream but felt sick and only a faint wail escaped. She’d slashed her arms wide open from wrist to end. Two deep, meticulous lines to satisfy his cruel intentions; she wished to leave nothing behind. There was so much blood he was certain she would have drowned even if she was still breathing.
He couldn’t move, couldn’t look away. When he came to his senses he noticed the ashtray had been emptied and rested on a ripped page. He rushed over to see what she had written. He expected an apology, an explanation, anything to distract him from the frightful memory of her asking to be saved. He couldn’t believe his eyes that it was blank. No forgiveness, no redemption, just a savage reminder that he had failed to say goodbye and spite had won. She had killed herself to prove a point.
How little it takes to save a life. How harrowing to know you never tried.