i'm writing in little letters because we were little when it happened. you weren't even 4'9". you wore a size 3 shoe.
i noticed the scratches on your skin when we were 12. pink, fleshy branches that curled around your arms and under your thighs and bled the pain that was suffocating your brain.
i asked you about them. and you said they didn't matter.
we were so little.
you started wearing jeans in blistering heat, even though i'd rarely have caught you in shorts before. you wore sweaters and said you wore them so the sun couldn't kiss your chestnut skin, but i could tell that there were forests under that wool. orchards of pink, fleshy branches digging their roots into your wrists and into your soul.
you didn't try out for the soccer team when we were 12 because you knew that the coach would have had to look at your shins. your beautiful shins the color of caramel that you practiced crosshatching on with your blood.
we were so little. and you were so young.
i wrote a eulogy for you and hid it in my desk drawer. right next to my colored highlighters i put it and with it lay a picture of us from the first month we met. i still have it somewhere. the eulogy i mean. i don't know why because i don't really want to remember when i was 12 and you were 12 and we were 12 and you were slowly killing yourself.
god, i was so little and you were so young and we were so sad.
i planned out the song i would play at your funeral when you died. "if i die young" it was by the band perry. you hate country and so do i but i thought the song was apt for the time. and you'd always wanted to play piano, so i thought i might arrange it on there for you.
god, we were so little.
i drew butterflies on my wrists for you and you drew butterflies on yours and then you murdered them all with the blades of your body and it shattered me and all i could think was god you are so young.
for a week in june you didn't come to school. i called your house but the line was always dead or it would just ring and ring so i emailed and gmail chatted but i got no response. i really thought you'd died this time. you'd cut too deep this time, i thought, you'd cut too deep. because i thought your fleshy branches had grown into redwoods that must've sucked up all the soil keeping you on the ground.
we were so little.
and then after a week you called me on my ipod touch and we facetimed and i said what the fuck happened to you. and you said i'm sorry, or rather i'm almost sorry, because i almost did something i'd be even sorrier for.
do you have any tylenol pm in your house you demanded, do you have any tylenol pm in your house.
why are you asking me, i screamed this and i remember this was late at night after everyone else was already in bed. i don't know, i don't know i don't care.
because you should hide it all.
you whispered this.
you need to hide it all you said because if i come over to your house and you are asleep then i will want to swallow the whole bottle and i will finally climb my way up the crimson branches starting at my shins and synapsing their way into my brain and i'll head into heaven with god or whomever you said.
and you said that you almost climbed those branches last week but you didn't. and i made you swear to me that you'd get down from your trees and promise never to leave. i swear to god, stay here i said i swear to god. you and your fleshy branches can't do this to me.
i think your mom found out that week but i can't remember. i know you stopped asking her to buy tampons because you didn't need them anymore and i think she realized that you weren't bleeding in the right places.
goddammit, you were so young.
you said you only used a knife once. you preferred your fingernails because it was more organic i guess and you didn't have to worry so much about cutting too deep. i knew that you'd break your skin just so you could exhale and you could breathe, and then you'd feel you were suffocating and do it all over again. and you told me not to tell and i kept my promise but i hate myself for it and i can't believe no one ever stops things when they should.
jesus fucking christ, we were so little.
you believed in god then. you still do. i don't know where i stand on the whole god thing but i do know that i still ask myself where the fuck he was when we were 12.
during all this time you barely ate. we shared this notebook and you'd cover pages in black and crosshatch on the paper the same way you did on your skin. you were spiraling into a black hole and you said i couldn't understand and i couldn't but i also didn't want you to die. and i sang the lyrics if i die young if you die young if we die young over and over and over again.
later some therapist helped you cut down your bloody trees and flowers once again grew in their place. but a landscape never looks the same when it's deforested. and you haven't been the same since.
you had four friends in middle school: depression, anorexia, self-harm, and me. i don't curse a lot but i've cursed a lot in this description and i have to say that when we were little it was a real shit time. and we're old now but it's shit too because last year you were in a different country and i was at school and you kept texting me that you didn't want to eat any food.
and i wanted to fly to you but i couldn't because we don't even have enough money to pay the bills at my house. but i wanted you to know and i still want you to know that i love you. i fucking love you and you can't leave me in this jungle of a world with all these entangled branches alone.
just know that i've never used tylenol pm and i never will and i will always be there to make sure you never either. i can't tell you how lucky i am and you are and we are that a bottle never killed you but i'm shocked that your fleshy branches never did.
and lastly i don't know if you know how much i love you but i know that i don't tell you enough.
and thank god it sucks that we have to live in this jungle of a world but thank god it's been five years since something grew on your wrists. and there are butterflies now, real butterflies that fly and maybe they're sent by god or whomever but even now when we're happy and you're safe and you're sound i still ask myself where the fuck he was then.
Photo by Sophia Liu