They tried to tell her that I could not feel. I used to think that I probably couldn’t, that I wasn’t capable of love or affection. Physical sensations evaded me, was it possible that emotional sensations were an illusion? They tried to convince both of us that I was not capable of permanence. I want to be, I really do.
At some point I had to give it up, though. I had to convince myself that as much as I loved her, or thought I did, being permanent was up to her. They tried to tell her I wasn’t real, I’m not ready to believe that yet. I cannot understand how she can be everything to me if I am nothing. Do they want me to believe I am space, a small, misplaced piece of the cosmos? I feel. I feel so much that I think words are not enough, I feel so tethered to my being that I cannot express everything I need to, everything that seems to be consuming me. I try to accept it sometimes;
You aren’t real Damian, you aren’t real, you do not exist.
I see myself, I hear myself, she knows that I am here.
I am, I am, I am.
Lucy always says goodnight, and then it is dark. It is also nearly silent, as if I can only hear when she does. There is only her heart beating steadily in my ears, keeping her alive. I am reassured. When the now familiar sound first surfaced, I thought it was an army marching to battle. Destruction. Fear. Chaos. Now, it safety, and I know she is asleep.
I have never slept, I only wait for her to need me again. That is when I am whole.
When the darkness comes at night, I cannot see much, but I can see her. Her eyes are closed, and God, she is beautiful. Everything comes to focus on her. She is my entire existence and I did not know why for a long time. When I was still young, before I started aging as Lucy did, I used to try and reach out to touch her, but I couldn’t, unless she wanted me to. Unless, somehow, she guided my hand to her face, or reached for it herself. Even then I did not feel the sensation of touch as much as I felt it’s absence.
The saddest day was when I realized that I lived only as she did. Until we turned nine, I thought everyone was like I was, that they had a tether, that they lived for someone else. Isn’t that what love is? Being connected at all costs? I can only see as she does, I cannot move without her, I hear through her ears. I am with her always. I realized I loved her when I found that only I could truly understand her. It was a sign, I thought, sheiseverything.
It wasn’t troublesome until later on, until she did not grow out of her “imaginary friend” as her parents called it. I did not understand. I saw them, I heard them, though I could not touch them. Why could they not hear me, see me, feel my presence? Soon, there was fear. And I saw it build up behind their eyes, stronger, contagious. Lucy and I sat on the staircase, “Something is wrong with our child, she seems so unattached”.
Surely, they were joking. Unattached? We were very much attached. Always together, always in sync, surely it was a mistake.
I told her not to worry, and she listened.
The doctor’s first came when we were ten, they told us that they wanted me gone, that there was something wrong with her because she saw and heard me. I did not know why that was wrong. They called me a hallucination. We looked it up, it meant that I was not real, that I existed only for her. We listened at the door while they told Lucy’s parents that she was schizophrenic. That she was crazy. That they wanted me gone.
You aren’t crazy Lucy, I am here.
I felt her heart beat slow to it’s normal steady drum.
When we got home, after a car ride so silent I thought I may have lost my connection to her ears, I asked Lucy to write my name on her arms, so that when they tried to steal me from her, if they ripped me away, she would always have me. Part of me hoped secretly that it would show them I was real, that I was not a hallucination, that I loved her and she loved me and they could not take me from her.
When her mother found Lucy sitting in her room, my name written all over her arms and legs, backwards across her face in smeared black marker, she screamed. Suddenly she was doubled over on the ground and sobbing as if she had lost someone.
I did not know why I was so horrifying.
That was the first time she looked at us like we were a monster.
It was not the last.
Soon I learned that Lucy listened to what I told her. She somehow believed I was good. I did not use it to hurt her, only for good, only to make her happy.
Yesterday, I asked her to go swimming.
“Anything for you Damian”, she said, and walked out to the yard, climbed the fence to the neighbor’s yard. She touched the water first, staring at her reflection. It was serene, still, calm. I could have watched her like that forever, but I wanted to feel the cool water. I wanted to see if I could.
And then we were surrounded, falling, almost as if we were in slow motion. We could not breathe and Lucy flailed around, sinking, shaking, opening her mouth to scream and inhaling the water involuntarily. I wondered how something so beautiful could cause her pain. A double edged sword. I wanted to help, I reached at to grab her but grasped nothing. I felt nothing. There was screaming and commotion from outside what I thought would be our burial site and her father pulled us out of the liquid prison. They shook her, begging for answers, asking what would have possessed her to risk her own life.
“Damian wanted to go swimming.”
Her parents cried together, they called the doctors the next day, worried about their little girl, afraid she was damaged.
It was me.
I wanted to scream, to explain. I just wanted to feel the water. I wanted to feel alive.
I would never hurt her. They are trying to destroy us. This is not a problem, I am not a problem.
I told her that they did not want us together. Lucy told me that she loved me anyways. She told me I was real to her.
On Thursdays, ever since they first started calling Lucy “insane”, we go to therapy. The woman is nice, and when we were young enough to, she let us play with the toys.
I learned later that they thought she would grow out of it, grow out of me. They assumed that by nourishing her mind and exposing her to human contact, she would let go of me. She did not.
They pulled us out of school a couple of weeks after the diagnosis. We began to go to therapy on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Saturdays too. That was when it became a threat. They would make us answer questions, interrogating us, as if Lucy was a criminal. She tried to tell them, because I could not speak for myself with them. Listening was not a typical occurrence. I was the target.
It has been seven years since our first appointment. It has been ten since Lucy found me in the dark parts of her mind she had not explored. We are seventeen. She is beautiful. I cannot leave now.
She is sitting in a chair, I am sitting below her. They tell her mother that the medication isn’t working. She doesn’t take it, I taught her how to hide it, how to trick her parents and trick the eye, though it isn’t difficult. There’s something missing from her mother’s eyes now. I told Lucy what what the little blue and white pills would do. As fascinating as they seemed, they were supposed to kill me, to make me disappear.
I fear the oblivion. I worry about where I go once the tether is cut. Maybe they are right, maybe I am a hallucination. Poison.
No. No, I cannot be. We are good for one another, ours is a timeless love.
We are in a room and it is cold. There are four doctors now and they are yelling. Everywhere there are tears. I taste salt, I have never cried. I did not think I could. We are scared. Lucy reaches for my hand.
I am not letting go.
She looks them in the eyes for the first time, “I am not letting go.”
Silence. I hear her heart beat. I am safe.
Lucy hasn’t smiled for weeks and she doesn’t laugh much. We wander. Wanderer’s. That is all we are. In between our world and the next, between appointments and solitude. Emptiness.
I wonder if it is my fault. For the first time in our life, I wonder if she wants me gone, I wonder if I should go. I cannot lose her. Our love is eternal.
She is so beautiful, even when she is so solemn that the crinkles in her eyes have disappeared. I know now that I could lose her, I know that what they say is true. I am not real, but she cannot know.
Questions consume me now. How did I get here? How was I created? What am I? It does not matter. I would lose her if she knew. She cannot. In that moment I know that we need to leave. I need her all to myself if I wish to keep her, if I wish to hide the fact that our lives are both built upon a lie. The lie that is everything I am.
I tell her to run. She does.
“You know best, Damian.”
We take nothing with us, only each other, and we are gone, out the door, running so fast that the heartbeat in my ears is so exasperated that I almost feel it myself. Almost think I could know how it feels to be alive.
Every step that she takes I hear the sound of a heart breaking. First, her mother’s, finding her room empty, she will scream and collapse, I see her on the floor the day she decided that I had turned her little girl into a monster. I did.
Next, her father’s, but he will not cry. He will stay stone cold, empty, desolate. Lucy. Lucy. Lucy. I am destroying her.
Her’s will be the next heart I break.
Mine is last. I know I shouldn’t, I know that I am proving to them everything they had been trying to prove to her for years, but I let her keep running.
Faster Lucy, they want to hurt us.
I am poison. She shouldn’t see me.
Crazy. It’s true, all of it, everyone was right. She is crazy. Not crazy for seeing me, or hearing me, or calling me Damian, not “the hallucination”. No, not crazy for any of those, crazy for loving me. Poison. I am poison. Killing the only thing that made me think a monster like me could love anything, could care about anything, could be permanent.
I’m sorry, I’m sorry, I’m sorry.
We are alone now, in some sort of clearing and it is empty. I am empty. I need to let her go now. Lucy’s breaths are quickening, I can see her face begin to replicate the day when we were surrounded by water. For a moment, everything seems to be suspended around us. Stopped cold.
And then, it is dark.
This is the first light I have seen in days, but I have been replaying the same instance for most of them. She was so serene as her eyes closed, as she fell to the ground. Terror and adrenaline, they had said. Her system shut down. She was overwhelmed. The doctors told her parents she would be fine, but I knew I would not be.
I have to leave her now, because everything I had thought love was, was wrong. It is not the connection, the tether, no. It is leaving them when you need to. Cutting yourself from the tether so that they may use it as a life line. I love her, I do.
Lucy, I need to go. They were right. I am a hallucination. Forget me.
I taste salt. Lucy is crying. She tells me not to believe them.
Let me go.
“You know best, Damian.”
And she does, and I feel it. For the first time, I feel, and I am ripped away. The pain starts in my feet and progresses up my legs, my torso, my neck, my skull. White hot. And just like that, the tether is cut.
I am sorry. I am, I am, I am.
It is silent without her heartbeat, but I no longer fear the oblivion.