I suddenly feel his warm breath on my neck, the colossal heat of his tongue. His scruff tickles my shoulder, grazing his lips to make soft, small kisses along my skin, the length of my throat. I shuffle in the sheets to press my bare back against his chest, and he places his hand between my breasts, bearing down on my sternum. I can feel the pulse in his palm, right to his fingertips, my heart thumping along with it.
“Breathe with me,” he says.
I listen. We breathe together, as one, sync our bodies with every slow inhale and every slow exhale, breathing in with our chests and diaphragms…breathing out through pursed lips. I close my eyes and follow his lead, listen to our deep and shallow breaths, the beating sounds of our hearts. I suddenly feel as if I might cry on his bicep, tears consuming my fluttering eyelids, bile forming in the depths, needing a release, a certain catharsis. He senses this, pressing his lips on the nape of my neck, kissing the top of my shoulder.
“It’s okay,” he soothes. “Let it go.”
I bring my small hand to his against my chest and interlace our fingers. I squeeze them when I feel the pain escape; chest tight, brows furrowed, face scrunched—tears spilling like rivers on boulders. I crack open, wailing from the pit of my throat, gasping for air as I take in hollow breaths. He holds me as I tremble and heave, encompass his frame around mine to protect my soul, a blanket around the open wounds and fiery blood. He manages to shift me around so I can tuck my head against his naked chest, and I pin my shaking hands to my closed eyes, embarrassed, diffident, hiding my fragility in the eyes of God. I whimper underneath his touch and he smoothes down my curls in comfort, quiet my cries with his kisses, whispers of love.
“It’s okay, baby,” he says. “I’m here. You’re okay.”
I drown in the pits of my hysterical cries, and I hear him, softly, sweetly, coaxing me out of the dark abyss. Surely, he knows about the taunting voices inside my head, the callous rope that hangs in the middle of the room. I’ve been avoiding the carcasses that creep up at work, the imminent despair dripping in the bathroom. He’s been watching me, a wallflower at every social event, bracing the wall as I put on the façade for millions, their dark eyes on mine. I’ve timed my nods, engrossed myself in conversations, delicate discretions, itching for some source of freedom, a subtle release.
I’ve been laying in bed for days, weeks; sleeping, breathing, sleeping—struggling to taste the rich soup, the vapid meals of the day. I find myself living only for dreams, settle in them; letting the cat sit heavily on my belly and press me down into the sunken pit of the bed.
But he’s been there, here; he’s been patient, kind, considerate, keeping me at bay before I slip off the ledge and plummet to sea.
“I’m tired,” I whisper.
He sighs and nods against my head, bringing me closer to him, enveloping his body over mine.
Then Reality sets.
I must be dying or ill, that’s the only explanation for it, for feeling his breath on mine, for him to have been watching, observing, peering from afar. I’ve been pretending not to see his body in corners, his shadows in dark hallways, his figure looming over my possible pending doom. He must have came to collect me, maybe, if I’m suddenly relying on his presence in the room. I’ve never approached him when he lingered in the doorway, never touched him when I stood too close. We always looked at each other, a mere glimpse at best, but he never spoke a word, made any sounds at all. It wasn’t until the cat came lurking in my bedroom, coaxing me to its side of the bed, that I’m able to feel him, now, against me.
He puts some distance between us so I can look up to meet his gaze, “But you’re going to get through this. And I’m going to be here with you every step of the way.”
If only that was true. He knows that isn’t true.
I sigh and blink away my tears, Reality shattering the glass above. “But you’re…you’re not really…”
He stiffens against me, “I am always here for you. You know that. I’ve always been here.” Does he not realize he’s…?
I shake my head, pressing my palm against his cheek, “But how can I…? I can feel you. I can touch you. But I know you’re not–”
“I’m as present and real as you make me out to be,” he says. He kisses my forehead then and I close my eyes when he does. Surely, I confirmed, I must be deranged. Yes, that is the only explanation, is it not?
I haven’t spoken for a while, but I hear the elephant stomp heavily besides us, asking to be acknowledged just at the foot of the bed.
“Then what is your purpose?” I ask, looking up at him.
He opens his mouth as if to speak the words of God, the ultimate and divine truth, but immediately shuts it. He doesn’t answer, resists the temptation to. He touches his lips to the top of my head instead, pulling me closer, squeezing me tighter, letting me wallow in the silence of the room. He must know that I know, and I wonder then, how much time I truly have left on my clock.
“At least you took a shit today,” he sighs, completely changing the subject. I furrow my brows in confusion and he grins at that. “Look, shitting is super important,” he happily explains. “And since you were able to get up and take a very, might I add, nasty shit, I’d say that’s a win for today, don’t you think? One step at a time, they say?”
I gasp and laugh at his always peculiar humor, wiping away the remaining tears dribbling from my nose, “Oh my God. Why are you like this?”
He smiles, chuckles with me, “And there’s that laugh I love. There’s my girl.”
He then leans down to press his lips to mine, and for the first time in three years, I feel them, his tongue against my own. It’s brief, gentle, angelic even—so warm, smooth, full—always so forgiving and sweet. I want to cry all over again.
He then pulls away, tickling my nose with his. “You got this, my love, ” he whispers.
I feel him shift, and then he’s gone.
If you are experiencing a mental health crisis, whether it’s depression or suicide, you are not alone. Please visit these websites and call the National Hotlines listed below:
SAMHSA National Hotline: 1-800-662-HELP (4357)
NAMI Helpline: 1-800-950-NAMI (6264)
National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255)