By Ela Vasilescu
I’m unfinished. Nothing is finished. Nothing will ever be finished.
I stand here, facing the Arno and I struggle to breathe in and out. This weight, this heaviness, this load is digging deep holes into what makes me be. There’s no beginning, nor an end to my story. And then there’s this feeling: of emptiness, of tragedy, of inhumane that shackles my instinct to breathe in and out.
We are made of stardust.
I look up. There are no stars in sight, just the rays of sun reflecting in the water, on the surrounding buildings, on the concrete edges of the banks. I look down. There is no danger of falling today, no desire to end it all. But will it really end? Will it really put a stop to the pain, to the tragic, to the inhumane? Will, it put an end to what makes me be?
Suicide thoughts are not new in my world. They lurked around my life ever since I understood that the dead do not return to walk our earth, our world. It was tempting, it was sweet, like delicate pear reduction and chocolate with a touch of mint in it to balance the taste. My first suicide attempt was childish and not very well thought out. After all, I'm still here today, writing this, sharing it with you.
I was sixteen years old. It was late summer; the kind of heat that makes you sweat even if you lay still in your bed. Mom moved us from our apartment to Grandpa’s place. I was told we were poor now. I thought we always were. Grandpa’s house was my childhood home, the home that hosted my playful self since I was only six months old. We moved out to what Mom called our home when I was seven. Now we were back, nine years later to build something new, something better for all of us, something that I believed Mom already had, but probably messed up yet again.
When my things invaded my old room, nothing seemed familiar anymore. This house that was once my cradle of peace was now cold, emptied of the people and the noises from the past. The children were gone, Grandma as well. But he was there, and for a while, it was enough. Until one summer afternoon.
I need to escape. I need to end this row of failures, other people’s failures, not even my own. It’s too much. All this pain, all this confusion, all this shit piled up and dumped into my lap as if I know how to clean it. I don’t know. I never have time to fail; I never have the chance.
My friends seem to know. They seem to be happy. They seem to be stupidly contempt with their lives, their homes, their age. I want to grow up or die. They all want to turn back time. I just want to be nineteen, out of the house, out into the world and be allowed to make my own mistakes instead of suffering those of others. There is no more “why.” “Why” disappeared from my vocabulary after that first beating when I was five. Searching for a reason is pointless if you have no control over what can come next. I scream, and no one hears. I laugh, and no one knows why. I pout, and they call me ungrateful. I can’t be in this world. I can’t breathe. I can’t move.
Grandpa’s old razor blade winked at me and whispered that it can do the job. My fingers played with the shiny metal and pressed it against the skin. Just to see if it’s sharp enough. A thread of bright red came out forming a perfect shape like a drop of rain. I sucked the warm liquid and smiled. I need to cut deeper.And I did. The fresh blood covered the white sink, and as if I couldn’t wait any longer I cut again, even deeper, and again, and again. This was it. This is it. I was going to be free. I will be free.
But I wasn't. The blood kept flowing out, and all I could think of was that I don’t want to die on the bathroom floor. I bandaged my wrist, smiled Grandpa’s way who was sleeping on the couch and stepped outside. My friends were gathered around the bench in front of my building. The blood kept rushing out through my bandage, and my senses began to slowly fail me. I sat down, surrounded by these teenagers whom I didn’t even like nor understand, and smiled at my end.
I will die here, outside, on this bench, the air touching my face, in front of the building that brought me happiness once, that hosted my laughter and tears once. I will die here among them, not alone, never alone, but always lonely, so fucking lonely. I will die like I lived, surrounded by people, under trees, feeling nothing except for emptiness.
“Ela, what the fuck?” one of my friends started shaking me when the blood started dripping down my legs. “What did you do?!”
They know now. This will be fun. They know, and they're freaking out. So calm, so lovely, such serenity and peace. Embrace the ...
I woke up a few hours later in a hospital bed, one of my friends snoozing in a chair next to me, holding one of my restrained hands. I tried to release myself, but the rope was well tied, not allowing any unauthorized moves.
“You’re awake,” my friend smiled and caressed my forehead. I can’t remember his name, but I will never forget his face. His dark complexion, his blue eyes piercing mine, his playful nature. He was the jokester of our bunch. The one that would hold everyone’s hand, the one we made fun of the most.
“Hi,” I managed to move my index finger to touch his.
“Why did you do that? What’s wrong? Whatever it is you can talk to me. I can help.”
I knew his words were spoken from the heart, but I also knew he was only one year older than me. How could he help?
“It’s ok. I didn’t succeed obviously. Note to self, never try to commit suicide in front of your friends,” I tried to joke, but he frowned.
“Not funny. You scared us all. You were lucky your mom wasn’t home, and your Grandpa was sleeping. No one knows yet, and we swore to keep the secret. This way you have a little time. What do you need?”
I turned my gaze away feeling a tear making its way down my cheek.
“Hey, I know. Look at me! I know!”
His last words made me turn to face him, and as soon as I met his eyes, I knew too. This wasn’t new to him. He’s been here before.
“I need a place to stay for a few days. And that isn’t....”
“Done!” He interrupted me. “My mom works night shifts this week. Which means during the day we have the place to ourselves because she sleeps most of the time and we can go out before she wakes up and leaves again.
Three days later I opened the front door of my house. Grandpa was out on a walk. Mom was sitting on the armchair in the living room, smoking a cigarette. I didn’t dare to say ‘hi,’ I didn’t dare to move, I didn’t dare to speak. I took two more steps and stopped in front of the bathroom door.
“Next time you try to kill yourself clean up the mess you leave behind. Have some decency at least,” I heard Mom barking at me.
I wasn’t ready to come back. I’m not ready yet. I wasn’t prepared to talk. I can’t speak to her. I wasn’t ready to live. I need to get out now.
“I just came to pick up a few things,” I finally spoke while going into my room.
“Oh, so you’re not staying. What am I supposed to tell Dad? That his favorite granddaughter wants to die and she failed but is not ready to come home?” she tried to provoke me.
At least this is my own failure. “You can tell Grandpa whatever you’d like. I can talk to him later when he goes out. You don’t need to make excuses for me,” I replied looking straight into her eyes with such hate that she turned away. “I will be back in a few days, but for now I need to stay away; otherwise my next attempt will be a successful one. Remember I’m a fast learner.”
I left her there, sobbing, mostly for her and for her failures. Or at least that’s what I like to think even to this day.
I look down, and nothing is standing between me and the end. The Arno is clueless and looks like a giant whose limbs float endlessly towards a promised freedom, the sea. The sea is deceiving. Its cruel, alluring nature can kill and make one smile at the same time. I despise the sea as much as I love it. The waves digging into mountains, shaping rocks, leaving hidden, unhealing scars, just like this feeling.
I tried. I tried to give in and follow my instinct. Like a month ago when I drove for eight hours straight, and the highway became a grey snake with no end. I looked at the guardrails, then at the speedometer, and back at the guardrails. I pushed the acceleration even more and flew past a few trucks. The shiny grey of the guardrails winked at me the same way that Grandpa’s old razor blade did years ago. But this time something was different.
I tried again a few days ago. I looked down from the fifth floor of my building and stared at the olive tree from my neighbor’s garden bellow. It seemed different from above, greener, fuller, calling me to embrace its branches. The feeling was strong. There was no plan, there were no repercussions nor a definite ending. There was just the act of jumping, collapsing into nothingness, no remorse.
“How can you even think of that?!” my husband asked me a day later when I was trying to describe the experience over a cappuccino. “How can you not think of us, of me, of Alana?”
“It’s not in my control. I...” I tried explaining but looking at him I understood there was no human way to describe an inhumane feeling. What could I have told him? That I feel nothing? That I see nothing past the action? That death is not even in my thoughts, but running towards it haunts me?
I sit by the sea now. I followed the Arno to its freedom into the Tyrrhenian sea to watch it disappear, blending into the blue-greenish waves. I look at my people building forts, following boats, facing the gentleness of the sea. My husband is teaching Alana how to swim, and they seem...they are happy. I look at the ant climbing on the keyboard of my computer and allow it to safely get to the other side. I listen to the soft song of the water, taste the saltiness of the air and the emptiness fades away for a moment.
Freedom. Such a small word for the weight it carries. Freedom of choice, freedom of being, freedom of living. After all, I’m still here today, writing this, sharing it with you.
We are made of stardust and drops of water.
Ela Vasilescu is a bilingual writer based in Florence, Italy. She cherishes stories and all aspects of storytelling, from those who recount them to the piece of paper hosting the words. E.V. believes that documenting people's life experiences is a great privilege that allows growth, acceptance, and humanity. Her work mainly focuses on culture, roots, storytelling and how to embrace diversity instead of fearing it; a philosophy which she tries to instill in her five-year-old daughter. You can see samples of E.V.'s work and projects on https://writerinflorence.com/. Her work has been published by various organizations and publications around the world.