Loneliness is an unbearable reality. At first, I did not understand it. It seemed like a process, rather than a condition. A process that was as gradual as it was painful, so slow in its lethal course that it was only perceivable when comparing past and present. It was a morning fog, when the only visible things are your own hands and feet, but everything else is drenched in whiteness. It was blurry and opaque, slightly nauseating. It felt tepid at the very beginning; it was white enough to look like a blank canvas – absence of anything but my own mind. I wanted to stain it, to let my thoughts free. I wanted an explosion, dynamite, a big bang. My eyes felt alive, sharp. I wanted to pierce nature with them. I wanted them to see, see everything, everyone; I felt prepared to become omniscient. My mind was raw. My ideas multiplying, fearless in a triumph of self-indulgence. Life slowly became a continuous cycle of observations, thoughts, observations, thoughts, obs-
Sea. The sea was my favourite thing to watch, especially after sunset, when its colours were dark and saturated. Cold and blue. At that time of the evening it seemed like everything turned blue with it. The sky, the pavement, the pebbles, my skin. Blue, so blue. I went to the beach and looked at the sea every day, alone. I listened to the waves and thought about stories that I could never bring myself to write – I would let my thoughts create them, end them and fade them into transient memories. I often forgot about time, but the sea was always able to remind me of reality. The cold was painful and the wind was always stronger than my limbs. I breathed on my hands and sat hugging my legs, like a hard shapeless rock. I thought and observed, drowning in blue. That had become my new existence; I embraced it with serenity at first. I was water, slowly turning into vapour, letting my mind occupy the emptiness in my vicinity, never letting anything touch me. I was volatile, invisible. In my thoughts, that had become the only way to exist.
When you're alone, the thought of death is inevitable. I never avoided it. I let it become a lingering presence in my mind – a little thought, a solitary fly buzzing and hiding among the corners of my mind. Small and dark and loud and always there. I accepted it, letting it grow and devour me as loneliness had become my only abstract possession. I could not admit it, but death was my most cherished thought. I was inspired by it, it slowly became an obsession. My evenings at the beach became colder and blacker. I started wondering if someone would have saved me if they saw my drowning figure fighting against the muddy waves, taking my last breaths before letting the sea devour me. The only living beings around were the sleeping seagulls that constellated the shore, some of them shouting isolated calls that echoed against the surrounding nothingness. No one would have saved me. I would have died. I thought about it for many evenings without letting the idea escape my mind, until one night I smiled at the thought, exhaling from my nose as my teeth welcomed the present.
As time passed, loneliness started feeling numb, toxic, a caustic anaesthetic. I became desperate for sensations. I let myself cry for days, panic until my heart would implode, love to the point of agony. Plum circles eroded the skin under my eyes; sleeping was hard and I could not bear silence nor darkness. Pain became a necessity, a vomit-stained gateway to happiness. I felt alone everywhere, even when I spent my nights immersed in uncaring crowds and chemically-coloured drinks, purple like the bruises covering my neck. Happiness was an alien concept, the loss of its memory causing an incessant hedonistic search for it in my own self-destruction. I remember the moment when I became aware of it. A nameless woman's fluctuating lilac hair tickled my stomach, her hand gripping my thigh. She gasped and looked at me. Her eyes were intoxicated, covered in violet veins. She asked, “Are you crying or moaning?”
I don't remember why I was crying, maybe because I did not know where I was.
“Why does it matter? Just keep going.”
Pain was addictive. I embraced it and cherished its wine-tainted memories of endorphin rushes, chocked screams, crusted blood. It was a companion. Self-hatred, agony, nausea – pain made me feel. I found it in the smudged scarlet smiles of strangers imprinted onto my skin. I found it in the stinging words of anyone who spoke to me. I found it in avoidance, judgement, pity. And, finally, I found it at the tips of my own fingers. I cannot tell how or when it began, it was like a dream; I knew it was happening, I knew it, but I did not know how it started or if it would ever stop. It took me a very long time to acknowledge it. One night, as I was walking home from the beach I stopped under a street light for a reason I can't remember. It was dark, but the pavement was perfectly illuminated. Red anemones were growing in its crevices. I looked at my wrists; they burned. The wounds looked like petals – they were the colour of daisies at dawn, white ribbons curling into a bleeding bud. All I could think was that they reminded me of a sunset, the way the naked flesh reflected the light. Glistening and tender.
I became more conscious of reality as it became increasingly meaningless. I let people drift and flutter around me; I watched them as they existed, let them use what was left of my alienated thoughts and body. Sometimes I talked to them too. One of them spoke to me every day; she was alone like me, but mysteriously content with life. She wore pink pearls in her ears, put peach blossoms in her hair, blushed when she smiled and talked with a slow, soft voice that gave me the impression of temporary calm. She often said that she loved me. She was like the sea; venerable but fearful.
The first time she kissed me was also the first time she discovered my wounds. She jumped lightly as she touched my arm, letting a trembling oh slide out of her lips, a polite acknowledgement of what she realised I had done to myself. Her fingers, fluctuating over my hand, were trembling too. Roses ravaged by a tempest. Her pupils had exploded into the surrounding shadows, the blue in her eyes turned into a thin grey halo. She wasn't crying – she never cried. She let her hand touch the skinless patches covering my naked wrist. It was a familiar pain; the dryness of fingertips against blood. She didn't stop when she heard my swallowed shriek.
“Does it hurt?” she asked, her look as caustic as her grip.
“Yes,” I replied. “It hurts. Stop. Please.”
She didn't stop. She held it tighter.
Deciding I did not want to exist any more was simple – in my mind, I had reached a lethal balance of pain and loneliness that was not only estranging me from reality and desensitising my emotions, but simply preventing me from being. It was so simple. It felt natural, walking in the dark along a railway, a few steps away from what did not feel like a choice any more. Death was an obligation to myself. I don't remember how far I walked; time was distorted. I remember how the flares of the train looked like suns, and how I thought they had blinded me. A chaos of yellow lights and regrets and thoughts – so many thoughts – was stabbing my mind from its very core. I think I screamed, but the train was louder. Everything was slow, slow, yet faster than I expected, like the sun revealing itself from behind the horizon in the morning. It felt like I had time. Time to think, look, act. There was a singular static presence in my mind: the image of yellow chrysanthemums shining over my grave – the centre of a storm of emotions I forgot existed. I could not stop thinking about it. Yellow chrysanthemums. I had to tell someone. Yellow chrysanthemums. My grave needed yellow chrysanthemums. I wanted to write it down, write it down on a note I would have left there. Yellow chrysanthemums. Then I would have waited for the next train. But then I thought about the wind – the wind would have blown it away – the note, the note saying “yellow chrysanthemums”. I needed to find a pebble, then put it over the note. That would have protected it from the wind. Yellow chrysanthemums. Yes. Yellow, brighter than the sun, brighter than the flares, so bright and alive. Yellow chrysanthemums. Yellow chrysanthemums.
I looked at the train and wondered if any of the passengers had seen me running away.
I don't remember what happened after I ran. I found myself on an unknown pavement, in the arms of a stranger. Her hair smelt of grease and weed, her eyes were wrinkled and absent, but sincere.
“What happened to you?” she asked. “Tell me if you can hear me. Please. Please.”
I nodded; she kept looking at me with a studious stare, as if she was trying to find an answer hidden in my features. I tried to speak, but my lips were feeble, like quivering stems – I could not control them. I smiled and I breathed.
“It will be okay,” she said.
I didn't reply. I let my senses accustom to the world again; I felt like I imagined a newborn would feel during its first moments of existence. There were trees around us, poplars with bright leaves and ivy embracing their branches. Delicate patches of grass enclosed the asphalt. Their smell was fresh and clean and crisp like cold wind. I thought about the bugs living amongst them, I thought about beetles and ants and small spiders as I felt my heart knock on my chest and my eyes swell with tears.
“You'll be okay,” she repeated.
“Please, bring me to the beach,” I whispered, before fainting again.
I refused to see anyone for many days, I could not bear the presence of people, everything about their existence disconcerted and nauseated me. Any word I pronounced felt dusty against my lips, like crusty pages of an old book. I spent my time looking at the ceiling of my bedroom as I talked to myself. I liked its white softness when my eyes lost their focus on it, it looked like a cloud – like fog. I looked at it as I thought about being alive. I wished life was as definite, simple and immediate as death; it took me a very long time to accept that it wasn't. Cold ocean winds, scars, a note saying “Yellow chrysanthemums” – I had to shape it and let it shape me.