Everyone is fighting for something. Some of us fight for life. And some of us choose to fight for the death.
Catherine was sixteen years old. She was born in May, although she never told me the exact day. I just knew she was Gemini. The day I met her was very rainy and cold, and my wrist was bleeding again that night, because I was alone, and because Catherine was just another girl with nothing else but compassion for me.
She was in my English class for the rest of the year. And the next year as well.
“Do you think the moon is going in the circles around the Earth, or the Earth is going in the circles around the moon?” - oh God, I remember it as if it were yesterday, our very first conversation. We’ve never talked before since the moment when she asked me that question, randomly, during reading an English article about saving the whales in the ocean.
“I guess it’s only the Sun that really matters…” - her eyes were green, just like mine. But hers had some kind of sparks deep beyond her pupils. I was missing those sparks, my pupils were just giant black holes ending deep in my dark soul. One could drown in that emptiness.
She smiled at me. And with her soft voice that tasted almost like hazelnut said her name. Catherine. She was the girl who brought me a bag of potato chips after I showed her my scars, a year later.
That girl in the mirror is not me. It cannot be me… But it is. Why did I got a chance to live when I have to suffer? That girl in the mirror scares me, she’s too dangerous and yet nothing. I don’t trust her smile, just look into her eyes. She wants to die so much that she doesn’t realize she’s already dead, deep inside. No, that girl in the mirror cannot be me. Why? Why it’s me? I hate her! Hate her! Everything is her fault! I HATE HER!
And then I kicked the mirror. The smooth texture cracked within a second and pieces of sharp glass were falling down with a noise of screaming, just like the scream of my guts and viscera. The tears were running down my cheeks. But I was quiet. The only thing I did was sit down, took a piece of broken mirror, rolled up my sleeve, and dig another holes in attempt to find something alive inside myself.
A year was gone, and Catherine had other interesting question that was about everything but English. She wasn’t really ‘literature’ person, although she used to read poems and stories that I wrote. We often spent all summer nights together, usually near the river with a bag of potato chips, chewing gums, and sherbet, and were talking long hours. About production of potato chips, shapes of the clouds in the sky, airplanes in the sky, sky in general, and sometimes about our lives.
One night, it was one of the warmest night I’ve ever survived, while we were sitting and discussing conservants in a bag of potato chips, some strange feeling came through me. I think it was a clue that that was the time.
“You saw my scars, didn’t you?” - she was still smiling. You could tell her that there is no more bags of potato chips, or that she just missed the last bus home, so she has to walk two hours, she would smile anyway.
“Everyone is fighting for something. Some of us fight for life. And some of us choose to fight for the death. It is your fight. I can stand by your side, but after all, all that remains is you.” - and she handed me a bag of potato chips with my favorite flavor.
We didn’t talk anymore that night, at least I don’t remember it. Just quietly finished second package of chewing gums. We didn’t even open the potato chips bag. Instead, we stood up, and went to the different directions. She was the first person who solved riddles on my wrists without any hints.
It was her family’s tradition during the summer to make a party for all the people around their neighbourhood. They’d always invite me, even though my neighborhood was half an hour away.
I really loved her mom - very open and generous woman, she never drank more than two bottles of beer. She was smiling just as much as Catherine, and the way her teeth were organized into a straight row was similar to Catherine’s as well.
Catherine’s dad was a very tall man, with big eyes and Czech accent. He would made his popular “Garden Mac & Cheese” for everyone, and also offered a can of beer. Catherine’s parents were very nice people who appreciated their family, and were proud for themselves for what they’ve done.
Lena, Catherine’s sister, was two years younger than me. She was the only sibling Catherine had. And she was the literature one. When I first came to their place, she was sitting on the couch, reading Looking For Alaska. She said Alaska is stupid. And I started to laugh and then fight for good name of Alaska. Catherine left to the bathroom, and I was arguing with Lena for long ten minutes. She was only thirteen by then, how would she understand that Alaska rescued herself when committed suicide? It’s like a disease - I mean, suicide. There are people who are born with those thoughts in their heads, and you cannot rescue them. Tragedy in your veins, blood in your brain. I understood Alaska.
I knew her for one whole year, and she knew me for one whole year. Catherine. I guess we became best friends. She knew everything about me, but didn’t say a single word. Only her presence changed everything, in a way I cannot explain. Suddenly, there was somebody who would discuss such a primitive and useless topics, as colours of chewing gums and impact of flavors of food on the person. It was awfully worthless stuff, but God damn it, it mattered.
And by then I realized that everything matters. Even moon. It’s not only about the Sun. But by then it was too late.
After a year and a half of our intensive friendship, Catherine called me around 8 pm on Thursday, normal work day. It was end of October, pretty cloudy and cold day. She wanted to meet at our place near the river. I’ve always dreamt about a friend like that, who would call me at any time and ask me for the very last thing that would come to your mind. So I dressed up and bought some sherbet on my way.
When I came, Catherine was already there. But she was not smiling, she was crying. And that killed me. I thought nothing except myself could kill me, but at that moment I knew she is the one who is allowed to do that.
“I did not bring any chips, I am sorry,” she started with shaking voice. I hugged her, and she stopped cry.
“At least we have some sherber, eh?” she taught me how to smile, so I did it. I smiled despite my bad feeling. She held me up, now it was my turn.
“You remember when you showed me your scars? I said something, I don’t remember what exactly it was…”
“Everyone is fighting for something. Some of us fight for life. And some of us choose to fight for the death…” my voice whispered in unfamiliar tone.
And then she smiled. “Paulina, you were honest. And I decided to be honest too, because you deserve it. I know you hate yourself. I know you’re the one who chose to fight for the death. But listen, listen… What if you didn’t have such a choice?”
I would jump. I wouldn’t wait. I. Would. Jump. I wouldn’t be this weak. I wouldn’t killing myself with every new scar. I wouldn’t wait. I. Would. Jump.
Catherine went on: “I have five months, nothing more, nothing less.”
The wind was blowing and I was cold to death. But suddenly I felt everything. I think that in that particular moment, my soul moved, and after the months and months of deadly silence inside myself, I could feel that something alive was still there.
Catherine’s going to die.
And she did.
Five months later, I attended her funeral. It was one of the brightest days of March. Her parents were broken down. Lena was sitting on the chair and quietly cried.
“Hello Lena,” I couldn’t say anything else.
“Hello Paulina,” she looked at me with her eyes full of tears.
We were sitting for a while, quietly, and then she spoke: “I understand Alaska, Paulina. I understand her. It’s so easy to be rescued. I understand her, Paulina. I really do…”
I hugged her, and hold her in my hands until she stopped was able to kill the scream that was crawling from her throat.
“Everyone is fighting for something. Some of us fight for life. And some of us choose to fight for the death. And Lena, your sister fought for life. You know what? You know what? It’s not fair. There is barely anything fair in this world, but, oh my God, Lena, life is just an instance. Death is breathing on your neck with every step you take. It’s so easy to die, the hardest part is to be alive. And your sister knew it, and she loved to fight. Let’s fight for her, okay? Let’s not give up. Let’s show that we are worth life. Everything matters.”
And it really does.
You can be happy. You just have to choose it. Look at that smile, yeah, that’s it girl! You can be happy, just choose it. Maybe you could cut your hair, yeah, that’s a good idea, maybe little bit change the colour. See? Come on, smile again! Look at your dimples! There comes the sun, close your eyes. You feel the warmth? Isn’t it beautiful? Can you believe that girl is you? Okay, one more time, smile! See, now you cannot stop!
Catherine, you saved me. I miss you. And potato chips. The taste will never be the same, and I guess they changed the technique of production or something, but it’s mostly because of your absence.
You showed me that even despite the darkness in my life, there’s also Sun that matters just as much as the moon.
I still love the sky, and every time I feel desperate, I look upon. And suddenly, my choice is clear - life.Thank you!
2015; Mavis Agony