Once, I think, the apartments had been nice. Once, they had been new. Once, loving families had lived in them, made them home, hung paintings on the walls and laundry from the windows. There had been the swirling scents of home-cooked meals, and the floating laughter of children down halls and corridors, and the people knew each other and cared.
Then, time passed. The families grew up, and grew apart. Children aged out of homes, and the elderly were left to die alone. Soon the wallpaper faded, and the lights grew dim, and the windows became clouded and opaque. And because nobody cared, nothing was ever done about it, and as one generation left, a new one came in and took for granted what was: misery and gloom.
This is how I felt in apartment 515. And, I’m certain now, how she felt upstairs in apartment 615. Somewhere in between the glum mood and barren halls we found each other, and for a brief moment – an eternity that just couldn’t quite last long enough – we were able to escape the misery of the daily grind and the bleak dank.
But in the end – at the end of all things, really – we knew it wouldn’t last forever, because nothing ever does. And when I first stepped into her own lost apartment, I thought it was my own; the same wallpaper peeled from the drywall, the same drips fell from the ceiling, and the same rush of steam could be heard through the pipes and the walls.
It was strange, to think that this is where she came to be in the end; it was strange, to think that after all we had found together, that loneliness is what broke us apart. Because for some of us, loneliness is all we ever truly know, no matter how many people surround us, and no matter how much love we have to give the world.
I knew it was the end, because of the drips. I knew it was the end, because when I entered the room there was no sound, no breath, no welcome smile glinting in the dark.
But then again, what are endings but new beginnings? What is death, if not a renewal of life? What is He, except something to be known throughout life, coming and going as He pleases, and bringing with Him always despair?
So I stepped into her apartment for the last time, and I knew she was there, and also not. I crossed to the bed by the window, which saw no more of a view than my own. I flicked the light switch, and received no more illumination than the dull bulb downstairs. It was all ghostly familiar, and somehow different all the same. I looked about, and saw the bathroom door ajar.
I wasn’t scared; I wasn’t sad. It was what I knew had to happen. It was what He had told us would come to pass. I followed my instinct into the tiny, cramped tile box, and there she was, awash in the glow of blood in water, dripping, dripping, dripping onto the floor. There she was, breath dreadfully shallow and faint, hair drifting in the warm water. There she was, in all her splendor and beauty, in all her misery and despair, and I sat on the edge of the tub and looked at her for the last time.
And then, she opened her eyes and saw me above her, and she smiled. A true, genuine, love-filled smile like none that had ever graced her lips before. “You came,” she said.
“How could I not?” I answered softly.
“I was so lonely,” she said painfully.
“So was I.”
“Is that why you came?”
I shook my head softly. “No; no, my dear. I came because I love you.”
“I love you too.”
For a moment then, we stayed quiet: her losing life in the tub, and me looking upon her lovingly and longingly, and then I took off my shoes and I stepped into the tub with her. She laughed in her pain. ”What are you doing?”
“I’m here to be with you,” I answered. “I’m here to the end.” I settled into the warm water, so deeply shaded with her life, and I reached out my hand to hers. She was too weak then to reach up, but I felt the faintest of grasp from her fingers, and it was enough.
“What happens next?” I asked.
She sighed. “I don’t know. I don’t remember. I just … I just know that He won’t be there.”
I nodded. “There’s never been an escape from Him, really. He’s always been around. Sometimes you run, and sometimes you hide, but He always finds you in the end.”
“Shall I sing to you, my love?” I asked.
She smiled, ever so gently. “Please.”
So I hummed a tune, one I learned from a child in a playground in another life. “One for joy,” I sang. “Two for sorrow. Three for the life around us; four for the world of tomorrow. When the sun sets forever, and the dark night comes; know that I loved you, and our love is never done.”
And she spoke no more, and nor did I, for I lay with her in the overflowing water, and I knew that final sleep that we had both sought all our life.
You see, I lied when I said I lived in apartment 515. I knew her from before; I knew her from the child, and the storm, and the wandering plains of our dreams.
I am the girl who killed herself in apartment 615.