The Hand That Makes the Cut

A Story for the Fallen:

One man stays away from windows and puts his back to the jambs of doorways, using the framing as a shield. No moving if the refrigerator compressor kicks on – you need your ears – every sound. Stay clear of the lamp – make no shadow. Don’t anticipate the recoil – by then the bullet will be out of the gun. Take aim with your mind. Don’t waste the trigger. If your enemy comes through the window, fire only when you have the shot. The sure one counts. It’s your dream gun, but not a TV gun that doesn’t run out, and every wayward bullet is a wasted moment.

The other man curses the dream – dreams are just like this. Being on the outside, needing to get in. He had probably feared it, and the fear had served him disadvantage like a cold dish. But he blesses the curse, because it’s also his purpose. He stays by the window’s edge, peering into slivers of light between the slats of blinds, gazing past the razor gap where they join the wall. His counterpart probably didn’t think to focus on a dark place or a high place, and now the apartment is lit like a shadowbox in an open field. It’s an advantage.

You can’t curse a curse – that’s part of the deal. You share a dream, itself a shaky mutuality, a tenuous link, a joining in the dusk of stars – and you share an intention that dreams, as survival implements, from our earliest life in the caves, our earliest banishment from the gardens, don’t want to deliver – to lose your life in the dream so that you never wake. You can’t kill yourself in a dream – you can’t even try not to survive – you will always run from the monster, struggle against the water, or resist falling. You have to make a real, true, and genuine fight of it. You have to use all your resources. You are the spear, and the dream is long in tooth. That’s what makes the shared dream the only way to do it. You can try with everything and fail to be better than the other would-be suicide. It’s an ingenious, but intolerant solution – one will murder the other, without a trace in the waking world – and each will try his hardest to succeed, yet hope to fail.

Both men understand what is required – a kind of cognitive dissonance. A will to resist one’s own will. You are looking for the stronger rival, determined to best him, holding nothing back, wishing only to be bested instead. And then there is breaking glass and a flurry of noise, strangely like fire crackers, both louder and less dramatic than either one expects. And one is jolted into waking. He was won and lost. He must find a new partner to ‘play’ with. He bids the other man a silent goodbye,  wherever he had chosen to make his bed. Perhaps he crosses himself or maybe says a few words. Go in peace. Mercy be upon thee. Rest easy, winner. But there is an epilogue:

A strange thing happens when you develop the will to overcome your will. You build into yourself the very thing that supports life, perhaps the most fortified of underpinnings, the most solid of ground. You have practiced and practiced, and you rise from sleep one night and find that you no longer feel a need to end it. In fact, you are more suited to the reality of living than the dream of dying. You are a warrior, fierce, and carved from living bone. You flex, you stretch, and you are stronger than life’s harshest edge. You feel a remorse for the bodies you left on the field, but you go into life anyway, because death is too small a challenge. You put on your shoes. You comb your hair. You don’t bother with the mirror. The world will reflect what you know, when you step into it. It will see eyes that see back, and the shared waking is a substance of courage and resolve.

If you share any more dreams, it will be for love or for living, but the nightmares are not for you now. They’re for the others who still have not lost enough to lose it all and wake from this dream at last, and live.

Notes: To those on Tumblr who post continually about suicide ideation and self-harm. I see you. I am not above it. Not better. But if you’re not just pose-posting (yeah I coined that phrase), then know this: the most harmful thing you can do to yourself will save you – it’s this: run headlong into the pain. Impale yourself, my friends. Bloody your head on it. Don’t flinch. It’s an agony you must take whole. Drink it all, like hemlock. Let it be the edges of knives, which your cuts only symbolize. This is what it is meant to be – this, and nothing else. You must feel it all alive – death is dodging the bullet, not taking it. Let the pain gut you. Will against your will. You will become the knife, and life will be the cut. But what do I know? I have only these words: “Be at peace, my friend. My nemesis. My beautiful enemy. Rest now. I would have told you, had I known. I won’t fail again. I won’t, because life had been a battle, but the battle is now a life.”

PS. I realize no one likes it when you write about suicide. It’s like this: I looked down and saw my balls, and did it anyway.

One man is the accident. The other is the hand that stops the blood.

And I am looking for the other one. A hand to stop the blood.”

Emmy the Great, 24

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