THE CITY I DIDN’T CHOOSE

Part Three

The stars know too much about me now. If they could laugh, I know they would, both at me and with me. They’d weep too, at everything I forced them to witness.

Imagine me eighteen, short hair and denim cut-offs, collapsed in wet grass, barefoot and intoxicated by summer petrichor. Call it baptism, liberation, whatever you want– but it was as if I had been transformed into a born again worshipper of a religion I invented from scratch. It wasn’t the mountains. It wasn’t newfound independence, freedom from suburban suffocation. It wasn’t even nature. It was who I became there, alive and musing and enveloped in all of it.

It couldn’t last forever.

Part Three and a Half: What the Stars Saw

On bad nights I used to wander out the doors of my co-ed dormitory in the dead of winter wearing only plastic shower slippers, cotton shorts, and a coffee-stained t-shirt that reached mid-thigh. I’d lie flat under the scattered moonlight veiled by the oak trees, as still as a corpse, and try my very hardest to die. Even the stars could see I was inconsolable: can’t sleep can’t eat can’t believe in anything mutilated arms no eyelashes anymore nothing left to pull. I wondered if I’d be happier in the city, another life, more willing to survive as a pedestrian in a crowded street or as a rush of color in a crosswalk. Maybe there, in that parallel universe, I wouldn’t be so desperate to slip into eternity, to leave my room messy and cluttered for good.

Months later, the worst psychiatrist I ever had reduced my suffering to “probably just something about a boy,” scribbling her signature on the Rx slip for the antidepressants that almost killed me for real, even when I didn’t want to die anymore.

I wish the stars could ring her up and tell her what they saw those nights.

Where was he before I grew too cold to keep dying?

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