Emily. She lost her parents to a fire. She lost her sweetest younger sister to a fire. She lost a dog, a home, her sanity.
But I am here. She’s not alone. But Emily Sullivan chooses to forget that I am here, just standing a few inches away from her, giving her a shoulder to cry on. Emily chooses to believe that her reason, her purpose to even be alive, doesn’t hold any more meaning.
On the day that Emily almost shot a bullet through her skull, I saw her staring outside of the window of her new home, in her now almost empty room, naked and pale. The cabinets were open, clothes hampered in every corner. Her bed was made, but the pillows were on the floor. From there, I saw the .45 caliber. I wanted to ask her where she got it, but it wasn’t the time. I rummaged through her cabinets to find a blanket — just something to cover her from the cold that seeped from the winter air outside. She gawked at me with her glazed, soulless eyes. They were empty, both afraid and not. She cried too much. She could cry her blood out.
She tried almost every day. New things to take her life away. The first time was when I helped her move to her new apartment. That night when she was alone, she scattered bottles of pills on her bedroom floor, like you would think roses were spread on a romantic night. The pills were her way of saying that that night was going to be the night. But when I went the next day with a fresh cup of coffee that afterwards stained her new bedroom carpet, she was lying on her bed, awake, breathing, and staring at the ceiling, with a new batch of tears running down her cheeks.
As I now stare back at her lifeless eyes, I immediately think, “I don’t know this Emily Sullivan.” The Emily I used to know would laugh at her smallest missteps, would hum when she’s bored, and would smile through anything. But it was under the comfort of knowing she could go back to something, that she had a home, a family who would laugh with her through her mistakes, hum with her when she’s bored, and smile with her through anything.
But there’s no point to that now. It’s harsh to say, but I’d rather keep her alive than wish she could be with them. I just need her to understand that I am here and that I will help her. I still don’t know how, but I will try. I just need her to stay. Selfish as it may seem, I need her to stay to keep me sane too.
“Hey,” I say.
She shifts her gaze back to the window. “Hm.”
I start picking up some clothes and run things to say to her in my head. In these moments with her, when I still don’t have a clear idea of what to do, all I can think of is to wrap her around my arms.
After I clear the floor of the pillows and clothes, I notice that Emily’s gaze is now hard on me, steely, sad, and empty. “Mike, do you know a place?”
I’m startled. I fumble for words, but I only manage to utter, “A place?”
“A place far from here. Far from the noise. Far from the memories.” She clenches her fists together, and I know for a fact that she’s going to break down.
I try to be cheery for her. “Well, we can always try the woods or something. I mean, I was a boy scout before, I think we can manage.”
Damn, seriously? God, I’m so stupid.
But, unusually, Emily stands, clutches the blanket to her body, and walks toward me. “That seems nice. Take me there. Please?”
Slowly, I study her face and drift back to her eyes, still empty and gray, but I know I can fill them again with color. I just have to.
A few days pass by, and we decide to leave. I load up my truck with everything we might need. I also make sure we have some gas in case the woods don’t fair up. I think I was too overconfident with my boy scout skills. I drive to her now empty apartment. She’s standing on the sidewalk, her face clear, her hair swept into a clean ponytail, her clothes ironed. She looks impeccable, like an art installation. I honk the horn and tell her to get in. She’s carrying her small bag, which I presume has clothes in it as well as the gun she tried to use. She buckles up and says,
“Where do we go from here?”
Natalie Chyi is an 18-year-old from Hong Kong who has recently moved to London, where she will be studying law for the next three years. She started photography to capture moments and pretty things/people/light/scenes as she sees them, and that idea is what continues to fuel all of her work. Find more of her work on nataliechyi.com, Facebook, or Tumblr.