“TRUTH #4: The Face Behind the Mirror” by Matthew Maichen

I only ever wrote to be close to you.

You didn’t exist. I knew that. But it didn’t matter when I could create words that would conjure you. And someday, when you did exist, you’d be able to look at what I’d made and see me for all I was worth. Is it so wrong to believe that?

Maybe it is. Because you’re a construct built from broken glass I’ve scraped from the floor, ignoring the blood on my palms, thinking only that those pink stains would be the closest things to veins I could give you. Even with fluids pumping from your heart, you won’t breathe.

Now reality is shattering and here I am trying to preserve you. I’ve sworn myself to the unreal when I could have easily jumped ship for truth. I’d be doing better by God, that way. My dissonant powerlessness would have an outlet and I wouldn’t be on my knees in the shower crying and praying unanswered prayers until my roommates knock on the door to remind me to shut the fuck up. The walls are paper thin.

You’re a luxury. If I belong to you, it means I am, too.

I can’t get it up for human beings. I love them all, but they don’t cut me enough. Their absolution is too weak and their world won’t improve because they’ll make the same mistakes regardless of what I say. I’ve tried to stop them too often and I’m tired. But you make me believe they can change. In your jagged eyes are miracles. You’re worth nothing without them. I reach out only after our fingers intertwine.

And I know that, in the real world, the only people who get things done are the people who believe. That’s just not enough to make me believe. I cling to things out of desperation rather than genuine optimism and still tell people I’m optimistic. At least in writing fiction, I’m an honest liar.

Do you think we can rectify this? I only ask because you aren’t real. You’re unbiased, but you’ll tell me what I want to hear and that’s what I need right now. For the love of god someone please give me good news. I don’t even care if it’s you. Someone tell me something positive. I punched the mirror and the shards are still in my knuckles. I screamed for forty five minutes and ran in thirty five degree weather and spend twenty five dollars a day on my vices and none of it’s helping. It’s enough to make me want to strangle you even as your edges slice my fingers in half.

They tell me his cough is so weak he might choke to death on his own phlegm.

No. This wasn’t supposed to be about that. It was going to be beautiful and there I go fucking it up, again. The idealized glass woman is gone and now all that’s left is naked grief. I’m losing things I need to stay alive. I’ve built a narrative of resilience that’s falling apart. I fuel myself by fascinating people because I can’t live without casting light. But if candles and stars both burn out, does that mean I’m doomed by my own fire?

I can’t give up on hope. It’s too important. Let me try to find the silver lining. God knows that no one will find it for me.

I have to live twice as hard for everyone who won’t be here tomorrow. But there are too many.

If I’m beautiful, will that count? If I sculpt myself to be as fantastic as you are, if I idealize myself as a patron of love and strength, if I give instead of take and never give in to hatred even when it feels good. If I listen instead of talk. If I comfort and support the people around me. If I do everything I wish a person could do for me, will you be real?

Maybe you will. Maybe you’ll just be me.


Author’s Note: This is to everyone who feels like they aren’t okay, right now.

I wrote this when I was losing everything that mattered the most to me, and felt like I was breaking. I’ve been putting myself back together. Piece by piece. Once I’m fully rebuilt, I may not be the same as I was before. But I’m here. I’m twenty six (literally as of today) (yes it’s my birthday) and I’m generally happy. That’s not to say that the things that tore me down aren’t real. They still very much are. But so are the things that are beautiful. The other night I watched the sun set while sitting next to a pretty girl on top of a mountain, and that was just about as great as it sounds.

Pain like this comes in flashes. You’re okay, and then you aren’t. You’re content and then you can’t talk to your friends anymore because it feels like nothing on Earth matters or, if something does, you’re bound to lose it. But it’s just like any other emotion in that way. It’s fleeting. People can get through far worse than what they actually think they can. And if time heals everything, then that means that just living is “getting through it.” I don’t believe in broken people. I believe in survivors.

So I believe that you (you personally) can survive. Even if it seems impossible, even if you need help to do so. Then, at the end of the day, when it’s all behind you, all those scars will mean that you’ve looked hell in the face and come out scathed, but alive. Don’t rush yourself to that point, but relish in it once you’re there.

A lot of people reading this know me personally. But even if you don’t, I’m open to talk or even just listen if anyone needs it. Thank you.

One comment

  1. I love this, especially the author’s note, and especially the line, “You’re content and then you can’t talk to your friends anymore because it feels like nothing on Earth matters or, if something does, you’re bound to lose it.” Well said, my friend.

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