You did not know me.
The day had begun like any other. Waking up with a faint feeling of dread. Wishing I could pull the bedcovers back over my head and retreat back into the safety of sleep. As always, I spent a few minutes contemplating phoning in sick before sighing and slowly dragging my unwilling body from the bed. I walked across the icy floor of the bathroom and stepped into the shower. I wiggled my toes, shivering as I waited for the water to warm up. Not that it made much difference. These days, I was almost always cold. Perhaps I had ice in my veins, or vinegar instead of blood. I held my coat tight around me as I walked to work, my hood pulled up so it almost hid my face. I liked that. I had my hood up now, as I stood shivering in the rain. It was evening and I stood outside the place round the corner from work, watching through the window. I could have gone inside, could have walked through the door into the warmth and light and laughter. But instead I stayed outside, alone in the cold dark night. It was easier there. I could imagine a different version of myself, a better one, going inside and joining in. Being part of it, included. Belonging. But that wasn’t real and the small feeling of contentment the fantasy gave me was already fading. I would go in soon, but I wanted to stay where I was just a little longer. I imagined now that I was invisible, that I could go right up to you, wave my hand in front of your face, without you noticing. It wasn’t really so far from reality. I stayed very still, watching through the window. You did not see me.
The rain falls down.
There was a dead bird in the road this morning. It must have been hit by a car. I don’t know why I think of this now; perhaps I need to something else to be sad about. I try to concentrate all my emotion on the bird, but another memory is already taking its place. We are sitting side by side in a crowded room, watching a presentation. You shift in your seat and your arms brushes against mine. I glance at you, once, our of the corner of my eye. Do you know I’m there? The memory jumps away from me. I shiver and push my hands into my coat pockets. There is something in one of them, something that wasn’t there this morning. I wrap my hand around the object and remove it carefully. It’s a glass bottle filled with clear liquid. I hold it up in front of the window to let the light shine through. The liquid seems to shimmer slightly. There is a label on the bottle. It says, DRINK ME. I don’t stop to consider it, I simply do as I’m told. It’s nice to have an instruction for once, to not have to worry about making the right decision. I unscrew the top and pour the liquid into my mouth. It tastes bitter, but not unpleasant. I feel dizzy for a moment, but it passes quickly. I replace the top and put the bottle back in my pocket. Then I go inside. I am careful to stay on the edges of the room, out of view. I look at the food and drinks on the tables but none of it appeals to me. I place myself behind a large plant and watch you through the leaves. You are speaking to my friend, who does not seem to have noticed my absence. I see her touch your arm. You both laugh. I feel something burning in my the pit of stomach and in my throat. I must look away.
I cry silently.
I step out of my shoes and put them in the plant pot. My coat is hanging down past my knees now and I have to push my hood back as it’s completely obscuring my view. I smile briefly, even though no one is looking, then take another drink from my bottle. The dizziness is worse this time and I lean against the wall to stop myself from falling down. I peer around the side of the plant. Everyone looks so big from down here. I look at the food on one of the tables and another memory appears, one from years ago. My mother had made biscuits and left them on the kitchen table to cool. She told me not to touch them but I ignored her warning and when her back was turned I stole one from the plate. It was still very hot and I burned my fingers. I cried at the time but the memory now strikes me as very funny. Just as it was then, my chin is level with the table top. I put my hand over my mouth to smother my giggles. I’m so little.
I drink from the bottle again. There isn’t much left now. Everyone is leaving. I wonder if they are going to go on somewhere else. I don’t really care. I sit behind the plant, my arms wound tightly around the bottle. It’s nearly empty now but it feels much heavier than it did before. I don’t feel much like laughing anymore. Everyone will be gone soon and I don’t want to stay here on my own. I suppose I had better follow them. Back outside.
There are only a couple of people here now and they too are making their way to the door. I drain the few remaining drops from the bottle and leave it on the floor next to the plant. Then I hurry outside before the door closes. I have to gather my coat up around me so I don’t trip over it. Everyone is walking up the road now, still laughing and talking. They must be going somewhere else. I search the crowd but you are nowhere to be seen. I wonder if I should follow them, but they are getting too far away and it’s difficult walking like this. Instead I settle down next to a wall, curled up inside the warm safety of my coat. I can’t hear anything now, not even the rain. I retreat further and close my eyes. I feel calm now. I allow myself to drift away slowly, then there is a sudden movement, like something being pulled out from under me. And then I am gone. Falling.