You’re an unlikely pair. He’s pretty bizarre, and so are you, so maybe you’re not as bizarre together, you both thought. You’re a liar, nothing more and nothing less, just a liar, liar, liar. And he’s a cutter. He didn’t know what went wrong, and neither did you. Both of you had just fine home lives. You had friends, you had good grades, you had nothing left to want. So what went wrong? What happened? Where had it all gone to pieces in your lives?
All you know is that you’ve never loved someone so deeply as you love him. You wish, every time you see those scars, you wish that you’d met sooner. You wish more than anything that he’d never started. You wish desperately that you’d never started lying; you wish he’d never started his self-harm.
It had only been a few weeks ago when he showed you all of them. His arms- not his wrists, never his wrists, because that was too obvious- but all over his arms and everywhere, just everywhere on his legs. And you didn’t know what else to do, so you started crying. He’d laughed, voice wavering, and said that it was fine, that he was fine. That was when you told him that if he ever wasn’t, he was supposed to tell you. He’d grimaced, looked off to the side and told you it wasn’t that easy.
So you’d come up with the butterflies.
You’d taken the marker and asked him if he loved you. He nodded slowly. You, on your knees on the floor, grabbed his sleeve. He obliged you, kneeling down next to you as you pushed the sleeve up his arm, drawing a terrible-looking butterfly on his arm and saying that if he cut before the butterfly was gone, that he’d killed the butterfly. He smiled, and then he stopped faking it. He nodded solemnly, and you saw the tears in his eyes as he thanked you, because you knew he’d never do anything to hurt you, even if it meant hurting himself, and sometimes that hurt you and he didn’t know it. But now he knew, and now he had no excuse because that butterfly was your friendship, and that butterfly was you.
So how did you get here? “Hey.” You yanked on his jacket, pulling him around to face you. You reached for his sweater sleeve and he pulled away from you, shaking his head. Your gaze steeled against his, you grabbed his arm. And his eyes were filled with fear and quickly filling with tears. He shook his head.
“Let me see.”
And then he yanked away from you and he ran, bumping into people haphazardly as he ran to the bathroom. You took running after him, shoving people out of the way. You heard cursing behind you, but you didn’t care. You ran right through the hallways, tearing after him and calling out for him. He wouldn’t stop and when he yelled back at you, you knew he was crying.
Sure enough, he was headed for the bathroom. He was running faster than you’d ever seen him run before, and honestly you felt that swell of pride. That unfamiliar but wonderful swell of pride that gave you the need to clutch onto him, hold him tighter, and just love him until you ran out. That one when he completed that hard problem, that one when he laughed instead of fighting. That one where he put down the blade.
You met him, frustrated when he dove into a stall. You slammed your shoulder against it, not caring about the boys in there that were now scurrying away because what was a girl doing in the boys’ bathroom? You slammed your shoulder furiously against the door, calling his name once, twice, and telling him to stop.
Then you stopped and you sank into a pile of uselessness that you knew you were. He opened the door just enough to see you. The bathroom was empty except for you two now. He quietly came out of the stall, his face streaked with tears. Silently, he rolled up his sleeves, looking away. He was so embarrassed, because the butterfly was dead, and he’d done it again. He apologized quietly, and you shook your head.
“I…I killed it…I’m so sorry…” he sniffed. “I understand if you don’t want to be friends anymore.”
So you pulled him down beside you and you shook your head, tracing the butterfly, the small little baby butterfly. The little safeguard you gave him. It was almost gone. Another day, maybe two, and it would have been gone and he would’ve succeeded. But you understood. How many times had you lied today, even after telling him you would stop?
Oh, that’s right. Too. Many.
You ran your finger over the wound. It was fresh. You felt yourself start to tear up again, and you reached into your backpack, bandaging up his arm.
So when you get that SOS message from him today, the first thing you do is pull on shoes. His house is only a couple miles away. You can be there in five minutes. So you run. You pull out your phone, text him back quickly to say you’re on your way. You run faster and harder than you thought you even could- you’re thanking Kelsey and Jerry for that conditioning, running those laps around the marching field and backwards laterals and jazz runs at 195 beats per minute. But faster wasn’t fast enough, so you pull out your phone and call him. No answer. You call again, and by now his house is in sight. You pray that he hasn’t done anything yet. You see the front door open and you holler his name, hanging up. He doesn’t hear you, but you run faster to him. He looks dazed, that look when you’ve lost a little too much to keep on going.
You push harder but he’s just so far away, still so far, and you’re gasping, panting.
And that’s when he drops to the ground. Your heart stops for a brief moment when he pulls out a blade and you holler his name, hoping it’s not in vain, hoping he can hear you. He looks over in your direction. He sees you, and so he stops. He’s holding the bare blade, and when you make it to him, you go to take it from him. But he shakes his head, pulls it away.
You’re gasping, sweat streaming down your face, and tears are starting to form too. But he’s smiling, and he takes your hand, and then he lets it go. And he nods, and he smiles, the brightest smile you’ve ever seen, and it’s almost dazzling.
He takes a deep breath, holds up the blade, and you think he’s going to do something crazy-
And he buries it, almost so you can’t see it anymore, in the ground outside his house.
The neighbors have heard you screaming, so they’re all wondering what’s going on. They’re all outside their houses, watching you two in his front yard. He unlaces his fingers from yours, utterly focused on his task.
“I. Will. Not. Kill. Any. More. Butterflies.”
Every word is punctuated by a stab in the dirt, his voice getting louder and more insistent every time he repeats it. He repeats it until the hole is big enough to bury that razorblade in, and he does. He buries it, shoves the dirt over it, and he wipes the tears from your face with his filthy, filthy hands, and then wipes them from his own eyes.
He’s crying, and you’re crying, because he made it through, and maybe, just maybe, things are finally starting to look up.