What Follows

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10.0: Cracked Ribs

`sometimes we don’t want to heal because the pain is the last link to what we’ve lost`



I think we all have a chance against grief. I think we all can conquer it. I think we can all overcome its merciless claws and its deep, deep desire to drag us all the way down with it.

I also think that only ignoring it makes it conquerable as I stare at my room’s clock face; as I stare at the minutes and seconds that pass and no longer hold any meaning to me.

And it’s suddenly weird for a person who’s constantly running out of time, constantly late, constantly turned down, to abruptly have an abundance of it. Just non-ending seconds pouring and flooding into an uncertain abyss of nothingness.

Time to me is no longer measured in seconds but in pulses of infinite, spiralling darkness. And maybe it’s because time stops after death. Or maybe because time is no longer the same.

Maybe the seconds to me are days to them.

And maybe I just need to stop looking at the clock and focus on the bowl of shit I’m about to get dunked into.

My joints seem to have been encapsulated by concrete. Or maybe darkness has seeped into them and rotted them inside out. Maybe this means that my body is already getting eaten away by the worms that were once a disgusting nightmare.

Ironically, those worms are the only thing giving me attention right now.

I’m not sure if I want to look around, if I want to remember the pain this room has swallowed in my worst days. I don’t want to remember the walls that held my shaking shoulders and heaving back. I don’t want to remember that mirror that witnessed the lowest pits of my life.

Yet, yet my eyes don’t comply with my wishes and take a complete scan of the room that seems untouched ever since my ‘abnormal’ death.

It almost touches me that no one has put in the effort to remove my last touches. To peel my fingerprints and last breaths away from every surface. It seems that they’re okay with letting only dust move in and hug my last thoughts and words.

The balcony is wide open with the drapes lying dead and undisturbed by its sides. My legs carry me to it and I freeze in my spot when my eyes catch a shadow.

I roll my eyes at my hesitancy to move forward and face my fate. I mean, what’s the worst that can possibly happen? I mean, for fuck’s sake, my best friend killed me and my only companion can’t bear having me around him; so, you tell me, what can be worse than this?

I hold my hands, no longer questioning my absence of feeling, and walk into the balcony with a deep, sad breath, only to find Jacob leaning against the balcony’s edge, shirtless, in his school uniform pants, with a lit cigarette between his thumb and index finger of the hand he rests against his hips.

A strong air blast ruffles his golden crown of hair and gives his bare skin goosebumps as he raises his cigarette to his lips. I watch him with a new ache arising from the deepest part of me. I watch him and I miss him. I miss his playful smiles, his over-confidence and his random compliments.

I miss him and it guts me that I do. Because when I took my life away, I never thought I’d actually find myself dwelling on the people I’ve left behind. I never thought that they’d be anything but good fucking riddance.

I never thought I’d see them again as a bloody ghost.

“Jacobson!” A shrill voice says from behind me, making Jacob and I flinch and turn around as he throws away his cigarette. His arms rest quickly and awkwardly at his sides as he neutralizes his pale face for Mom.

Mom appears at the balcony’s threshold, looking displeased, with her hands on her hips and a wet apron on her body. Her eyes run over his unsettled, obviously, sleep-deprived figure and she gulps.

“I’ve been calling you,” She says uncertainly. “Where have you been?”

“I don’t know-” He tells her. “Hanging out with my dead sister?” He waves his arm around, meets her eyes and lifts his brows. “You’ve got a problem with that?”

Mom pushes back a few hair strands with shaky fingers. “You’ve been smoking, haven’t you?” She purses her lips and stares at him defeatedly.

Jacob opens his mouth, closes it, changing his mind, then opening it again and speaking without hesitancy. “Maybe I’ve been looking for better ways to kill myself too-” He tells her and Mom might as well pass out. I might as well pass out.

“Jacob-” Mom splutters. “You have any idea regarding the magnitude of what you’re saying?”

Jacob rolls his eyes. “What did you come here for, Mom?”

“I came for you-” She says, not missing a beat. “I’ve noticed how you’ve distanced yourself from the rest of us. I want to make sure you’re okay-” She swallows hard. “I-I just think that we need each other most now-”

Jacob looks like he might laugh himself into two halves. “I most certainly don’t need any of you-”


“Just leave me alone, Mom-” He says tiredly, giving her his back.

“You do not turn your back on me!” She suddenly and desperately yells at him and he turns around.

“Oh yeah?” He frowns so deeply it’s almost crazy how the creases between his forehead are just temporary. “You turned your back on her!” He yells out angrily and I try to make sure my knees aren’t just floating around.

Mom freezes to speechlessness.

“Does that surprise you?!” He continues. “You knew that you must’ve been at least a reason why! You know-” He points at her with his index finger, his arm tensing. “And you’re acting like you don’t and it’s disgusting!”

Jacob looks so revolted, with his face scrunching up and his ocean-blue eyes bulging.

“You don’t understand-” She says faintly and Jacob couldn’t look any angrier.

“Well, explain!” He says as he reaches haphazardly and forcefully in his pants’ pockets, withdrawing a couple of cigarettes, four, and placing them all in his mouth. And where’s my heart. “Because nothing, nothing is a good enough reason for what you’ve done-” He pulls out his lighter and lights them all, almost professionally. “And nothing is a good enough reason to stay-”

“Jacob!" Mom shrieks, reaching out for the cigarettes dangling from his mouth but he jerks away, with an outstretched hand.

“I’ll explain!” She then cries out and the crazed look in Jacob’s eyes settles a little. “I-I just- please-” She begs him. “Throw out this poison!”

Jacob looks at her from his peripheral vision, eyes welling up, and then removes and throws three cigarettes away, leaving one in his mouth.

And I cry for him. I cry and it hurts to wish that I was alive to comfort him.

He leans against the balcony’s edge and my eyes almost pop out at how dangerous his standing position is.

“I adopted her two years after I had Aiden-” She says a little too calmly for my taste. “I- I wanted a sibling for him and after two years of miscarriages and constant hurt, I just adopted her-” She gulps, stares at an unmoved Jacob and continues. “She was a year old. And I was ecstatic to have her in my family.”

Jacob grimaces at her choice of words and draws in from the cigarette.

“A year later, a miracle I hadn’t anticipated happened-” She says, her eyes glued to the ground. “I had you-”

Jacob might as well roll his eyes at his mother.

“Well, where’s the explanation in that?” He demands and Mom urges him to wait.

“A few months after I’ve had you,” She looks away. “I snapped. I was diagnosed with postpartum depression and anxiety. I was crazy-”

“So you took it out on her instead of your ‘own’ kids-” Jacob sneers. “Yeah?”

“Jake, please-”

He shakes his head. “I’m just confused-” He sniffs loudly, getting rid of his cigarette. “Why did you always treat her different? Why, Mom? Why did you make her feel unwelcome? Everyone could see that-”

“Jacob, I tried-”

“And you failed!” He points an accusatory finger at her. “The girl who’s not your daughter, who is- was my sister and best friend, killed herself because of you-”

Getting to know that Jacob considered me as his best friend is like taking an axe to my guts. It’s like bleeding slowly and painfully and helplessly. And I can’t not hate myself for it.

“Jacob it wasn’t easy-” She says, tears filling her eyes to the brim. “She marked a very dark period in my life-” She sniffs. “She- I know it wasn’t her fault-” Tears stain her cheeks. “But it wasn’t mine either-”

I watch her, heartbroken and soulless. I watch her, dead and unmoving. I watch her excuse my years of pain with her year of pain.

I watch her and there’s nothing to say.

“So it was my fault?” Jacob’s voice comes strong and loud. “After all, I was the one who gave you the fucking depression!”


“Oh, for God’s sake!” Jacob runs his hands in his hair, muttering vaguely under his breath.

“It was no-one’s fault-” My not-real mother says. “She just- she just-”

"Chose that?”

"No-” Mom cries. “She just gave me no chance to improve. I could’ve- I could’ve tried-” She says weakly. “I was trying. I just- I didn’t know I was failing-”

Jacob looks hard at her but doesn’t say anything.

“I’m sorry it had to be that way-” She tells him with quivering lips and shaking hands.

“Well, yeah, it doesn’t matter if you’re sorry or not-” He says bitterly. “The dead won’t return.”

“Jacob, really, there was nothing I could’ve done for her-” Mom says and I grimace.

“No-” Jacob says instantly. “No, Mom. There’s a lot you could’ve done-” He whispers. “And least of all,” he sniffs. “You could’ve taught her how to be strong-” He says and I wish my soul could decimate and settle all over him to protect him from this big, bad world. “You could’ve taught her how to live when life wasn’t life and when people weren’t people. But instead-” He clenches his jaws, flares his nostrils and tries controlling his voice. ”Instead, you let her fight her battles all alone when you knew that no-one was by her side.”

“You were there for her-” Mom chokes out, but Jacob shakes his head.

“I wasn’t her motherly figure-” He says, keeping his voice as steady as possible. “I couldn’t have influenced her the same. And I seriously can’t believe I’m giving you, Mom, a speech about how to raise children-”

“Jacob-” Mom says gently and he looks up to meet her eyes that immediately tear up. “You’re just a boy-”

“And boys shouldn’t have to deal with so much pain-” He tells her as he swipes his finger across his nose. Mom approaches him and he looks at her with so much agony.

“I’m so sorry-” She says.

“I don’t think you understand-” Jacob says. “It doesn’t matter. You don’t have to pretend that you’re sad over her. It was just guilt wearing you away-” His voice and my ribs crack.

Mom reaches for his hands and Jacob is no longer sure what to do. He’s not sure if he should lean further back over the balcony’s edge or hold Mom’s hands to safety.

“I love you, Jake-” Mom says, trying to hold Jacob’s unfocused and wandering blue eyes.

Jacob blinks at her, gulps and removes his hands from hers.

“I need some space-” He tells her, looks down, licks his lower lip. “I’m going out with my friends. I won’t be back before midnight-”

And just like that, with pain bruising my brother and disbelief glued onto my mother’s face, Jacob rushes out of my balcony that turns so cold all of a sudden. I stare at Mom because there’s nothing else to stare at except for the busy streets that my balcony overlooks.

And I’m not sure if it’s her or the streets I should be looking at. I’m not sure if I should be feeding my pain or dumping it over the oblivious people hustling about in the streets below. And I wonder- I wonder if that’s why I sometimes used to feel quite melancholic.

I wonder if there are other wandering, desperate spirits, shedding their pain and regret over the living. I wonder if the living actually feels it.

I gulp down my ‘heart’ back into its place. I gulp and try not to think about how much of an awful sister I am and how much of an amazing brother Jacob was/is. I gulp and try not to let my eyes swim in the ocean of regret; regret for not being there to guide him.

And I think if I can somehow change this. I think of how I wish I could hold time in my hands and tilt it all the way back to break its back and fix what was broken. I think about how that would satisfy my tortured soul.

I think and think and think until darkness inhales me back.

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