Somebody else’s reflection stares into my eyes from the shallows of the scummy pond. Her hair is a mess of long ringlets, framing her ivory face in an ebony curtain. Bright, rosebud lips are parted slightly to reveal straight, white teeth. She looks like a woman, older than I, but only by a few years. Her eyes age her, depicting years of experiences and heartache. Medallions of a steel gray focus on nothing, while examining everything. They are watchful, yet static. They seem to pierce through to my soul and leave ice in my heart. They scare me. Their familiarity frightens me.
I avert my gaze from my reflection, and look pointedly down at the black leather boots that have become a part of my daily uniform, giving me a sense of strength and power that has been stripped from me for years. My gray jeans are dusty and worn from wearing them as often as I can. Tucked into my boots, they look as if they were made for me, hugging every line of my legs as if they are made of the same fabric. I unlace my boots, relinquishing the power that I crave when I am around others. I kick my shoes carelessly away from my feet and toss my balled up socks in their direction, near the edge of the pond. My pant legs stop three inches above my ankle. I have been wearing these jeans since I was her age. The age of the girl, long lost throughout time.
My dress floats around me as I wade into the pond. I found it only months before, when I ventured out here into the woods and stumbled upon this clearing. I’m quite sure that my parents aren’t aware of its existence. They are too busy arguing to care where I am, anyways. I push the thought to the back of my mind, like I do everyday when I come here. My thin fingers caress the white, gauzy fabric, as it submerges into the crystal blue water. The clean, soft sand on the bottom of the pool tickles my bare feet. The pool of water is always perfectly clean, as if it is maintained by my happiness and joy. There is never a shard of glass or a spot of scum corrupting its beauty. I inhale the scent of the forest deep into my lungs before I dip my head beneath the comforting waters.
I can’t open my eyes without the burning setting in. I let myself sink down a few feet until I feel an abrupt pressure on the bottom of my foot. I let the whole of my weight balance on my foot before I thrust myself upward once more. As my sole slides across the sand, a shard of glass embeds itself deep into my skin. I turn my face toward the warming sunlight, away from the throbbing pain. The green layer floating on the surface catches in my curls as my head breaks the surface. My mouth opens before it is clear of the water, and the green poison fills my lungs as they convulse, trying, in vain, to capture a breath. The world around me darkens, and I succumb to the inky thoughts of a future no longer possible for those with no will to live.
My eyes flutter as the glinting sun dances across their eyelids. Where am I? I slowly move my outstretched hands across the flat plane of the earth, feeling the soft prickles of the short, fresh grass on my palms. I inhale a deep breath of my forest air, and relax at the thought of my beautiful clearing, beautiful pond, beautiful escape. I become aware of the slight breeze that brushes across my face, cooling me. My hand wanders over to my dress, grazing the damp fabric that is plastered to my leg. Why is my dress wet? Startled, I open my eyes and prop myself up on one elbow, ignoring the pressure digging into my joint. I look down my body, seeing traces of blood on my dress. My eyes fall on my foot and the pool of drying blood underneath it. Astonished at the atrocity in my foot, in my forest, I gingerly remove the intruding shard from its burrow. I whip my head around to the barren trees with only dirt at their bases. The ground is covered in a threadbare blanket of dead grass. The only green in sight is the sickly scum on the surface of my pond. What happened to my beautiful sanctuary?
There she is. I see her from my shaded concealment at the edge of the forest. I see her: her wild tangle of curls cascading down her back, her torn dress, her innocent stature, her bloody feet. The imperfections and struggles make the corners of my mouth turn upward. I could no longer stand to watch her float through life. She needs to struggle. She needs to feel the pain. She needs to feel life like I do, experience death like I do. My feet anticipate my next move, and they stagger forward, exposing me in the dim, cloudy light.
I hear the rustle of dead leaves behind me, and I whip my head around, frightened of what I will see. She is here. My woman from the pond. The reflection that never made sense. She looks maniacal, but her steel gray eyes are completely focused, for once. They are focused on me.
I laugh inwardly at the look on her face. Its like she wasn’t expecting me. So naive. I can’t wait to end it all. My fingers tingle with the thought of touching that thin, fragile neck. Her eyes, so wide, look at me with such fright, such pleading, that I can’t help but feel sorry for her. She doesn’t understand that this is better. I’m trying to help her. She is so thick-headed at times. I saunter forward as she involuntarily crawls away from me, edging closer and closer to the water. So naive, so childish.
I feel the sudden cold as my palm slaps the water, telling me that I am nearing the edge of my escape path. I glance over my shoulder at the pond, as if willing its waters to recede, giving me more room, allowing me more time to live. In the same way, it would be prolonging my imminent death. I close my eyes and the thought creeps through my veins unrelentingly. “Maybe, it is for the best,” my heart whispers to me in a voice I’ve never known.
She looks up at me calmly, with eyes so familiar. Steel gray. It startles me, and I falter backwards half a step. She stands, somehow taller, stronger, but still unsure as to what is happening in her own mind. Suddenly, she seems as if she is no longer comfortable in her own clothes, in her own skin. Our eyes lock, and we share our pain, grief, and wounds with each other through that one, single look. She understands now. She understands who I am.
I turn on my heel in the softened dirt and start into the pond, leaving behind any remnants of my old self. I know what I have to do. I know what this is all about. This life, this mundane, repetitive life, is not all that there is. There is a better existence at the end of a gun, the crook of a rope, the depths of a pond. I wade into the green waters one last time. I inhale deeply and I run. I sprint into the waters, as fast as the resistance will let me, and then I dive, allowing my body to be taken under by the hungry waters. I push myself lower, ignoring the sticks pulling at my dress and my skin, tearing both to shreds. The deeper I go, the darker it gets. My eyes clamp shut and I relax my muscles, not allowing any oxygen to infiltrate this useless brain. It all goes dark, and yet I feel so light.
There she is.