Fall to Rise by Niamh O’Brien

She was like the sun.

When the sun rises, it brightens up the world.

When she rose, when she was happy, she had the ability to brighten up the darkest days, warm the coldest hearts.

When she rose, she was everything I wish I was.

And like the sun rises, it also falls, and so did she.

Like the sun, when she fell she was engulfed in darkness.

Her hair was dyed black, her eyes were swamped in black eyeliner. She wore clothes two sizes too big and purple bangles on her wrists. I remember how she always had dark crescent moons under her eyes. She never took care of herself, her cuticles were grown in, her stomach empty, her cheeks hollow. She said she was just tired, tired because she suffered from insomnia.

The sun rises and falls every day. No matter how dark the night is, the sun will always rise in the morning and bring light.

She was unlike the sun in one way. She fell more than she rose. And when she fell, when she was engulfed in darkness, it was a struggle for her to rise again.

She never spoke about her struggles. She never explained the pills that were on her bedside table. She never took off the bangles on her wrists. She liked to pretend everything was ok, she liked to pretend that she was ok. Because it was easier that way. It was easier to ignore the problem than confront it.

We used to watch the sunset together. We used to watch how the sun's golden rays illuminated our bodies, casting shadows of our silhouettes onto the path behind us. My head would rest on her shoulder, her and would be wrapped in mine. She often said she felt like she was the sun. She said she rose like the sun, and that she fell too.

She never admitted that she fell more often than she rose.

She used to tell me life is like a wave, life is like the sun. It goes up and it goes down, it has highs and it has lows. No one lives life on a constant high, no one lives life on a constant low. Life fluctuates. Living isn’t easy, she said she realised that many years ago. I remember her saying “when I am low I remember one day I will be high again. One day I will rise again.”

I met her at a college when I was nineteen years old. I remember seeing a dark haired girl, sitting at the back of the room, her eyes vacant, lost in thought. I remember sitting beside her because every seat was taken. I never thought this woman would become my best friend. I never thought I would love her, I never thought I would depend on her. I never thought I would need her.

She didn’t talk much about her life before I met her. She liked to leave the past in the past, live in the moment. She left behind everyone from her childhood. Maybe so that she didn’t have to see their faces and remember whatever thing she had so obviously been running from. I never thought she would leave me behind though.

She loved the sea, she loved the rhythm of the waves, the sound of the rushing water and the cold feeling of it when she jumped in. She loved the sting, the adrenaline, the pain. She said it helped her feel alive. She liked wearing pink tracksuit bottoms and watching the clouds as they moved above us.

I never asked her what she hated. Maybe if I did she would have told me.

She would have told me she hated herself.

We would make plans to go out every weekend, on Saturday nights. It was the only day of the week where I was free. Some Saturday nights I would arrive at her house, shivering in the cold as I rang the doorbell and she wouldn’t answer. Her blue Toyota would be gone from the driveway, the cream blinds in her house drawn. She wouldn’t text me to cancel out plans, she wouldn’t bother to make an excuse. She would just disappear.

I was lenient because I myself am a busy person. I thought she was busy. Now I wish I hadn’t been lenient. I wish I would have asked her why she disappeared.

When she turned twenty one she began to fall. Like the sun falls, I watched how she stopped shining, I watched how she was engulfed in darkness. She told me she promised herself something. She promised herself she would do something as soon as she turned twenty one.

She told me she had to fulfill that promise.

When she would remember our Saturday night dates her eyes were always red and swollen. She would smile, her lips stretching over her teeth, her mouth lopsided. I knew it wasn’t a real smile. But it was better to ignore it so difficult conversations could be avoided.

Soon our Saturday night dates stopped. She stopped leaving her house. She stopped everything. She froze. Something inside of her went cold.

I would sit with her in her bed, running my fingers through her hair as she lay still in bed, staring into nothing. Some days I checked her pulse. I checked her pulse because she looked dead. She wouldn’t leave her bed, she wouldn’t wash, she stopped talking.

I thought she would rise soon. I thought she would find the light.

I washed her hair with a bottle of shampoo and a bucket of lukewarm water as she laid still in bed, unresponsive. I dabbed her face with a damp cloth and changed her into her pink tracksuit bottoms. She never once looked at me. She was seeing something though. Her eyes were filled with tears, her face twisted in pain. She was in her own world, a world filled with monsters I couldn’t see. Monsters I couldn’t fight.

I wished I had seen the signs. I knew something was wrong. I knew she wasn’t ok. And I didn’t do enough to help her.

Sometimes I forget she is gone. Sometimes I find myself driving to her house, forgetting that an old couple bought it a year ago. Sometimes I see people swimming in the sea and look for her.

It only ever hits me when I sit at her grave. When I stare at her headstone. It hits me so hard sometimes. It hits me so hard, I feel like a weight has been put on my chest, pressing against my lungs.

I wish she would have fought for longer. I wish she would have held on. I wish I had been a better friend. I wish I didn’t have to go to a graveyard to see her.

She wasn’t like the sun. We will never be just like the sun.

We may never rise and fall in a day. We may rise for one day and fall for a week.

But it doesn’t matter to me. All that matters is that one day, where I will rise.

All I know is that no matter how hard I fall, life fluctuates and I will always rise.

And that is my fire, that is my fight and that is why I have hope.

Published in Issue #26

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