A Stranger to Myself

"I feel like I don't even know myself. And if I don't know myself, how can anyone else ever know me?" Autumn has always felt alone, like an outcast. But when a girl comes into her life and reveals things about Autumn she never would have known otherwise, can Autumn learn to accept her differences she's so used to hating?


10. Denial


Carmen kept me stable. She didn't lose patience. She never stopped being there. She clearly didn't plan on giving up on me. She listened to me when I wanted to talk and she understood when I remained silent. She didn't pressure me. She was blunt, and brutally honest, but in a way that helped. She had enough hope for me that I even felt it as well, on very, very rare occasions. 


I was so thankful. Even if I didn't understand the reasoning behind her actions. 


That made me feel even worse, however. Because she still didn't know that I continued to hurt myself, despite her persistent efforts to make me better. Even though I knew how much it would hurt her if she found out, I couldn't stop. I felt as if I needed to. I needed to see the wound, I needed to see that I was hurting, I needed to see that I was being punished, in a way. Because I still felt worthless. And I was thoroughly convinced not even Carmen could change that. 


I knew how much it would hurt her if she found out. But I guess I couldn't exactly picture how much.


It was winter. It was cold out. The leaves left the trees, which became barren and bland. The grass lost its color and every day seemed so... grey. It matched the way I felt. I had lost whatever color I may have had. Anything inside of me that may have been even slightly positive, optimistic or interesting had dimmed and or withered. It rained a lot, too - it poured buckets. I usually liked the rain. But now it just seemed excessive. 


One day the rain was cold, and it turned to ice when it made contact with the road. The pavement became hazardous and slippery, and school was cancelled because of the dangerous travelling conditions. 


I didn't know where Carmen was that day. But after a few hours of her not showing up, I decided that she must be preoccupied with other things. It didn't bother me. My father and sister had left the night before, he was for some reason still convinced that he could get my sister into a college even against her will. The weather shifted drastically and quickly and they couldn't get back home. They called me to say that they would be back home the next day.


So I was alone. And I didn't feel compelled to lock the door to my bedroom like I usually did. I took the razor from the bathroom again, feeling hollow and empty, yet somehow agonized and so hurt. I sat cross-legged on my bed and I pulled up my sleeve. The skin there was so scarred. So... tainted.


If I knew one thing for sure about myself, it was that I was weak. And that I was of no importance whatsoever, regardless of my "personality". If I even had one. 


I put the razor to my skin and brought it down once. Only once. Not too shallow, not too deep. I stared at the new cut. And I suddenly felt no need to add more. I set the blade down on my sheets, my blood still clearly visible on the metal. And I just stared at my forearm. And I tried to remember what it looked like before. And I couldn't. Then I tried to remember what I was like before. 


And I couldn't.


I buried my face into my hands, willing myself not to cry. It was only then that I heard my bedroom door being opened. And I was too scared to look and see who had opened it. 


"No..." Was all that I heard. It was spoken too quietly for me to tell who had said it. But I had a foreboding feeling that it was Carmen, even though I wished so terribly that it wasn't. I didn't want her to see me like this, "...please... tell me you didn't..."


That was her. I recognized her voice and her tone. I suddenly felt so ashamed. 


"I..." I didn't know what to say. I couldn't bear to look at her. I didn't want to see her expression. Her disappointment. Her sadness. Her pity and worry. 


"I thought... y-you seemed..." She couldn't form words. Or she couldn't form the proper ones, "...my God..." 


There was a lingering silence absolutely teeming with tension. It was only broken when she stepped frantically towards me. I forced myself to look up. Like I had expected, I had never once seen her so conflicted and hurt. Her eyes weren't on me, however. I watched as she grabbed the razor firmly with two fingers and took a few steps away from me. My blood dripped off of it. Her mouth was agape and her lip was quivering. 


She took a deep, shaking breath and rolled up her own sleeve, bringing the blade to hover mere inches above her skin. I froze, feeling a few tears come from my eyes without me even being fully aware of them. 


"What are you doing?" I asked her, my voice nothing more than a desperate whisper tinged with confusion and terror. 


She looked like she was about to cry as well. But she also looked angry, to an extent. She was just radiating so many different emotions it was impossible to define what they all were, they just mixed together and formed a unique combination of sadness. 


"How do you feel right now, Autumn?" Her voice was so unsteady yet I could tell just how much she was trying to sound firm.


I stuttered out some things, paralyzed, unable to respond in any way. 


"Helpless, right? Like you can't do anything? Or guilty? Because you feel like this is your fault? Worried, because you don't want me to do it, because you don't know what you would do if I did? Scared, because you know you've gotten really attached to me, and you wouldn't know what to do if I wasn't there anymore?" Her voice broke on the last word. 


I felt as if I was going into shock. I didn't know how to react. I couldn't react. 


"That's how I feel about you - that's how I feel whenever you even mention hurting yourself. That's how I feel whenever I notice you staring off into space, looking so lost and lonely and empty."  She let her grip on the razor falter and it clattered to the floor. She was shaking. And she was starting to cry, "What can I do, Autumn?! What can I fucking do?!" She was shouting at me now. 


I stood up from the bed, our eyes locked, both of us with tears clinging to our eyelashes. She still shook where she stood and it seemed she was so unstable that she might fall at any minute. Not wanting that to happen, I reached slowly forward and gently grasped her arms, preparing to support her if necessary. 


"Carmen... I don't know why you're blaming yourself..." I let out a faint, single, bitter laugh, "...I honestly don't even know why you care, or why you're here right now--"


"--see?! It's stuff like that that makes me feel so useless. I want to help you. So badly. But I almost feel like you're not letting me! Why not?! Why are you so determined to remain unhappy?!"


"No no, Carmen, you are helping me. Really, you are, I swear."


"Then why are you still using... that?!" She emphatically pointed at the blade still on my floor.


"I just..." My eyes were now on the sleek metal as well, and I couldn't move them away, "...I need..." 


"Autumn, stop!" She abruptly tugged her arms from my already loose grasp, not necessarily looking angry, more dismayed and upset, "Just stop!! I know that you're insecure and everything but you need to listen to me, okay?! You are beautiful, and you are interesting, and you are unique and you are important! I've known that from the first time I saw you at the bus stop! If anyone else doesn't think so, that's because they don't know the real you! Because you try to hide that! You change yourself and I don't know why, because you don't need to be changed!!" 


I didn't know what to say to that. I was so confused. This didn't make any sense. I must have been dreaming. It couldn't actually be real. I didn't deserve something like this to legitimately happen. 


"I... I don't understand." 


Carmen then did something that I wouldn't have ever expected her to do in a million years, especially not at that moment in particular. She moved forward, closing the space between us, and kissed me. She kissed me, and I felt my legs literally give out from surprise. I fell backwards onto my bed but she followed me, persistent, laying on top of me and not breaking our kiss. 


I didn't know how to react, so I just tensed up, frozen, unable to comprehend what was happening. 


She drew back, both of us breathless, and she whispered to me, "I'm sorry..." 


But I grabbed the back of her head and I kissed her again. 


It was instinct. Impulse. But I had a feeling it was also one of the best decisions I had ever made in my entire life. 


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