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?


12. Hypnotic Headlights

Nobody noticed me and my life didn't mean anything, I really saw no point in even staying in my house, or going to school. The girls hadn't stopped bullying me, and it had gotten worse after Carmen's abandonment, because they kept saying things about us "breaking up" and they really didn't understand just how close they were to being accurate about that. It hurt so much.


Over one weekend, probably about three weeks since I had any contact with Carmen, I just walked outside and down my street, in the opposite direction of her house. Despite how much I wanted to see her, I knew she didn't want to see me. And I didn't want to upset her. I never had. I hadn't meant to. 


I didn't know where I was going. I wasn't sure what I was doing. But I knew why I was doing it. I needed to escape. Though I wasn't sure exactly what I was escaping from, I abruptly just felt like I needed to get away from it. Maybe it was my newly acquired suicidal urges that seemed to be becoming stronger and stronger with each passing day. Maybe it was my feelings for Carmen that frightened me because of their intensity even when I had yet to define completely what they were. I wasn't sure. I wasn't really sure of anything anymore.


I went to a bus stop in the middle of downtown. It was busy there. People were walking past me, not even slightly glancing in my direction. I felt invisible. Unimportant. Worthless. Like nothing. I wrapped my arms around myself when I got into too thick of a crowd because I started to feel scared. Nervous. Unsafe. Judged.


It started raining and everyone on the street started to retreat into buildings. The sun had already been setting and the clouds made it seem like it was late at night. I didn't mind the rain but I felt odd just standing out in the open, alone on the sidewalk. So I walked to the nearest bus stop and sat beneath the awning, already soaking wet on account of standing in the downpour so long.


My clothes stuck to my skin and my hair was flattened, pressed against my face and neck. I had already most likely been crying but the rain masked any signs of emotional distress. That was until I lost all of my control out of the blue and started quietly sobbing into my hand. Nobody else was at this bus stop. Perhaps nobody needed to take the bus. Or perhaps they saw me there, a strange looking, alone, weeping teenage girl, and veered themselves away - instead going to a different one.


I felt as if I couldn't move though my body shook violently. My chest physically hurt. What was I doing? Why had I ruined my life like this? How had I ruined my life like this? What had I done? It was bad enough before. But now it was literally unbearable. I couldn't do it anymore. I just couldn't. I needed someone.


I needed Carmen.


Like she had said, that one day, what felt like years prior. She knew that I needed someone. And for a while, she became that someone. But then she got too close to me. And I accepted her advances. And as soon as I did, as soon as I let my walls come down, as soon as I let myself really trust someone for the first time, she left. Just as quickly as she had arrived, she was gone again.


There was a road not too far off from where I sat. It was busy. Cars drove quickly on it, some people pushing the speed limit a bit, and the amount of vehicles hadn't decreased on account of the weather. I could tell that there were bound to be a few accidents that night. Why shouldn't I be the cause of one? It would just take one "accidental" step. One motion, one movement into the road, one bone-shattering impact, and it would be over. All of it would be over. That idea sounded extremely tempting to me.


Too tempting to resist.


I slowly, shakily stood up, my legs feeling unstable and my body feeling like it was about to physically shatter into a million irreparable pieces. The rain continued to come down in buckets and weighed me down, making me feel even more like I was about to collapse.


I reached the edge of the sidewalk, my feet teetering off of the edge of the pavement, very close to just stepping out into the road. Cars that passed by were luckily going too quickly to notice me, in the darkness of this storm, with no streetlights nearby. My hands clenched into tight fists at my sides. I was still crying but the raindrops were effective in camouflaging my tears. Not that anyone would have noticed them, or cared they were there anyway.


I heard footsteps from behind me, even over the very noisy sounds the rain was creating. The only reason I heard them were because they were the only ones audible. Everyone else was gone. I assumed it was someone emerging from the buildings, maybe somebody getting a ride, or someone going to the bus stop now that I was no longer awkwardly sitting there. But when I listened more intently, it sounded as if they were getting closer to me. I tensed up.


"Who's there?" I spoke, my voice quaking and weak, just loud enough for this person to hear if they had been paying distinct attention to me. If they hadn't been approaching me, they wouldn't have noticed. I prayed I didn't get a response.


But I did nonetheless, "What are you doing?" The person's voice was raised. Because I wouldn't have been able to understand them otherwise, the wind abruptly howling exceptionally louder than it had been before. It's force made me wobble a bit where I stood since I had already felt as if I was going to fall over.


"Nothing." I responded after a few minutes, still not turning around. My attention was directed entirely on the pairs of headlights that flitted by me as cars passed. They were hypnotic. I knew that one step would place me in front of those cars. And that would be it.


"You're too close to the road." I for some reason couldn't tell if the voice sounded casually monotone or as if the person was trying desperately to subdue their immense concern. The rain distorted the voice a bit. I couldn't even tell if it was a man or a woman.


"What's it to you?"


"You might slip."


"What if I want to slip?"


There was a pause. A considerable one. It was lingering and seemed to suck all of air out of my lungs because I was holding my breath without even realizing it.


"Why would you want that?" The person finally asked.


"Because." I started to breathe again.


"You would hurt yourself."


"You're rather dense aren't you?"


Another pause. And a few more footsteps. I couldn't tell if the person was moving closer or farther back.


"I think you should head home."


"I don't want to go home."




"Your family is going to worry."


"They don't care about me."




"I'm sure that isn't true."


"You don't know that. You don't even know me."


Pause. It was almost as if I could predict when this person would stop talking. Each lapse in question and answer was just irritating me, however, and making me more tense.


"Apparently, nobody knows you."


This time, I was the one to hesitate in answering. I was confused. Who was this person? But I didn't turn around. No. If anything, I felt my feet scoot a little more over the edge of the pavement, feeling a magnetic pull almost tugging me straight into the road, but some other unknown force held me to my spot.


"What do you mean?"


"You don't even know yourself."


I couldn't move now. I was shocked. How did this person know that? Was it that obvious? Or did they know me? But, nobody knew how I felt about that. Nobody except...


...no, it couldn't be her. It wouldn't be. What were the odds of her being here? The odds of her spotting me out here, in this utter darkness, about to step out into the busy road? But my heart had leapt into my throat and nearly choked me. It was beating erratically and was swelling as well.


When I spoke, my voice broke, and I couldn't project it at a higher volume than the small squeak it came out as, "...Carmen...?"


There was a silence. It was so long I thought that whoever was there might have just been a figment of my imagination. It felt like hours before I got a response. And it made me almost dive right into the road as soon as I heard it.


"What are you doing here, Autumn?"


My next breath got caught in my throat and I held it in, exhaling it in a quiet gasp to myself. This was the first time she had spoken to me in weeks. Almost a month, now. The rain was making me shudder. I felt more fragile than ever - so broken and wounded.


I suddenly felt so angry. So unbelievably angry. I didn't know why. Maybe it was all of my negative emotions just trying to become one, instead of a jumbled mess of a thousand different feelings. But I just started seething. It was an anger full of pain, though. Showing just how hurt I was. Just how much she had hurt me.


I spun around so fast I almost fell over into the road. Carmen stood there, in a jacket with the hood pulled up, her hands in her pockets with the most blank expression I had ever seen on anyone's face. I felt myself glaring. She still looked absolutely beautiful, even when I was so abruptly infuriated with her.


"Where were you?!" I shouted at her at the top of my lungs, glad that there were no other people around to witness this confrontation.


She didn't say anything. Just stared at me. Her expression didn't change either, not even for a second.


"Where did you fucking go?! Why did you leave me?! What happened?!" She didn't say anything. My blood was boiling, "I thought you said you would be there for me?! I thought you were going to keep me safe?! I thought you were going to stay by me through this, I thought you wanted me to get better and more confident?!"


Though she still showed no emotion she responded slowly, calmly, "I do want you to get better."


I felt my teeth gritting, "Then why did you leave?!" I started to cry. I couldn't help it. I placed a hand over my mouth when the fist sob struck me and I shook again, wanting so badly to just throw myself in front of the next passing car. She didn't make one move to comfort me. Not in any way.


"Because I..." She didn't finish the explanation and instead just sighed, looking at the ground. Her expression at least showed that she was a little dismayed. That was something.


"Carmen I needed you!! And then you just left!"  I couldn't control the volume of my voice. I was absolutely screaming. I had never done anything like this in my life. Mere months before I could never have imagined in my wildest dreams that this would be happening: that I would be standing in the middle of a rainstorm shouting at a girl I had kissed after she had abandoned me.


"I wasn't thinking." Was all that she said in response, still not looking at me.


"You weren't thinking?! That's your excuse?! That's your excuse for leaving me, broken and shattered and alone?! That's your excuse for providing me with all of this false hope and then just breaking every promise you ever made me all at once and leaving me to die?!"


She suddenly looked up at me at those words, now looking serious and curious, "Is that why you're standing here? To die?"


"YES." I didn't hesitate at all in telling her that.


Her facade of being unaffected by this conversation dissolved at that one word. Her face fell and her mouth curled into a bitter frown, her eyes becoming slightly glossy and her entire demeanor changing completely. I felt whatever remnants of my heart disintegrate into dust. I didn't know what to do.


"Autumn..." She shook her head back and forth as if in denial and she wouldn't move her eyes from mine, "...please don't. Don't."


"Please don't what?! Jump in front of these cars and finally be free of all of the pain and lies?!"


"Don't, Autumn I need you..."


I laughed at her, "You don't 'need' me. Nobody 'needs' me." Tears were still streaming down my face and I was still shaking violently.


"I do."


"No you don't. Stop trying to pretend that you do. You left me. Not the other way around."


"I'm sorry." The way she said that, the sincerity to her words, it made me stop still. It made my brain slow down. It made me think. But then I stopped. And I just got more angry.


"Why are you still fucking here?!" I shouted at her, taking a step closer on the last word to emphasize my point.


There were so many emotions displayed in just her eyes, it was too hard to read them in my current state, "I can't lose you."


That hit me hard. I stepped back again, my feet practically on the pavement of the road, noticing the way Carmen's shoulders tensed up when I did. I started sobbing again, "I just can't do this anymore, I can't..." Whatever I planned on explaining just collapsed into more uncontrollable tears.


"Yes you can, Autumn, you're so strong!" She stepped closer to me, "I can help you. You'll get through this, I'll get you through this."


I scoffed bitterly at her, glaring once again, my rage and overwhelming frustration returning, "Oh yeah, like you did last time?!"


She looked down and may have even blushed a little though it was hard to tell.


"Why shouldn't I just fucking go?! It's one step, one motion, and then I'm gone forever! It would be so simple. Give me one good reason to stick around in this sad excuse for a life!!"


"Because I love you!"


I froze. My expression of rage fell. Carmen looked shocked at herself.


I couldn't do this. I couldn't be there. With her. Not with all of this happening. We both stood, paralyzed, our mouths agape but unable to form words, until I couldn't stand it anymore and I just turned and ran.


I ran away from her. I was the one that left that time.


She couldn't love me. She didn't know me.


I didn't know me. And I didn't love myself.


Nobody should love me.


But then why did I hear her crying when I ran away?



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