She can only hear wind rushing past her ears. Her mind couldn’t avoid what it tripped over until it was too late. It was a very small rock, fixed firm in the ground. It took the form of a child’s giggle over what she perceived to be her weight. Even though her size is, now, what most would consider healthy. Regardless, she fell. Spiralled downward like a dead leaf. When she fell, she plunged over a cliff. A high cliff built of all her life’s woe. She plunged through all her hoarded hurt.
She’s falling now. ‘I’m sorry Julie,’ her boss said, at the end of yet another week in which her anxiety and depression had swung like a wrecking ball through her productivity. ‘It’s just not working out. We need to let you go.’ It was her dream job. She studied years for it. Struggled. Sweated. Suffered. Built what she thought were strong, unassailable foundations. Yet, she fell. She’s falling still.
Falling further. ‘I need time to myself,’ Bill said. Her boyfriend of three years. Now, fiancé. Now, what? ‘I love you, I want you, but I need some time to think about whether this is what I need. Whether this is what we need. I can’t believe I’m going to use such a cliché, but it’s not you. It’s me.’ She yearned to change his mind. But let him go, thinking another cliché: that if you love someone, let them go. If they come back, they’re yours. He still hasn’t. So she’s still falling.
Falling fast. Julie went in to the psychology sessions thinking they would achieve nothing. She just wanted medication. But in the end she believed the meds were a waste of money. And the sessions: lifesaving. Her pain washed over the initially seemingly cold, distant psychologist. She feared the shrink would use her pain against her, or be brought as low as she by it. Instead, he held up a mirror. Its reflection said one simple thing about her suffering: that it was normal, rational, human, and she need no longer be afraid. Still, free falling.
No parachute. She screamed for the first time, thinking of growing up the fat girl as a child. Then, as a teenager, anorexic. The mirror was always against her then, because she held it up against herself. In it she would always perceive ugliness, because that’s what she thought others saw. Regardless of her actual physical beauty, the mirror would appear cracked, covered in spots, discoloured, warped; hideous. More relaxed now.
Yet, still falling. Julie had always escaped into other worlds. Books. Films. Magazine articles – at least those she knew wouldn’t stimulate her inadequacies. The pain of existence wouldn’t stop. It would only be pushed aside momentarily in favour of pleasant fantasy. She’d wander giddily through the worlds of Huckleberry Finn, Atticus Finch, Winston Smith, Oliver Twist, Bilbo Baggins, and the like. She’d draw comfort from those worlds, even if her own was torturous. No longer relaxed.
Falling through razor blades. No more screaming. Now, howling in agony. She sat atop the courtroom’s mahogany witness chair, reliving all the horror her step-father had put her through. Adding tear stains to those probably countless other victims of sexual abuse had, on the glazed wood. Red eyes pleading with the judge, the prosecution, her mother, to end the further pain his defence’s cross-examination was putting her through. But knowing it was no use, it was all part of the process. The system of victimisation of the weak and vulnerable. She goes limp.
All resistance to the fall, such that it would have achieved, gone. On her back, through golden hair fluttering Heavenward, Julie sees her father. He died when she was five. Only one memory remains. Of him reading to her. She can’t remember the book. Just his face. Unshaven but warm, crow’s feet smiling behind blue eyes twinkling as he gives her alternate reality gifts from his gentle, loving lips. She’d sought him in those other places ever since. But hadn’t found him. Had instead fallen. Wanted nothing but to fall. Continues falling.
Turned over mid-fall. Now facing the ground. Close enough, ever closer, quickly closer, to see it for what it is: hard. It takes the form of her mother’s face: no less hard. Her saviour upon throwing her stepfather out, to be jailed, besides. But she couldn’t bear the shame. Or, more tragically, denied it. Cast out Julie, too. Felt her daughter had somehow encouraged her own abuse. Retreated into never properly dealt with mourning of her dead husband. Father dead. Mother lost. Julie became orphaned. So she fell. Is still falling. Is, blessedly, almost finished falling.
Falling through faces. Her own, in an ugly mirror. Her father’s, smiling crow’s feet, azure sea and sky sparkling eyes, loving lips. Her mother’s, turned away, eyes downcast. Her school friends’, taunting. Her boss’s, confused and cold. God’s, quickly vanished, but a fictional phantom. Faces seemingly within reach flash across the ground beneath her. Full of unasked for hatred and prejudice. Unjustified revulsion. Then, finally, Bill’s. He catches her. But too late. Too late to save her. Instead holds his lost love Julie’s lifeless, finally at peace body in the bath as a crimson river snakes down the plug hole.
(If this has raised any issues for you that you feel the need to discuss, please talk to a loved one or call such counselling services as Lifeline on 13 11 14. Or by all means comment below. You’ll not be judged here.)