“Pass that to me.” She said while pointing at a silver lighter on the floor near the ash tray filled with half smoked cigarettes and two unopened packets of the same. I adjusted my trench coat before picking up the lighter.
“Did you smoke all these today?” I asked and with a small smile playing on her lips, she replied,
“Yes. Now pass me the lighter.”
Her voice was soft and tone gentle. Still holding onto the lighter, I looked at the watch on my wrist and couldn’t help the sigh that escaped me. It was only 12 noon and there were like 12 smoked cigarettes on the ash tray already.
“Come on, you need to go easy on the smoking. You are killing yourself.”
I said to her and was stunned when she burst into laughter. This was the first time in two months that I have heard her laugh.
You know, she never used to smoke this much, she used to talk, perform poetry and be the life of the party. She loved challenges. We even started our entertainment and event planning company together as a challenge to ourselves just to see how far we could go. Without her, I wouldn’t have gotten through the rough patch of building a company after all, she is the one that pushed me to never give up.
“Don’t worry about me.”
She said while standing. She dusted the back of her booty short and walked into her bedroom.
“You might smile at work and laugh every day of the week, but I see the empty look in your eyes.”
The rustling and banging sounds in her room stop for a few seconds before starting again. I continue,
“Talk to me or someone else instead of suffering in silence.”
There was silence for a minute and just when I was about to enter the bedroom too, she walked out holding two canvas boards and her set of paint and brushes. Silently, she handed me one board and set up hers all the while ignoring the stunned look on my face.
“Paint with me.”
She whispered. I shook my head and walked towards her.
“After two years of avoiding brushes and paints like a plague, why now?”
I asked while setting up next to her. She shook her head and smiled genuinely for the first time in weeks, and I decided not to push it. If it made her feel better, then I would paint with her again just like the old days, so I set up beside her and together we painted. Each her own theme.
Hours later after non-stop painting, we stood, hands placed on our waists, smiling at our pieces. Mine a woman on a horse chasing a light that seemed to drift away and hers looked something like, a spirit leaving a body and the chain tethering one to the other, half broken. I didn’t put much thought into the meaning behind her painting because it was almost as dark as what she used to paint three years ago but now that I think about it, maybe I should have, because the following morning, just as I was leaving for work, I got a call.
“Rosa, she is dead…she …she…”
“Breathe, just breathe and tell me.”
“Doreen is dead. She overdosed on those over the counter medicine she told us were for coughs and on Ibuprofen. Doreen… she killed herself. Took them all with an entire bottle of wine.”
Doreen. Yes, Doreen was her name.
I didn’t hear the rest of what her sister was telling me because, ‘killed herself’ was all that kept ringing in my ears. Now as I stand in the corner of her living room, I let my tears flow as I read what she wrote at the back of the last painting she made when we were together yesterday.
Thank you for painting with me one last time. You must be angry, mostly at me. I tried to wake up every day, ignore all the hurtful words, smile at the world and even tried to think positively but the weight of darkness kept pulling me down. You said talk to someone? I did and all they told me was to summon my inner adult and stop crying over little things because humans love to talk and all I have to do is ignore. I’m sorry, but I couldn’t keep the voices out of my head. I couldn’t unread those comments. After all the cyber bullying because of my almost non-existent weight, my tastes and preferences and all the lies, twisting the facts of the rape case in my past, accusations of fraud and others I can’t even write down up to now, I tried to smile for the first two weeks two months ago but then, nothing got better. Everything kept going downhill. Our company started losing key clients, one lie after another kept being published as gossip and the audience dished out cruelty at it’s best. My mother won’t talk to me anymore. Daniel left. I can’t shop, go to the salon or anywhere else without some vulgar remark being thrown at me. Not a day passed by without an insult being left in my email or twitter inbox. You know, all I ever wanted was to sing, paint and plan events. It seems that the universe was not pleased by my wants. I’m sorry for pulling down the company. I’m sorry for avoiding you even when you made efforts to be there for me and help me out; I just didn’t want to drag your reputation down with mine. In this era, you never know who is watching. People are more concerned with other people’s lives and are happier when the smell of a scandalous story seems to be in the air, whether it’s true or not. Good bye Rosa, Live happily.
Oh Doreen. I do not even know what to say, but I am angry. Angry that cyber bullying is being made a norm, and publishing lies has become the potion of some papers who only care about views and followers. I’m also angry that depression got the best of her, but most of all I am sad. Sad that every time I see a painting, all that flashes in my mind is Doreen’s last painting and the smile on her face, as she painted it while seated next to me.