See Me

Look at me. For the love of God, please just look at me. I see you walking past: talking, laughing, living. Not one of you ever stops and looks down, down into the river where he left me. Would you even see me? I don’t know, but would it hurt you to look?

It still hurts, which makes no sense. There’s barely anything left of me, except for my bones. There’s still life, crawling, wriggling life that strips me away in slivers. But those things aren’t me. They just live on me. So why does it all still hurt? The wire he wrapped me in cuts into skin and muscle I no longer have. My neck still feels bruised from where he crushed my throat; lungs still burn for air that will never come. And it’s cold. You, up there in the sun, can’t imagine how cold. Colder than the grave. At least sunlight might fall on a grave.

You’re so close; just look down. I’m here. I’m still here! So close to you that I can see the tread of your shoes overhanging the path, can nearly smell that cigarette you just lit. What’s out there that is so damn beautiful that you can’t even spare a moment for the river inches from your toes?

He wouldn’t look at me either. The man who did this to me. I saw him on the path once, his phone stuck to his ear. He’s the last person I wanted to see again, but after so long down in the dark and the seeping chill, I thought at least he might look at me. Might stop a moment and remember me. He didn’t. Didn’t even glance away from his phone.

I think I cried then. It was bad enough having no headstone to show that I had lived, short though my life had been. But now even my murderer had forgotten me? Worse still, I had wanted him to acknowledge me.

I think that’s the worst thing he could have done. To make me want him. That made me cry. Crying tears into a river.

That sunny day must be warm to make you linger here for so long. Most people are too busy, too wrapped up in their own business to stop by the river a while. Why are you taking your shoes off? Oh, you must be warm. This water is bloody filthy. Take it from me. You should hear the way parents warn their kids away from the water. Full of rubbish, they say, full of weeds that will snag you and drag you under till you drown. But there aren’t any weeds. There’s just me.

Could I touch you? Maybe. Maybe then you’d look at me.

My wire cage cuts deep as I try to reach for you. I can feel it slicing into me, just as it did when he threw me in, still alive though barely conscious. It’s all that’s holding me together now. If it wasn’t for this wire, maybe I’d have been carried out to sea. Would that have been better? Peaceful, perhaps, but no one would ever have looked for me there. Not that they look for me here.

There you are. The river pulls at my fingers as I stretch them out to you, to brush against your skin. Even in the water, you are warm. Warm to my touch. I miss that warmth. I miss it so much.

No, don’t pull away! You haven’t even looked at me yet. Don’t leave me. Come down here and see me!

All it takes is one quick pull, one moment of struggling violence, and now we can meet eye to eye. It all becomes so much clearer as we sink together into the water. Yes, I can see that you’re looking at me now. You’re looking at what he did to me. I can feel the water running through me, like wind through an empty house. It flows over every exposed bone and tugs at pieces of tattered flesh. It snakes its way between my teeth, through a grin stripped back and bear long ago.

Yes, you’re looking at me. But can you see who I am? I’m still here, still inside it all. I’m still me – the same person who walked along that path like you did. The same person who said goodbye to their parents, who went out with their friends, who accepted his offer of a ride home and died because I refused to pay the price he demanded. I am not the bones he made me.

Why aren’t you moving anymore? Open your eyes. You’ve got to … I see. You’re not looking at me anymore, are you? I suppose you’re not looking at all.

I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to … I am sorry.

Go. Go down the river, along with all the others. The current will carry you off in the direction of the sea and I wish you well on your silent journey. I have to wait here a while longer, I’m afraid. Just until somebody sees me.

© Samuel Poots

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