"I think… I need to find myself again," she said in a voice that couldn't be louder than a whisper. Even still, she knew that he heard her because, even when she used no words, no sound, he always heard her.
"We can do it together," he responded just as softly and she leant against the phone, as if it could make up for not being able to lean upon him.
Hearing this, joke though it may have been, she felt a sigh of relief, and carried on the charade, for it at least brought a smile to her face. "Oh good," came her small voice, for that's what happened to her voice when she was on the verge of tears. "I don't know where to begin, though."
The fragility of her voice scared her and somehow, she really, truly did feel lost and confused. Where did one begin to search for him or herself anyway? Herself wasn't anywhere in the room, she knew that most certainly, for she had already checked every crevice, every corner, every little nook she could possibly have lost herself in and no, there were no signs. Sometimes, she checked classes, wondering if maybe she'd misplaced Herself the way a pen falls out of a pocket, but never did she find a sign of who she was looking for.
A particular fear had settled over her, that maybe she might not recognize Herself anymore, and perhaps had already on many occasions found that missing Self and simply overlooked it. It was not a fear she would admit to anyone and he probably knew, anyway, because that's how best friends worked. He always knew.
Fortunately for her, though, she had a very intelligent and sensible best friend who knew just how to go about things.
"Let's start by checking under the rocks," he suggested and she noted, in mild amusement, how silly this all seemed and yet somehow, somehow, she couldn't help but grasp and cling to this childish conversation.
Of course they would search under the rocks first, she mused. Where else did one begin when something had gone missing? Ever elusive thoughts, objects, hopes and aspirations always wound up under the rocks, they had learned in their years of friendship. Metaphorically, this meant delving in far deeper than she cared to venture.
"Good idea," she told him before an afterthought occurred to her. "But they're really big and heavy."
He laughed, not a mocking laugh, but one she that told her he was as equally amused by the conversation as she, and perhaps it had something to do with that weak, baby voice she was using. They were very heavy, those blasted rocks, and hard to search beneath.
Like a good friend, though, he was ahead of her. "I'll help you. We'll lift them together."
She smiled. Of course they would – that, after all, was what friends did, even states away from each other, connected only by a phone. With him by her side, she was sure that the heavy rocks couldn't be quite as awful and it even gave her a spark of hope. Faint as it was, a spark was a spark, which meant that maybe the elements where there enough to cause a full on hope. For a moment, her chest felt very warm and full. A moment later, she questioned that warmth, finding it strange that her chest actually felt so cold. One could only expect so much when she was lacking Herself, she presumed. After all, if one was empty, where could the warmth be coming from?
Smiling, she nodded, though he couldn't see it.
"Sounds good," was her reply, which she was happy to hear had some kind of strength to it. "But remember; I'm super weak so you'll have to compensate a little for me."
They both laughed and she felt relief wash over her as he told her that he could do that. What sort of anticipation had built there, she couldn't imagine, because why did one need to feel anxious about whether or not her friend could do that? Perhaps, she reasoned, she had been losing faith in humanity, because it surely explained everything.
It explained her newfound distrust in people and how she found that she shied away from them.
Maybe it even explained her feelings of inadequacy and how she didn't feel she fit in, didn't feel she had a place where she belonged. Of course, she knew, it would take a conversation with her best friend to tell her just how out of place she felt, how far onto the fringe she found herself and more than anything, at that moment, she wanted to just curl up to him and feel him holding her, like they used to, when he'd come over at midnight and they'd cuddle in bed together while her parents went to sleep.
More than anything, she just wanted to feel comfort and warmth, to feel that she was loved, because somehow, the words "I love you" were never good enough. Not now, not at this moment. In a state like this, she needed certainty, assurance, and physical contact to remind her that she was still alive and not merely existing in her mind, which sometimes she felt.
If only she knew where Herself had gone.
Maybe the search would have been easier if she had known where Herself had first been lost, but it felt like it'd been such a long time since then. How was she to know where she was to have begun to look? How it was possible, she wondered, for one to simply lose Herself and not be aware, she wasn't certain, though everyone agreed that she wasn't the most perceptive person in the world. Maybe one of those days that she'd been skipping around in the flowers, the euphoria of happy, Herself slipped out of her pocket, thus she couldn't even notice until the elation had worn out. Because that bliss was so overpowering, so exhilarating that she was so swept up in it until she woke up in the dark, alone and lost.
After a short while of silence, the good kind, not the bad sort that was awkward and left both counterparts struggling to find something to fill the gap with, but the good kind that felt comfortable and sincere and right, a thought came to mind and instead of repressing it, she let the words tumble from her mouth.
"Do you know what?" she asked him, because she knew that this time he didn't know.
She was momentarily triumphant when he asked what.
"More than anything," she said, taking a little breath, "I want someone to look at me and tell me I'm not okay. For them to tell me to stop lying to myself and to see through my façade. One day, I want someone to say 'I will help you' and try to help guide me, because I feel so lost, I think I've lost my way. Not just my Self – everything about me, and I no longer know how to fix any of it. All I really wish is that someone would help fix me - tell me that I am not okay but we'll work it all out in the end and help me find my Path again."
Finally speaking those words felt hard and they themselves felt very heavy and even with them spoken, she felt no lighter than before. If anything, having those awful words out there made her feel heavier, because speaking them was admitting them and now she could no longer pretend it didn't matter, pretend that it didn't exist. All she wanted was to carry on as if it was all okay.
She knew the truth, though.
Had hidden it from herself for a very long time.
In no way was she "okay".
Alone and scared and even a little silly and as much as she tried not to think about it, in the back of her mind, the dark matter rest heavily. It didn't mean she was screwed up or had problems, but she was not merely "okay". She was sad. Lost. A little broken and hurt.
But all things could be fixed, she knew that.
After another silence followed this, she waited, now in the anticipatory silence, the one waiting for him to finally tell her she was a nut case or that she should seek help. That's what she'd been telling herself, to be honest. That she needed some help.
"Hey," he finally said and she perked her head up, though he couldn't see it.
In an off-key voice, he began to sing. "You're nooooooooot oooooooookaaaaaaaaaaaay!"
And she laughed. Because she knew that in due time, he would help. She was sure that he wouldn't be the only one. That some days, she was going to be fine but for those days that she pretended and lied to herself and wore that mask of happiness, someone was going to see through and when she lied and said "I'm fine" or "I'm okay" they would tell her that she wasn't. Even if she wouldn't tell them what was wrong, she knew that it would feel much better to at least know that someone out there knew the truth and could see through it.