I’m sorry it had to come to this.

Fifteen years ago, I would have never even thought of this as an option. Yet here I stand, looking out of my window from my closet of an apartment, and I watch the stars. I think of the one night we saw the moon. I was the scrawny seven-year-old who had never stayed up past midnight on New Year’s Eve and who was still ashamed of the training wheels attached to her bike. You later told me it was around three in the morning when you snuck into my room to wake me up. The world was darker than I’d ever seen it before, and there was a strange red hue cast across my surroundings. Refusing to answer my questions, you grinned as you pulled me from my bed and down the stairs. Dad was waiting there for us, and grabbed my other hand when I reached him. I remember him leaning down and whispering, “You’re gonna love this, kid.”

I’ll never forget the night you two crazy parents dragged me out of bed and onto the deck to show me the red moon. Being a seven-year-old who still confused the words “specific” and “Pacific,” I couldn’t repeat it perfectly when you told me it was an eclipse. My closest attempt was an – “eslips” – but you two smiled and wrapped me in a blanket, then a hug. We stayed up all night, and you let me stay home from school the next day. “Special occasions need to be special,” you told me, “and this was very special, trust me.”

Ten years ago, I would have never even thought of this as an option. Here I pace, my hands unsteady and my breath uneven, eyes scanning my bare walls. I think of the afternoon we painted the living room. I was the four-eyed mathlete who had never been brave enough to ride a ‘real’ rollercoaster and was afraid of any hairstyle that wasn’t a ponytail – and sometimes even those intimidated me. We were sitting on the couch, you reading a magazine and me doing my homework. You looked like a normal mother for a moment, then out of nowhere, you jumped up and sprinted out the door. I remember thinking nothing of it. Perhaps you had forgotten a meeting, or you had an incredibly strong craving for peanut butter cups and just had to go to the store to get some. It wouldn’t be the first time.

I’ll never forget the look on your face when you rushed back in half an hour later, with a gallon of sky blue paint and a paint brush. I remember you saying in an excited hushed tone, “Let’s surprise your dad.”

We spent the rest of the afternoon moving furniture and picture frames off the walls. By the time Dad got home from work, the walls were painted a sloppy blue, with drips and smudges accidentally adding texture. For a moment, he acted as though nothing had changed, but I knew he had noticed.

You went up to him and said, “I was going to clean up the drips.”

“No,” he said, a grin spreading his lips, “I think it suits us.” If it were possible, I loved him even more after that.

Five years ago, I would have never even thought of this as an option. Here I sit, on a rickety chair as I stare down at my hands, then past them to the cold concrete floor. I think of the morning we ate breakfast on the ground. I was the teenager who was too overwhelmed to join a club because three were too many people; who tried out for every sport and only got onto one team – dodge ball, the sole sport where running away from the ball is what they look for. Dad had gotten up extra early to make us a wonderful breakfast. I remember the smell of back bacon wafting through the house and Dad’s special “secret recipe” oatmeal (a tablespoon of cinnamon and three tablespoons of milk along with a dash of M&Ms). I tumbled downstairs and eventually you came sauntering in as well.

I’ll never forget when you looked out at the beautiful assortment of food laid across the table. You stood with hands on hips as you shook your head and muttered in disappointment, “We can’t eat like this.” Ten minutes later, we were sitting on the floor on an old blanket, surrounded by oatmeal, bacon and fruit salad, each with our own milkshakes. You smiled and said, “Much better. Now we can eat like kings.”

One year ago, I didn’t think I had any options. Here I am, leaning against the wooden chair with my chin in my hand, my eyes floating up towards the creaking beams in my ceiling. I think of the time everything disappeared. I wasn’t smart. I wasn’t sporty. I wasn’t special. But I was one thing. I was loved. I was loved by the two greatest human beings I have come to know. And when the morning air was fresh, and drivers were still kind of asleep behind their wheels, and the ice was creeping across the road, I lost you. Everything gone in an instant. I blinked and the world was crumbling around me. Glass flying. Metal crunching. Screams echoing.

Not your screams. You were already gone. But the screams that fill my ears are uncontrollable. Shrill and strong.

And pained. The screams have been on repeat for the past eleven months. They have moved past my ears, through my mind, down my spine, spreading out to every cell of my being, finally finding their way to the deepest parts of my heart. Screams cannot be contained inside a weak, collapsing heart like mine.

I have no other option.

Here I hang.

From the rope, tied to the creaking beams in my ceiling.

My body limp, eyes blank, my chest quiet. The screaming has finally stopped. A peace falls across the room. I can feel our footsteps pounding against the carpet in the middle of the night. I can see the smile that crossed your face when you spotted the sky-blue walls. I can smell the bacon and the oatmeal.

Here I hang.

Finally free from the faded stars of joy, the bare walls of my core, the broken chairs of hope, and the concrete floors of my heart.

I was loved. Then, I was lost.

Finally, I am free.