I have heard that many succumb to the sickness quickly. Some fall ill within days; it takes others in only hours. A few are unfortunate (or is it truly fortunate?) enough to make it mere minutes. They become infatuated with the disease – with the symptoms it yields. It seduces them with the skipping of a giddy heart. It lulls them with a calming sense of peace. It promises the permanence of a feeling that is not always permanent. With inhibition gone, it strikes. I, myself, suffered slowly.
It started with eyes that were bluer than the sky. Those eyes were big and round and perfectly set into a baby face. Despite the vow to avoid infection at all costs, I found myself falling for her. Her name was Violet – Vi for short. I will never forget that name.
Before Vi, I was a total junkie for affliction. I could never get enough of the pain it caused; often, it went too far. Again and again, the disease raged through my body. It sent shocks and tingles through every nerve. I experienced high after high and crash after crash. Vi was exactly the type of girl that made me swear off the stuff. However, swearing off something you are addicted to is never an easy task.
She was a carrier when I met her. The sickness destroyed the men in her life before me. It laid claim to their weak, pitiful, easy-loving hearts. Long before she met me, Vi swore to hurt any man before he had the chance to hurt her. I made the mistake of believing that, with me, things were different. I had absolutely no idea what I was up against; the disease was an unpredictable entity.
My romance with Vi was also a romance with the virus. It built over the months after I met her. Through flirty glances and teasing conversation, we maintained the illusion of growing closer without breaking the surface. We knew each other at face value. That is, until my sister ended up in the hospital.
I spilled my guts to that girl (I say girl because, in retrospect, I realize Vi had never made it past the superficial cheerleader phase of her life). The sickness had me in its clutches. By the time I made the connection, it was too late. As my hands shook with fear for my sister – my sick, little sister – Vi kissed me.
Later, she said it was all a mistake. She said she was not ready for a boyfriend just yet. She said she hadn’t known what she was thinking. She kindly added that she admired my sensitivity. She said she was sorry, but her voice was thick when she said the words; I just could not bring myself to believe she was sincere. My heart seized up as the infection did what it always did at this point: spread. The pain and sheer, searing heat of it tore through my chest – it was worse than any other experience I’d had with the virus.
Just like that, she walked out of my apartment. She walked out of my life. She slammed the door on my heart. She left me on the rough carpet, quaking as the disease ravaged my insides. She left me pleading and wishing -- and even praying to a God I never believed in – that I was dreaming.
The ailment crept through my bloodstream, stronger than ever, mottling my brain and heart. I refused to acknowledge it. I would not own up to the way it affected me. Instead, I claimed the opposite. “I hate her!” I yelled to the heavens (well, to my showerhead). I would not give the sickness the power it needed to survive; it was either the infection or me. I forced myself through the swampy remains of my daily life.
The virus leveled off after some time, but I just could not seem to get Vi out of my head for very long. She haunted every aspect of my life. Too attached for far too long, I was having the hardest time detaching myself from her, even in the slightest of ways. Every thought led back to her. Eventually, I got tired of fighting and just accepted the feelings as they came.
Then, Mara walked through the door Vi had left on a single hinge. Her entrance was sudden, but subtle. She fixed the door on her way in. Her only tools were gentle words, kind gestures, and a simple ‘yes’ when I invited her to have coffee with me. Grateful, I left the door open for her.
We talked night after night. Our relationship was so much deeper and more intricate than whatever I had with Vi. We laughed. We debated. We shared opinions of food at her favorite diner. Then, we discussed politics at my favorite restaurant. We talked about popular culture with a movie playing in the background of my one bedroom apartment. Eventually, we conversed about our futures (first, separate) and our future (together), on the couch at her place. She called me crying when her mother died. I bought her ice cream and held her until her hysterical sobs turned to the relating of memories. I smiled and joined in the laughter caused by those memories.
I soon found out that the sickness had left Mara just as scarred as it had me. Yet, she had only been exposed to it twice, never knowing either man would use the infection to tear apart her heart. The last one – more than two years before – had left her in a deep, dank well of depression; the man had left this Earth without her. She confided in me the secret details she claimed no one else knew.
This common ground gave me the courage to one day take her hand in mine. I brought it to my lips, kissing it with patience and understanding. She grinned at me. Our fingers laced together. In that moment, we felt something new. My disease drove out hers from even the darkest depths. Her virus flooded mine, drowning it in my veins. Together, we discovered that the sickness was also the cure.