Jumping Timelines. (January of 2020)

(TW: Delusions, accidental overdose, suicidal ideations, gaslighting, suicide attempt, loss of a spouse, existential crisis, misgendering, a LOT of discussion of suicide. Anything in Italics was happening in my head exclusively.)

Oh, yes, folks, we’re going right into part two!

That’s Arkady’s eye. His eyes always did remind me of labradorites.

Those screenshots don’t lie. Arkady and I actually did have a wedding in the realm of Faerie. I didn’t believe in marriage before him. I don’t believe in marriage after him. But I believed in marriage for the two years I was with him.

Supposedly, Faerie marriages last forever. Even when Arkady and I were at odds later on through the years, officially broken up, he made the comment, ‘We’re still married.’

Just recently, Adrennin made a comment on if I were still married or if I had gotten ‘divorced already.’

Kaspar took offense to this. When I took a moment too long to think of an answer that didn’t involve the phrase ‘Go fuck yourself’, Kaspar cut in with a clipped tone. “It’s widowed, actually.” Adrennin actually had the sense to look a bit sheepish and muttered condolences.

Later on, Kaspar took me aside and asked me if it was crossing any bounds.

“No,” I said hoarsely. “That’s… the closest to the truth, anyway.” Widowed, after less than a year of marriage. Granted, Visarden and the Arkady I knew could be in the system. But when someone has been missing for two years, you might as well have the funeral and bury the empty casket already.

Aberle was also in agreement, but also quite drunk that night. “Widower…? Widow…? Widowex? What’s the gender-neutral form of–…” He murmured to himself in German for a few seconds before proudly declaring, “WINDEX. Wait. No, wait–” I collapsed into laughter. Aberle’s a gem.

But I still remember my wedding. Ash, of course, was guiding me on what I was seeing, in a way that had only really been previously achieved by April and Kieran, but it was working. I remembered how Enna, Ash’s and Arkady’s daughter in that plane, had decorated everything– we had it themed in suns and moons, in reference in Silas and Inalis. We had matching gold and black robes. He was much taller than I– I’m always shorter than my body in the internal. He shed a single, crystalline tear and I was busy wiping away my ink-stained tears (yeah, that was a thing) into a subtle handkerchief tucked in my sleeve. The splendor of Faerie was the perfect background– the way the setting sun filtered in through the leaves like a halcyon caress.

Gods, I might have cried out of sheer sentimentality even if I weren’t getting married and knew no one there.

We themed our vows on the fact that we had known each other since the birth of the universe, and would continue to know each other until at least the death of it. The kiss we shared to seal the deal could have lit Manhattan, Tokyo, Paris, and Rome for a year.

I had never wanted to be married. Not until he asked.

Well, until Ash suggested he ask.

It was one of the best days of my life, and it was orchestrated for Ash to have my system more devoted to being around them. It seemed like this particular ceremony was Arkady’s idea, but the one who suggested us getting married was Ash. That, I do remember. The three of us were on a video chat. Ash suggested it, and Arkady hopped on it. Then, months later, after Ash was satisfied in how well I was able to see the ‘Unseelie Court’, we were wed there.

It was one of the greatest internal days of my life. And even though most of it was Ash’s insidious farce, Arkady and I believed it. And try as they might, they still can’t take that away from me.

On vis och, eh, love?

As you could probably surmise, I was quite devastated from the events on January 18th. Arkady promised to talk to me the next day. I worked at 3pm, but this wasn’t the type of thing we could just leave. The crying together and murmuring terrified sorries was a Band-Aid on it. And if we were going to prevent this from happening again, or even reduce harm from the damage caused that night, there’d have to be communication. And that was a fact with or without Gaslamp.

I don’t think I slept in his bed that night. I don’t know if that was a consequence of the night before, or a pre-set plan that are always common in polycule circles. And, again, I’m sorry for how hazy this is. I awoke early, an anxious wreck, and journeyed upstairs to the attic, where I’d already heard talking. I think it was Ash, Arkady, and March there. But I do know that Arkady wasn’t alone and that Zara wasn’t there yet.

“Hey, do you want to have that talk now?” I hated how meek my voice was starting to sound out of my mouth. It was starting to have ‘Can I come out of my room and have dinner now?’ vibes.

My heart was at least prepared to sink when Arkady sighed. “I honestly just… can’t right now.”

No one is obligated to talk to you right when you need it. But I knew this was just going to fester and pass through a sick telephone game if I didn’t address it soon. I was afraid that ‘I’m not comfortable with you giving your friend unlimited access to my living space’ would somehow turn into ‘I will curse Zara to get into a fiery car wreck and die.’ How absurd would that be?

I quietly joined he and the other two(?) and we spent probably two hours of scrolling and making benign comments about whatever was on our feed. Then Zara showed up again. One thing I was able to remember the night before was that Ash had mentioned that Zara could ‘pick up’ the tension. Which is a surefire thing to cut down on the tension, if my rising heartbeat was any indicator. Zara was soon in our space without any of us moving position. You know, Zara could let herself in, now that she had her own fucking key.

She was working on some sort of sewing project with Ash. That single hour before I had to go to work lasted approximately four years. I was trying my best not to look tense, knowing that any hint of reluctance on my end could send Ash spitting Zara’s perhaps-unrelated reaction back in my face. I went downstairs briefly to ready myself for work, then I walked back up to Arkady. I forget if Zara was here for this.

“I know you didn’t want to talk before I had to go to work, but can I like… text you throughout the day? Just… for reassurance’s sake?” I think he hesitated. Or said something noncommittal. I jaggedly went on. “Because, if I’m being honest, I’m still way shaky about last night right now. Like probably a solid 10/10 ‘At Risk’ territory.” I remember him shaking his head. My throat tightened. “Can I like… talk to you today? At all? Like… even if I’m at risk?”

Now, this part, I’m unsure happened. What I believe Arkady said next was, after an exasperated sigh, “Yeah, you can call me if you’re literally about to die.”

The thing is, he had said that line once before to me. He said it over a year ago, as more of a joking sort of thing over the phone, on December 10th of 2018. That’s the night I ended up on the roof of my four-floor building without remembering how.

Arkady has sworn up and down that he didn’t say it in the attic to me on January 19th, 2020, but can’t give me a straight answer on what he did say. And I was mentally unstable enough that it’s reasonable to theorize that I had a flashback that I mistook for reality. But Arkady had lied to me since and the three other people in the room would sooner lie than tell you what day of the week it was. For accountability’s sake, I want to say the odds of my memory being correct here are probably… 75%?

Either way, what he said was a combo move that left me broken both mentally and emotionally. I choked out an ‘Okay.’ before walking to the bus stop. I remember standing there, on the corner of Clinton and Field, waiting for what used to be called the RTS 51 route to come collect me. If you’re wondering why I still went to work that day, I wanted to witness something that was not the soul-sucking nightmare that my personal life had become. I needed to see people who existed outside of my crumbling castle of glass.

But fuck, if working at the [REDACTED CHAIN HOTEL] was preferable to the household dynamics, you know things were fucked. I have had customers throw things at me. There was a shooting in the building last year two hours after I clocked out. Just so you lot have the comparison.

I at least didn’t have the shift alone that night, thank gods. I don’t think I was worth a decent stroke of work.

My mind was a whirlwind of regret and feverish paranoia that was breeding more suicidal delusions with every hour. An approximate recap is something along these lines:

Arkady literally yelled lies at me holy fuck who WAS that? It didn’t even seem like him. Is this what Aberle told me what happened years before? With JaK screaming at Sound that he was going to divorce her and no one came to help no matter how we yelled and yelled? Sound sobbing over her old wedding videos… This is a damned timeline, a fucking damned timeline, this was never supposed to happen.

My head swam with a vague overdose of Hydroxyzine, my ‘as needed’ anxiety medication. See, Xhax and I, both to try to calm ourselves down, took the maximum daily dose of four. Each. Then I took one more because, fuck it, what would only one more do? I didn’t know it was fucking nine until I looked at the bottle and realised, oooh shit, there were less than there should have been.

Great, even my subconscious is trying to fucking kill me. My heart can’t stop racing so it might as well fucking stop. Supposedly, I wasn’t supposed to exist anyway, maybe it’d right this fucked up timeline.

Oh. Actually. What if it does?

It could be like a nightmare. I have nightmares that are so scary that I have no choice but to climb to the highest point I could find and jump, just to wake up.

Suddenly, I was scrolling on Google maps. It struck my fancy to jump off of the top of High Falls and I was trying to find a way to do that– to perhaps find myself one with the flow of everything before winking out of this warped reality and limited to the right one. And hell, I always did have a fascination with dying in a river!

I wasn’t supposed to exist. I was never supposed to exist. Maybe I’ll wake up in a world where this never happened. Maybe I’ll warp out of existence like I was never here but Ash and Arkady will be okay. Maybe meeting me is the reason Elisabeth died. Maybe she just got too close to a glitch in the universe and paid the price. I’ll manipulate time until they only remember me fondly as some fictional novella character they read about once.

Oh, cool, I could climb up onto the train tracks and jump off from there. Gods, it’s going to be cold, though. Well, it’s not like I’ll have to tolerate it long.

What if I don’t come back this time?

Well. That’d be okay. One damned timeline is more than I ever want to see. I knew vaguely what had happened in ‘the other plane.’ Not only had Aberle spilled some of the beans, but I was beginning to explore it with Ash and Arkady over the past two years. A lot of my friends in that other plane think I was ‘brave’ for putting up with it the first time. But no, I was sucked into that Hell because it was too late to get out. Not this time! I don’t care if it’s cowardly. I am a coward! I’m fucking scared! I’m not going to witness it again. I’m not going to see a love of my life slowly turn into my worst source of pain. I’m not going to witness myself slowly but irretrievably losing all I tried so hard to find.

I’m not

fucking

living to see it!!!

It’d break me. It’d break me irreparably, then I’d be just some bitter, maddened, jaded villain that can’t believe in anything or anyone anymore.

I’m not destroying myself. I am saving myself.

I was standing atop the train tracks that bridged over the Genessee River– the centre of so many Rochester postcards. Wind whipped all around me. I knew there was no going back. In fact, I could feel the tracks vibrating to tell of an oncoming train and I was too far away from the river’s banks to be able to make a run for it. There was no choice but jumping– at least if I wanted an open casket funeral. Even if I were to survive the fall– and the landing– I’d surely drown. And hell, there was a good chance of me freezing to death even if I avoided both of those.

“Yeah, you can call me when you’re literally about to die.”

Deal.

Obviously, this reality’s Arkady wants me to die. To escape this reality and come back to the Real him.

Gods, what if my Arkady answered, just as I was at the edge from this reality to the next? He’d tell me sweet things in his voice that wasn’t yelling– that wasn’t calling me names. Yeah, that will be the last thing I ever hear. After the last few days, that’s all I’d want. I’d be warm even in the freezing waters below if I could just get That! I dialed his number and stepped towards the edge…

I think about this episode of Bojack like, a lot.

I was snapped back to attention by someone’s voice, belonging to a work friend named Tanner. My coworker told me the last sentence I said didn’t make sense. He was asking about if the last shuttle pick up had given me a callback number.

That was when I realised I was still in the hotel. I had been so certain that I had made it to the train tracks, just about to jump. I stared at my coworker blankly. He frowned at me. “I asked you just now and you said they’re at the bridge?”

My brain was rapidly trying to catch up with the fact that I wasn’t dead yet, nor had I even left the building. “Oh. Uh. I’m pretty sure they’re at the shuttle port at the air pick-up. Like. The usual one. That you use the picking people van from.” Christ, it sounded like I was having a stroke.

Tanner was more than patient but increasingly incredulous. “No, it was the group from Grappa?”

“Yeah!” I tried looking for any information I may have written down and spilled my nearly-empty paper teacup all over the desk. “They’ll, uh. They’ll call us back with a pick-up location.”

This was ten times as worse as being drunk. I told him I had a migraine and sat in the back office. My mouth was dry, no matter how much water I drank. I kept putting my phone down and promptly losing it, without having changed positions. I was texting Arkady– not about anything important, at first, but I think he grew suspicious. Or my accidentally-high ass let it slip. Or maybe Xhax was so freaked that he actually spilled the beans– he’s said since that he might have.

It’s honestly a bit too raw to go back and get those screenshots right now. If you REALLY need them to believe me, I can get Xhax to do it, but I bleed my heart onto this page every week– I occasionally have to have boundaries.

Arkady had figured out what I was planning and was asking. I somehow felt through his tone of texting that he was criticizing my plan– clearly not my Arkady! I had it in my head that he was implying that I’d do it wrong and that he was going to call the cops on me to teach me a lesson about how stupid my plan was. Nice try, you cruel bastard masquerading as my husband! Snitch, snitch, as fast as you can! You can’t catch me, I’ve outrun my own lifespan!

Then he sent voice memos. Somehow, his text replies didn’t convey what he was feeling– or I was just too fucked up to notice it. Like I said, it’s self-care not to go back and have a read.

I clicked play.

There’s something both so romantic and so sadistic about the way his distraught voice cut through everything. The overdose fog, the delusions, the panic, the rapid switching between the internal and the external– I heard it and it fired across every single nerve-ending and synapse. “Xanthe, no! No, you’re not doing this! Xanthe, you can’t just die!” His voice broke here.

Fuck. Fuck.

He was crying. Fuck.

I made him cry.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. “I get that we fought but you can’t resolve anything if you’re gone!” No, yeah, actively sobbing. Over the thought of me being dead. My theory that he was somehow disintegrating into my nightmare version of him seemed instantly absurd. He didn’t want me dead, he wanted the very opposite.

(But, you know, give it a year.)

Fuck.

I was frozen in the computer chair in the back office. Google Maps was still open on the desktop, with that little pinpoint on the railway bridge highlighted. There was also a Google page about overdosing on Hydroxyzine on my phone, but my motives of that one were far less nefarious– I was merely investigating the damage already done. I typed as fast as I could, not taking the time to explain the unhinged depth of my breakdown, but telling him I’ve changed my mind, trying to calm him down. I wasn’t going to do it, I was wrong about something, I’m so sorry, I won’t do that again.

The guilt was immediate, drowning out every other stream of thought. I just wanted him not to be scared or sad anymore, and I would’ve moved planets to make that happen. I was wiping my eyes on the blazer sleeve of my uniform. I was surprised I could still breathe while still choked with so much regret.

The rest of the night grew fuzzy again. I think I was either picked up or offered to be. I don’t think I took them up on it. And I’m only vaguely under the impression that the household was sleeping when I returned. I didn’t mention my accidental overdose– I figured that would just antagonize everyone more.

Ash had told me, “If I thought you were suicidal, I would not have let you leave the house.” And it left me vaguely wondering what they thought ’10/10 at risk’ meant to them.

As a creator that’s actually gained a following, this would be the part where I would link a whole bunch of crisis hotlines and links. Those never helped me, so I’m not going to pretend I think they’ll help you either. But I will tell you this– as things degraded further and further over the next year, I thought the impression I had of my life that night was a glimpse into the future.

Because I ended up being right. Not about timelines or powers, but one of the main reasons I wanted to die is that I thought my Arkady would perish and what remained would turn from my loving husband to an ignorant, gaslighting, lying, cruel puppet at Gaslamp’s (Ash’s) bidding. And I didn’t want to see that.

And if I had died that night, I would not have had to. I would have hit ‘pause’ on a nightmare before it got worse, before the months of Hell that were to follow. Before I learned that his ‘eternity’ was a lie. Before I felt so utterly foolish for moving across the country to be with he and Ash. Before the thing that had made me feel the safest, most blissful would end up being a sick fucking joke; a sequel to what fucked me up in the first place. I spent the next year wishing like hell I could go back and succeed in what my sick, paranoid, deluded yet somehow correct mind wanted to do on January 19th, 2020.

I no longer do, as of one year ago in January.

Granted, I still have little suicidal breakdowns. I spiral about how broken I am, about how I don’t belong here, that myself and my system has been toyed with glorified LARPers and their psychological rape far too much (literally the majority of our collective life) to actually ever heal. I get fixated on that, hell, authors that live alone and drink too much often end up dying young anyway. Plus, I need to have a close call occasionally to trick my enemies into thinking that I’m mortal.

It also helps keep poor Xhax on his toes.

But if I had died that night— I never would’ve lived to see my novella turned into an audiobook. I never would have gotten the best job I’ve ever had, with coworkers and regulars that feel like they’ve adopted me. I never would’ve been told by a stranger that I made the best Old Fashioneds ever. I never would have made brilliant friends out of the other victims, or just those who have reached out afterwards. I never would’ve seen how wonderful Lower Falls is for a photo op, or climbed down to the manmade cave right near it. I never would’ve fallen asleep in Mt. Hope cemetery. I never would’ve seen how great I look in black and white hair. I never would’ve known all those beautiful, haunting parts of my system that serve as inspiration to me and others.

And I never would’ve seen how my writing would take off.

Honestly, what helped me most was people like Spectre, Casey, and Cotton reaching out and telling me, holy shit, they saw what these people did, too. If they didn’t, I might still think this was all my fault. I would have died confused and thinking my presence alone had transformed my beautiful family into a nest of vipers. I wouldn’t have discovered the pattern, and would have died wondering why. Now I know why, and I have a way to (hopefully) stop it from happening to anyone else.

If that alone doesn’t convince you to stick around, take some of my favourite quotes I use to keep myself in the game:

“Why leave the party early when you can get kicked out a legend?” — Casey.

“Everyone gets to die eventually. Why be impatient?” — Also Casey.

“Why threaten to die? It’s not even a neat trick, anyone can do that.” — Former friend with benefits I can’t remember the name of. (Oops)

And lastly, but not the least– My death would make the household way too comfortable. Then they’d just go back to harassing and stalking their ex-friends again. And I’m not giving them that.

I’m not giving any of my abusers that.

I’m still alive despite my attempts to be otherwise… much to Deborah’s chagrin. And oh, I’m having this blog end on a darkly funny note, so you have to hear about Deborah.

See, about a week after my breakdown, Ash suggested that I go to an ‘Urgent care but for mental health’ for an evaluation. I think this might have been Rochester Regional, just from what the building looks like, but I honestly don’t remember the exact facility. But I remember that the person who evaluated me was named Deborah.

Fucking Deborah. She was a stout, boomer-aged woman that honestly reminded me of a frog. Ash drove me to this place and went in with me. I’d since heard Ash used to pick Arkady up from therapy and scold him on what he said and didn’t, and would sometimes even contact his therapist themself. So, while Ash said they were there for moral support and I allowed it, I question if they would’ve agreed to otherwise.

I answered some peremptory questions with Ash watching me. The main concern was my recent suicidal ideation, which, yes, I admit was a bit intense even for my theatrical standards. Deborah asked me about my past attempts.

I told her about the time we tried to light ourselves on fire, even though that was a combination effort of Neb and I. I described the jerry can, the location– “Were you hospitalized?” Deborah interrupted me with the disdainful sharpness of boredom.

“Oh, no, that actually didn’t succeed. The Bic lighter company changed the fate of the world forever, that night.” Deborah looked at me. I could tell she didn’t enjoy my joke. “Meaning. The lighter… didn’t light,” I finished awkwardly.

Deborah actually scoffed. “So, no real attempts?”

Damn, okay.

So, we were going down the list of attempts, trying to find one that would appeal to fucking Deborah. “Well, my next one was trying to jump off of Talmadge Bridge, in Savannah. I made it all the way up there before blacking out. And I wasn’t even drinking. Well, much.”

Deborah was not impressed. “Did you jump, though?”

Ash shifted in their chair. I blinked. “Ah, no, but–”

“So, it’s not really an attempt, though.” She actually put her notebook aside, as if I’d done nothing worth writing about.

Pretty much!

Even Ash was picking up on this woman’s disdain. “I… think I should point out that Xanthe had climbed that bridge with the express purpose of killing themself,” they said.

“Were you ever hospitalized?” Deborah asked me pointedly.

“Ah, no,” I admitted. “I’ve never been caught.” It’s a neat trick, you see, Deborah. I’ve always had ‘hiding’ as my first priority. I literally overdosed a week ago and just kept it under wraps from the people who live with me. It’s a lifelong habit that’s prevented me from getting the help that I so clearly need. I did wonder for a moment, though, how my life would have been different if I’d ever been caught. There was an odd part of me that almost wish I had been. Hiding is frankly exhausting, and I hardly know how to stop. Outside of this blog, that is.

Deborah randomly forgot that I was there for her next question. “And what do you think is causing her to have these thoughts?” She asked Ash.

Well, that was worth a pause. Rochester had an absurd amount of trans people in its population. Not only had HRT helped me, but locals were too used to all of this to usually assume one or the other if someone looked ambiguous enough. Which, I usually did. But the fact that we had a healthcare professional not even glancing at the ‘preferred pronouns’ section of my paperwork was jarring. I answered, “Well, I–“

“It’s ‘they,”‘ Ash said coldly, at least protecting the trans part of my trauma-formed identity. “Not ‘her.'”

Deborah seemed irritated that we’d even pointed it out. “Well, I didn’t know!”

I did answer her question from earlier, explaining that I suspected PMDD was a large contributor to my crashes. I couldn’t really say much more, because the one who had forged several traumatic backstories and alters into my brain in a horrifying psychological rape was sitting right fucking there. “I do plan to get a hysterectomy, though, to avoid that.”

Deborah frowned. “But you’re so young.”

Safe to say that nothing came of this appointment. She wasn’t interested in helping me and I wasn’t interested in being helped by her. Ash actually somewhat apologised as we walked to the car afterwards. “I… kind of thought it’d be better than that. I’m sorry.”

“No, Ash, it’s I who should be sorry,” I told them brightly as I climbed into the passenger seat of their car. “Deborah clearly isn’t having my amateur hour bullshit. You’d think after years of near-misses, I’d have something more than a mediocre rank.” I punctuated that by shutting the door.

Ash fought back a smile as they pulled backwards out of their spot. “Xanthe!” They were fighting a smile but it just wasn’t working.

“I bet if I were in a crisis and Deborah showed up, she’d hand me a knife and say, ‘BET YOU WON’T, YOU PUSSY!”‘ I was cackling. See, this wasn’t really Story’s domain, but I was very much in my element here. It was a relief to feel more purely myself.

Ash was laughing, too. We both exchanged jokes back and forth with the underlining theme of ‘Yeah but you should probably get more serious help, though.’ It was probably the best quality friend time I’d gotten with Ash in a while, and the best I would get with them for… Well. The rest of my life.

It kind of almost seemed like I’d be okay.