You hate days like these. You stare at your feet as you slowly go up the stairs. Days when the dark cloud that follows you grows too big to hide. They have become more constant lately, alarmingly so, but you don’t have time to deal with that. Your legs weigh you down, your mind is numb, and an unpleasant pressure resides in your chest.
You take a pause to breathe every other step and grab on to the handrail like a lifeline. It would be so easy to collapse right there, succumb to the tiredness that has taken over you for months now. To lay down and be the sad pathetic creature you truly are.
Not yet, you tell yourself. Just a few more steps to the apartment. Then you can hide from the world in your room.
You reach the 3rd floor and turn right to the comforting sight of the orange door of apartment 3B. You can’t believe the landlord allowed your flatmates to paint it that colour. You weren’t a huge fan of orange before, but it has grown on you. On days like these though, even the obnoxiously bright colours seem dull. There’s a fog in your eyes you can’t blink away. You bring a hand to your face. No tears. You have felt like crying for weeks, but nothing.
From outside, you can hear muffled conversations and laughter coming from the inside. You pull out your key and it takes three attempts to get it in right. You mutter a curse. Even the small things are hard to do on days like these. When you finally unlock it, you enter quietly, closing the door behind you. Looking up you spot some of your flatmates in the living space. Some sit on the couches, some on the floor, there’s at least three different conversations going on and someone just made a weird comment that no amount of context will help you understand.
It’s a bit chaotic, as usual, but you are used to chaotic at this point. You even like it. You haven’t known them for long, but you are happy that you can call your flatmates your friends. It almost brings a real smile out of you. They haven’t noticed you and you don’t make yourself known. They’re having a good time. You shouldn’t intrude.
You’re just going to ruin it.
So, you keep yourself invisible, slowly making your way to your room. You reach for your doorknob but hesitate. It’s the middle of the afternoon. You know you shouldn’t sleep. You know that sleeping will mean throwing the rest of your day away.
You know if you enter your room, you won’t come out for days.
You’re so weak, you tell yourself, you shouldn’t be having these struggles. You’re an adult, why can’t you act like one? Under the self-deprecation, a tiny voice tells you to talk to your flatmates, your friends. They can help, it says.
Asking for help has never been easy for you. From experience you know vulnerability is punished with mockery. Opening your heart has only resulted in pain and humiliation and yet, you find yourself walking back to the living space. You have enough time to take some deep breaths, try to compose yourself, practice your smile.
By the time you reach the living space you manage to have a decent mask to show. You greet them with as much enthusiasm as you can fake, contrasting the genuine excitement in their voices as they welcome you in. This might not have been your smartest idea but it’s too late. When you mention you need some help all their eyes are on you. You insist it’s nothing too bad, you just want them to stop you from sleeping all day. You ask them to bully you into being productive, giving a small laugh to keep the tone as light-hearted as possible. You expect them to laugh and yell back at you, telling you to be the adult you’re supposed to be and get your work done. To call you lazy and tell you if you don’t get your work done you are not invited to the next game night. You almost want them to because it would feel familiar.
There’s no laugh. There’s no yelling. Someone approaches and takes your hand gently, pulling you towards the couch, asking if you want to sit. You do want to sit. You say you’re tired but insist that is all. As you sit someone asks you if you’re okay, someone is rubbing your back. The dark cloud gets heavier, the pressure in your chest is suffocating and you bite your tongue. You nod, unsure if your voice will let you lie. They see right through you. Their worried faces tell you that much. You close your eyes and brace for the oncoming belittling you deserve.
“How can we help you?” they ask softly.
You say the first truth of the day. You say you are cold. Your voice cracks as you ask if they can hold you. They don’t hesitate. As you are enveloped in their warmth, everything you have been holding back starts to spill out. You look down as you tell them how hard it’s been lately, how tired you have been, how sad you feel, how scared you always are. They don’t interrupt you, until you start apologizing. They reassure you they are here for you. You wipe your face. You don’t know when you started crying, but you can’t stop. And they don’t try to stop you. They hold you tight, the dark cloud dissipating, the pressure lifting off your chest, you feel lighter.
You smile knowing that, no matter how bad days like these can be, you never have to face them alone.
Jesse Ponce, Mexican Canadian transman, has an easier time writing than speaking. What started as an escape and a way to cope with trauma has become a passion for creative writing and a dream to tell stories people can relate to, to feel seen and know they are not alone. After hopping one college program to another, ranging from Engineering to Art, there’s still uncertainty in what the future holds, but at the end of the day there’s always a word document waiting for a new story to tell.