When I first met you, the first thing I realized about you was your smile. Your face always used to light up and it was the kind of smile that gravitated to anyone else that saw it. Happiness radiated off of you and it spread like a wild fire to all of those around you.
But one day, that changed. You started smiling less, each time the radiance getting dimmer until it was completely burnt out. You started wearing baggy sweatshirts with the hoods up and your headphones in. It was almost as if there was a shield around you, keeping everyone out.
We all tried to get past the shield, but you built it thicker and thicker each time until all of us stopped trying. Instead of the happiness radiating off of you, it was your bitter sadness and careless attitude.
You had turned into stranger no one recognized. The innocent boy that used to laugh and joke about everything was now the kid that sat alone in the corner with his head down. But, you weren’t fooling me. Around the edges, I could still see behind the mask you had put on to keep us all away. That boy I used to know was still in there somewhere.
I tried for weeks to get you to let me in, each day getting denied and pushed away. They all told me to give up, that i wasn’t getting any where, but they were wrong. After nearly a month of prying and tugging at the mask, I could see behind it. I got you to smile, and that radiance you used to have was still barely there. No one else could see it, but I wasn’t going to give up.
We started having real conversations again, and you stopped giving me one syllable answers. It wasn’t like it used to be, but I still got you to smile on occasion, each time the flame growing just a little bit.
One day after school when we were sitting in the stairwell, I got up the courage to ask you what had changed. If it had been two weeks prior I would have gotten the same answer as everyone else. “Oh.. Nothing.” But, you looked me in the eyes and told me. “I couldn’t hold back the pain any more. It was all adding up and eventually it was just too much to keep hidden inside.”
When you rolled up your sleeves and revealed the truth, I couldn’t process what I was seeing.
I always thought pain was invisible. It was a something that could only be felt inside. But your pain was visible in a dozen different red lines across your wrists.
When I asked you why, you explained to me that you had felt numb to everything and you forgot what it was like to feel something.
But I felt something there, and I am pretty sure you did to.
The way we looked into each others eyes at that moment, I felt like nothing else in the world mattered.
The radiance was back, shining bright and the same old familiar smile was spread wide across your face.
Things were never the same after that. They were different, but in a good way. You finally were feeling something again, and so was I. It took a while for you to recover from the pain you had gone through, but I was there to help you through it.