WARNING: This article deals with suicide and self harm, and may be triggering for some readers.
By SAMANTHA MAWDSLEY
I saw her as soon as I walked out of the front door at work. She was young, tiny and skittish. She should not have been out this late on her own. I was on my way from the closing shift at the pub and I had a friend walking me home. She swung around at the sound of our voices, but hurriedly turned away and kept walking. I fell in step behind her and she stole a look, eyes wide and fearful.
“Are you okay?” I asked gently.
“Yes, thank you.” And she turned around. Please don’t talk to me.
She crossed to the other side of the road. Please don’t follow me.
My friend suspected drugs. I suspected mental health problems. Naive? Maybe.
I watched her – tugging at the arms of her jacket – feeling suffocated by her headphones – searching wildly for a direction to walk in.
“Excuse me, can you please tell me where I am?” Not a normal question. I crossed to her side of the road.
“You’re in Harrow. Are you sure you’re okay?”
“Where are you trying to get to?”
“I don’t know.”
“Well how about a train station? I can get you to a train station. You can walk with us.”
I was offering a crust of bread to a small, frightened animal – and hunger got the better of her.
“Yes, please. Are you sure?”
“Of course. What’s happened? Why don’t you know where you are?”
“I ran away.”
“A & E.”
“Why were you there?”
“… I cut myself.”
“Oh… I used to cut myself too.”
Her eyes snapped up to mine. Searching. She’s lying.
“Thank you for not being judgmental.”
“Of course I wouldn’t judge you. Yeah, I used to cut my wrists. Just to feel something. What did you cut?”