"A Peaceful Portrait" by Nicole Bulanchuk - 2022 Brooklyn Non-Fiction Prize Finalist
A Peaceful Portrait
By Nicole Bulanchuk
into her own golden eyes in the mirror neither recognizing herself nor
appreciating who she could be. She aspired to feel and think nothing. There
was no future, only past woeful memories of all the bitter words she heard and
all the words she begged to hear from him and anyone.
She prayed and pleaded, for humanity and for God
but nothing ever changed. Could her fight be over
here?Her fight to survive, forget, and forgive? Was this the blissful end she fantasized
about? Calmed, at last? Her mirror reflected who she was not. At this moment, her eyes
glistened with agony and hopelessness; she
needed to feel numb, nothingness, and evidently, the kiss of silence in her
freedom from herself… peace, eternally.
Slightly buzzed but tense with both of her fragile hands gripping the sink of her
smaller-than-comfortable bathroom, in her smaller-than-comfortable studio in Brooklyn.Her black, slim, crop-top displayed enough cleavage to grab any attention. These paired with the skin-tight gray pencil skirt and her favorite 4-inch
black stilettos that tied up her ankle. She was
sexy and wild, as planned. In case the
cleavage wasn’t arousing for you, she had legs and
ass men gush about. As degrading as this may
sound, she regularly dressed desperate to be flattered and feel wanted by anyone.
It was the American-red lip-gloss
that would really make her stand out in a
crowd, though. This and her butt-length,
unnaturally curled blonde hair. A choker with
a tiny, cliché, waxing crescent moon tightened
her neck and a long silver pendant sun fell slightly above her breasts. Intentionally
she wore this because her spiritual ex-roommate told her it would help
her feel balanced. Intentions seemed to be flawed
because here she was… about to end her life.
Her mind ran back and
forth in that tiny bathroom in Bushwick, as
one could imagine. She romanticized this night
for too long,leaving everything —becoming nothing but a tragic, melancholic memory. Finally, she would not have to worry about being alone; depression would be a distant past-time of her
disgraceful pathetic life.
Oh my, what a wonderful
feeling that may be to not feel worthless, lonely, nor disgusted with herself
and to potentially be good enough for something…
She stared at herself.
She internally mocked herself. How did she get to this point? He knew. They
knew. She knew. Her eyes began twitching in the mirror as she stared deeply
at herself, in an immersed trance of pure, painful, self-pity. She always wore too much makeup; the
red gloss was about one quarter of what she wore. The rest included a bit of midnight blue sparkling eyeshadow, mascara, and penciled eyebrows to elude them as perfectly even. But she was beyond breathtaking, without it all.
Tonight was the night.
She had planned this for such a long time. Here it
waited…in her mirror cabinet, upon her little bathroom wall, sitting in an innocent
bottle waiting to be her peace.
Reassuring herself, she was confident she had enough for
success. Researching this
drug, she knew it would be the right dosage
based on her height, weight, age, and tolerance.It’s
turning in waves, she kept staring into
herself. Tonight, was the planned night. All
the regrets, farewells, goodbyes, and apologies, handwritten and placed in envelopes, to all appropriate recipients
with names clearly in red ink. They were neatly
stored in the second drawer of her vintage desk,
in a manilla folder titled, “Please Send When Found”.
With matches, she lit her favorite three candles.They were strong and the bathroom smelled of all sweetness,
serenity, and soothing solitude. Sounds nice, doesn’t it? The bath was drawn,
steam rising, candles crackling, the
door locked tight, no music, instead comfortable silence; and she
was still wearing this outfit to look her part.She moved her pills to
the sink and checked her phone one final time. No
calls, no texts, no snaps, nothing. No one cares. Alone.
Meanwhile the bottle was
tempting her next to the soap. As if it was speaking all the relief she craved,
This is what you wanted. Now you will finally move on. This is what you deserve.Now
you will finally be gone. She washed her
hands with the heavenly lavender-peach soap
and could not bear to watch herself. Staring at her pale hands she scrubbed the bubbles.
A multitude of aromas circulated the room. After what
seemed like minutes of rubbing her hands, and
avoiding her taunting reflection, she finally rinsed them and again looked at
her disgusting self in the mirror. You deserve this.
bottle bellowed until her golden eyes released
droplets of water. Black and blue tears dripped down her cheeks. She saw an
abandoned soul in that
mirror, one who would never be happy again. A
portrait of a girl who was never sincerely loved. Her mind spun with hateful
In rage, she smacked her
portrait in the mirror and fell to the floor. Curled against
the tub, knees held against her breasts, and her ass fully exposed, she
wept. With the intensity of the hit, the sink shook aggressively and the pill bottle, along with her phone, fell alongside her.
Swallow me. It’s time. End this misery. I am
peace. I am freedom. I am love. You need this. It’s time. She poured her tears into her arms and allowed her hair to
fall over her face and arms.Swallow me. It’s time. The blonde
hair he wanted was now covering most of her, past her knees, like a blanket.
This was not her at this moment. It couldn’t be. Who was she? I am your peace. Swallow me.
She tried to calm down before
her departure.Her phone laid screen down, likely shattered, next to the peace, which was on its side,
rocking back and forth on the cold bathroom tile.
Grabbing the bottle, she held it tightly while she trembled. Ready when you are.
I’m here for you.
Swallow me. It’s time.
Suddenly, the tile
vibrated. Confused, she wiped her tears and
snotty drips from her face, then noticed her
phone. She crawled across the tile, picked it up,
undamaged, she was getting a call from an old friend. She wiped her eyes once more, cleared her throat, waited a few
seconds, anxiously debated whether she should
answer. On the last ring, she slid the screen
“He-l-lo?”Gripping my peace
firmly, I was shaky
saying this single word I’ve said a million times.
“Hey, Nik, what’s up?”
“Oh, well, umm,” I couldn’t tell him the truth, “I was planning to go out, but I
think I might stay in.” Nervously, “I’m surprised you called.”
“Yeah, I know, I’m surprised you answered.” Erick was
a friend from high school, a lifetime ago now.
about the last time we spoke. I really did not know what to say. To be honest, no one
has ever told me what you said… and I didn’t know how to handle it…”
“Oh, it’s —”I began to reply before he
“…I never stopped thinking about you
when you told me what happened. Not
romantically or anything, just always hoping you’re okay and
getting better, finding your peace or purpose or anything. I’ve read a lot about, a lot, ya
know, these feelings, since we last spoke and I think I understand it now more
than I did. I know you feel really misunderstood and alone. Well, you’re not alone. You have at least me.”
“Thank you, I —”
“— I know it may not be much but I mean, one is better than
none…right? I really do care. I really do. I’m not trying to date you. I mean okay, I was trying to be with you, why wouldn’t I? You’re crazy smart, funny and oh my
“Thank you, that’s —”
“… But now I understand, as much
as I can — And oh my god. I’m so sorry. I really
am. I didn’t mean to just be speechless and
awkward when you explained the whole thing, ya know? I’m sorry…” He pleaded,
“That musta hurt, you
confided in me and I, I was really unhelpful and silent and…distant... I panicked, I
froze, I-I-I’m sorr—”
It wasn’t the first time…
“—It’s okay.” I gripped the bottle of my peace tighter and tighter…
“…Is it okay? Are you okay? I don’t know, I should have called sooner. I know, I’m sorry. Really, I meant to call weeks ago, but somehow, I
got the urge to call tonight. So, I just —hey.” He nervously
Unable to think straight, I blurted, “So… what’s up, tonight?”
He chucked, “…Thinking about you,” he paused, “Not in a creepy way, though.”
Flattered and blushing, with a
raspy voice, “Aw, that’s really sweet of you…”
“...You don’t sound okay, were you crying…?”
“No.” I cleared my throat once more. Fuck.
“Please tell me what’s on your mind, please.” No one had asked me that before and seemed sincere. I sat up a bit, surveyed the bathroom, then felt the
peace in my hands dwell in its poison. I craved this peace.
“So, it’s Friday night, you’re not going
out? You always do!”
I chuckled slightly, “Nah, I’m not in the mood, I guess.” I glanced at my peace
again as it sat patiently in my hand,“I’ve been going out with these girls I met, like every night. I got ready and everything, took a
few shots but I don’t know,” The peace
bottle now taunting me and my stomach turning in
knots. I was too sober for all this, “I am lost in my mind again.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m just lost and
fucked up in the head.”
“I’m listening, please.” Is he?
“I don’t want to scare you…” You are.
“Nicole, please talk to me.”
I couldn’t say another
“Erick,” I sighed —fuck it, once
more, “I want to die
more than anything. I want to feel and think
nothing. That’s it.”
There was a loud silence.
Finally, he stuttered, “T-Thank you for telling me that… I’m sorry you still feel that way.
After all this time, fuck me —I’m sorry. Did you ever talk to someone? A
professional? I just want you to know that life may seem shitty, and you may
have all these feelings, but it will pass. It does. It always does. Is it about
your ex? God, you know he’s garbage, don’t you?”
“It’s not just
about him. Yes, I’ve seen a professional. Doesn’t help me. I’m sorry, too. For this conversation.
I’m depressing, I know. There’s a lot of
“Okay, it’s okay, look, what are you doing right now?”
I looked down at my peace. I
gently placed the bottle on the ledge of the tub, “Sitting…”
“What are you wearing?”
“No, I’m serious,” He quickly added, “You said you got ready to go out? Just go out if you’re dressed. Feel the vibes. If it's lame, whatever, go home. At least you get out of the house
and out of your head.”
“I was going to take a bath…”
“Take one tomorrow, it’s Friday night! You’re a fun, and
attractive girl in Brooklyn, get out of the house! Where’s the party? I wish I could come meet you but I’m deep in Jersey tonight.”
“Okay, okay, I don’t know… it’s at some club in Bedstuy. I’m just tired. Tired of it all. Tired of —”
“Please just go out. For me?
Please? Who knows what might happen? It might
be the best night of your life.”
Silently, I got off the floor.
I, again, looked at myself intensely in the mirror while holding my phone to my
face and listening to him wait for my response. For someone who cried
hysterically for 30 minutes I didn’t look too disheveled. Sure, I needed to reapply my lip-gloss and mascara, maybe some more foundation and concealer to
cover the tear lines. Fix my hair a bit; dry
shampoo is practically magic. It doesn’t matter
anyway. Death is inevitable. It’s hopeless. I’m not worth
anything. What’s another night of loneliness
and disappointment if I will eventually be dead?
“Seriously, it could be fun this time. Have a drink or two then leave,
you don’t need to go crazy. Trust me. Reset your mind
tomorrow. Just get out of your head. Please.”
I wanted to cry again as he spoke,
and I kept staring at myself in the mirror with my phone pressed to my ear. His
pleads pierced my heart. My eyes watered. What did he know about how I felt? My
thoughts? My pain? What did anyone know? I do want to be better. I want
to try but I can’t escape these echoes in my head. I’m not going anywhere.
I looked so broken in the
mirror at that moment, I imagined cracking my skull against the mirror and
suffering through the blood loss, finding comfort in the way the streams of my
dark blood would run along the light tiles and down to the main hallway of my
“Yeah, I’m sorry,” Flinching, stuttering, shaking,
and battling my mind, “You’re right, maybe, I-I should just get out of my head. What time is it?”
“It’s close to
11:30 now, 11:26.”
“Oh, well, the show started at
“So just leave now…Go have fun.You will.
Dance your ass off. Please, go? For me?”
In a deep sigh, I mumbled, “Fine, for you.”
“Good, great! And I’ll talk to you tomorrow,
Iadjusted my outfit,
blew out the candles, and reached into the warm bath water to drain the tub, “You will.” I think.
“Okay, good. You’ll be okay. I know you will. God
you are so fucking unique and amazing. I hope you realize that. Pleasedo
not hurt yourself.”
“Thank you,” Briefly pausing, “I hope you have
a good night too. In Jersey, as fun as that
could be.” I laughed calmly and shortly after he did, too.
“Yeah,I miss Brooklyn, and
I miss you…Anyway, go, go, have fun and be safe!”
“Promise?” He waited patiently for a few moments as I took
another deep breath.
The call ended. I picked
up the poison pills from the tub ledge and brought them to my room. I placed
them in the second drawer of my desk just below some folders. Then, I scurried
through my tote-purse to find make-up, quickly reapplied my face, glossed my
lips and puckered them, grabbed my leather jacket, finished my bottle of
Jameson straight from the bottle, and then raced to the club off the G.
I was exhausted from my own reflection.
I never told him this, but I
think over time he knew. Erick, you saved my
life that night.