Once, she wondered what life had in store for her. She recalled times that were better; times where the sun lit up the sky as a brilliant smile lights up an otherwise dim face. She could still remember the carefree hours she spent discovering and re-discovering the world; next to friends that loved her, in front of a family who supported each other. She hoped for the fading sounds of laughter to strum like perfect chords in her mind once again. But it had been so long since she had plucked such notes that the strings were brittle and out of tune. She frowned as she realized the song jarred in her memories, that the faint melody left to her was out of sync. It had been so long since happiness had coated her throat, and poured out her mouth in real music. It had been too long; she didn’t remember what it tasted like to laugh. All she could taste right now was the trail of tears making its path, from her eyes to her mouth to the exploding colors forming on her body. She cried then, as quietly as the moon rises. Silent, delicate, and beautiful- if only in her loneliness- she let the tears trickle down her mask of flesh and bent her weary head of dark auburn curls over her bruised knees.
A chill stirred the pressing air around her. The girl slowly lifted her head and assessed her surroundings. The sky was darkening, the temperature was dropping, the stars beginning to peek out from under the veil of daytime, and the night sounds were starting to emerge gently as the world prepared to wind down. Wisps of clouds drifted through the sky and playfully tagged the shadows of the sun, their gathering hinting at violent storms within the week. The girl watched as the clouds passed over the dimming rays of light, thus morphing the intensity of their radiance. Too bad, her thoughts taunted, that it wasn’t as easy to predict other kinds of storms. As darkness began its twilight rein, the sun concurred and started to set reluctantly. The girl swung her face upwards to glower at its fading beams of defeat. She sullenly glared at the sky as she facially expressed her disgust for the tints of violet and raspberry in its blush. But curious towards her unusual reaction to such magnificence, the girl allowed herself a long moment to wonder at her aversion for the kaleidoscope of colors to reflect on her loathing. Suddenly reaching enlightenment, she starts sharply, and quickly averts her sight. She forces her mind to blanken into colors as abyssful and empty as the dark of the coming night, after realizing she recognized the spreading of those brilliant and mangled shades in an all too familiar way.
The air began to sting and prick goose bumps into the nerves of her flesh. She lay on the concrete, still oven-baked warm from the sun’s former strength, as her straying thoughts began to wander back to earlier in the day. But her supply of Time was already running scarce, and its measure stable only in its instability. The length of her thread was being held by the mottled and shifting hands of her competitor, Fate. Her seemingly losing battle against Fate, allied by Society, was a constant struggle against life to keep the thread balanced in their hands from being snipped. For what purpose, the girl was still yet unsure. All she knew was that the Time held in her own ruined hands was slipping between the crevices and cracks, and she needed to discover her purpose before she was left empty-handed. What she had left was not going to be wasted by mourning its scarcity. She could not afford to be generous with Time, and Time was much too precious to just give to Despair or allow it to wallow in Misery. She sits up with resolve, firmly thrusting her ringlets out of her eyes, shoving off the mascara streaks smudging her face. She stands determinedly and shakes off the grass and dirt that pollutes her clothing as she grumbles in annoyance. Then without warning her mood flashes like lightning and she drops to the ground to crouch cautiously.
Stupid, she thinks at herself angrily, Stupid, stupid, stupid. You fool. They could still catch you tonight. Feeling panic flood her veins and pour out her skin in icy trembling through her limbs, she wrestles with her organs to regain control of her heartbeat and soothe her smothered lungs. She breathes inaudibly, impossibly softly through her nose to allow the warm air to seep through her mouth and soak into her numb and scarred hands. As blood and life throbbingly returns to her fingers, she regained her calm demeanor. Further denying her temporary loss of control, the girl looks down to analyze the lengths of her palms, and the scars that formed cracks on the skin of her knuckles. As her gaze drifts downwards, the slits crossing her wrists disappear in a cluster of plum-bitten bruises. These were the same hands that had shoved down her throat, countless times, in countless states of mind. The very same hands that had shoved open doors during her desperate attempts to escape the fists flying towards her body. These hands had nursed her swollen lips and eyes with more gentleness than she had experienced from another person, had wiped away the remains of racking sobs with the resolve of the damned. They had bandaged up ripped skin and cuts, they had concealed the familiar designs of her body decorated in bruises and slits. She had once found a tremendous amount in truth in Laurence van der Post’s words that man is never alone, and that his dreams are always there to support him from within. Then she grew up and found that the words of Maya Angelou better described herself. Searching for further distraction from her momentary vulnerability, she whispers the words in a sad and simple child-like lilt.
“My life has been one great big joke,
A dance that's walked,
A song that's spoke,
I laugh so hard I almost choke,
When I think about myself.”
She laughs silently, but ceases laughing about herself before the bitterness comes. She shelves the words and emotions away to concentrate on breathing away her life’s mispurpose into emptiness of mind.
The breathing revitalizes her. After a minute, she takes one last deep breath and rises easily. Her silhouette against the bruising sky poses slender, delicate, and defiant. At first glance she seems a frail little thing, but the thrust of her chin and the revolution in her eyes beg to differ. She stirs silently out from the bushes she has been lying in for the past 3 hours. Slowly, yet deftly, she moves, despite her bleeding feet. As she makes her way across the shadowing playground, she hears the sounds of an approaching car. Alarmed, she darts behind the nearest offer of safety, which turns out to be a portable classroom built in a rather unusual spot for a campus. However, it’s convenience, not regularity in architectural layout that is priority for the girl. She stares at the dappled endpoints of the headlights hitting the beige-painted wooden boards opposite of her. The lights flutter across the beige color, now mauve-tinted with the darkening of night. She watches mesmerized as the lights dance and tease in a light-hearted way her feet yearn to imitate, and disappear entirely as the car’s wheels’ squeal in excitement at revving across more streets. She waits ten more minutes for the instinctive fear to leave her completely. Her sigh is gentle and whisks away the longing for the freedom she found in the dapples of light; a freedom given to those born with it and fought for by those like her self. She begins a regular breathing pattern in an attempt to regulate her heart’s rhythm.
She moves again and makes her way across the new unknown playground, disguised in sheer draperies of starlight and shadows. The usually familiar playground is foreign to her; as cold, as blue, as alien to her now as Pluto’s plains. How many times have I been here? She questions in a fleeting thought. How many more times before I figure out a reason to keep reliving them? Her stomach growls loudly then, announcing its irritation to her and interrupting her depressing train of thought. She glances down at the external covering of her demanding organ. Shaking her head as her nose reminds her of the overwhelming aromas of home-cooked meals, sat down and eaten together, she sighs, somewhat wistfully. She highly doubts she’ll be seeing dinner tonight.
She chooses movement as a distraction, and wanders into what must be the designated lunch area of the school. Tables made of uncomfortable fake metal litter the blacktop, the girl observes, in a layout meant to force starving students to sit and unpack their brown bags stuffed with meals carefully prepared by loving parents. She frowns at herself, annoyed that her observances are resulting in the beginning stages of self-pity. Misery, that antagonist of the underdogs, cannot aid those seeking to survive through the night. And the girl damned well knows it. So seeking a moment to rest and collect her emotions, she gingerly lays her body out on the bench seat of one of the tables. She winces as she tries to shift her arm into a more comfortable position. Fantastic. She is not only sore and bruised, but her limbs have begun to stiffen already. Life is just one continuing layer cake of her loss.
Attempting to widen her vision, the girl succeeds in opening her right eye and exposing the left one ¾ of the way due to swelling. Resigning herself to a smaller point of view, she gazes off into the evolving sky. With daytime turned shy, the night has already begun to artfully unveil its splattering of stars, meaning that soon it will be dark enough for her to move more rapidly. A meaningless smile plays about her full, momentarily lopsided lips, unbalanced thanks to the fury of her mother’s unexpected fist earlier. It is a smile simply conducted, because like the act of most smiling, it is the proper response when something favorable occurs in life. Yet the smile is an act in that it is a farce to merely show that yes, her face can contort itself to display emotion, seemingly displaying her as an open book with legible text. But those attempting to observe more closely will find the content of a level far beyond comprehension; that is how enigmatic the face is; while the words are written in Atlantean; that is how lost the cause for deciphering is. Emotion, for her, has been buried a thousand leagues under the sea for so long that such an expression means nothing. Her lips may turn upward, but it is her eyes that have forgotten how to truly smile.
While waiting for the night to peak and genuine darkness to fall, she finally closes those chocolate eyes brimming with dry tears and misfortune. She permits the weakness she perceives as unacceptable to flood her physically, emotionally. The girl, sensing her need for rest, opens her mind to a night sky in a vulnerability she allows to no one else. She finally allows Time to sit still and even regress, as her eager thoughts choose to roam as they please. And although she wishes she could prevent their traveling back to the memories of earlier, she has no more control over them than she does her life.
It is the time of day when the room empties out the fullness of light as a softer glow replaces its former brilliance. The evaporating afternoon rays are just beginning to vanish into the surrounding hardwood floor. The shining cherry wood spreads across the ground in complement to the soft lavender of the spacious walls. Professional photographs and homemade paintings are on display everywhere; it seems that the story of their lives can be read by looking at the walls. A white piano is placed strategically against the lattice divider of the hall to conserve space. The layout of the soft tan leather couch set surrounding a coffee table is placed over the rich vibrancies of Persian carpets. A wall of pure mirror expands the room even further. More mirrors are scattered amongst the house, for after all, it is a place where appearance is everything.
Though the room is full of quality and richness, it maintains a humbled character. A television set-up stacked with DVD’s, movies, and baby videos litters one wall, and various books of important size yet no significant importance clutters shelves packed with knick-knacks and other trinkets. It is a beautiful place for a home, beautifully manipulated to raise a beautiful family.
The light streams in the room through the set of double doors leading to its backyard. The French doors, pale, weary, and dignified with age, wrinkle dividers into the frame of the windows adorning their full length. The sheer long draperies do little to blockade the streams into the room, producing a cheery atmosphere filled with light. Yet it is the time of day now that the fullness of the light is being replaced by a softer glow, and the keen blue of the sky is calming. The temperature, though uncomfortably warm earlier, has milded down enough so that the good-natured breeze entering through the doors is not necessary; the doors can be closed now. Yet the room is motionless despite the one person lying lifeless and bleeding on the ground. The now uncomfortably cooling breeze continues to mosey around the room, and sway the personal scent of the house. Nothing moves to shut the doors.
Opened, the doors gesture to the freshly built back porch. Soft, water-colored stone replaces a square of earth to lead way to the only part of the house the girl has truly felt home in. Spaced away from the house’s structure and hidden on the side, the French doors open out to a place a little further than her house lined with the rainfall of leaves and sticks and remnants of her happy, if ignorant, childhood. In it flowers bloom with the scent of faraway places and exotic plumage spills out of its subtle structure in an array of chaos. The fresh scent of grass cuts a path through the disorder, and tropical hedges shield the haven from the mechanics of the outside world. It is her sanctuary from stress, from fighting, from the loneliness inevitable for those who view life from a unique standpoint.
Yet it is here in this place where the deep azure of the sky makes infinity seem rather short that the girl doesn’t feel so alone. It is here in the wildness and untamed beauty of Eden that she feels like she belongs, or at least is not rejected. Its chaos, its continuous struggles against its forced constraints, the seemingly simple but underlying complexity relates to the girl in more ways than she’ll ever realize. But it is enough for her to be accepted in this place where the consummation of present troubles means less than nothing. So when the horrors catch up to her, as they tend to do, it is not towards her backyard that runs to for escape. To bring her suffering into her Eden would be to risk its sacredness and expose its chastity. She has no desire to soil it with her fear. Instead she saves this hidden glimpse of heaven for after the purgation has passed, after the roaring of hell’s fires has quieted. It is then she repents her life, and it is after the pain has passed that she finds salvation in her backyard.
So that is why though she longs for the comfort of her Eden, she does not rouse from the hardwood floor. The girl lies with her face pressed to the ground, with her eyes wide, stunned, and resigned. She stays motionless for several minutes as her body attempts to compensate for the previous obstacles it has just faced, and so she studies quite carefully the grains and details of the wood panels. After concluding yes, there are 27 lines in the wood panel closest to her pupils, she slowly turns over and lifts her broken face to the breaking light. It shines gently on her, exposing the glow of her tawny skin now stippled with the beating from her brother’s hand. The demure nose, symmetrical and rather uninteresting, pulses blood from its openings, though that is a result from her stress and not from force. Her wide chocolate eyes, dark and even darker with the fog of pain, have gathered cuts and what will turn out to be a beautiful sunset if only it would set in the sky and not on the left side of her face. Her full lips are made fuller from the swelling. Her mass of dark auburn hair is tangled and wild with evidence of a fight she lost. She stares blankly out the doors, unaware she is her most beautiful in this broken state.
She turns her body over tentatively, looking down and inspecting for signs of injury she is unaware of. It has happened before; stunned by her pain she once neglected to conclude that yes, her ankle is sprained so no, I can’t do the step-ball-change more smoothly for P.E. dance, Ms. Mastan and no, I don’t know what you’re talking about. Nothing’s wrong, what bruises? Oh those, well I’m a bit clumsy, haha, and fell when my dog tugged too hard on the leash. Yes, accidental, of course. My dog is a sweetheart. Yes, they’re a bit painful but they’ll pass, and yes it’s a shame how they detract from my appearance. Okay, well next time my dog pulls me down and I feel emotionally vulnerable and needing to talk, I will definitely come to you first, Ms. M. The girl snaps back into the present and totals up the damage: scraped back, twisted wrist, fat lip, two deep gashes (that one on her thigh will need antiseptic), black eye, swollen ankle (note to self; check for sprain), and a multitude of scrapes and bruises. In a sick sense, she is pleased. Nothing she hasn’t seen before, and nothing she can’t handle.
She cautiously rises and listens to her surroundings. She hears nothing but the departure and return of air to the inside of her bruised ribs, and the dial tone of the cordless phone next to the blood-stained floor, a compliment from her thigh. She places her left hand on her narrow and sore hip as she bends over carefully to pick up the phone. Daintily, she raises it to her small seashell ears and listens hard. Dial tone. She smiles an empty smile, put on simply out of habit. Then with impressive precision and force, she accurately aims and smashes the phone into the wall full of mirrors. They shatter, catching the disappearing lights in a sparkling and wondrous light show of reflections. For a moment, the girl forgets her pain and stares numbly at the cloud of mirror bits that distort her damaged image into a thousand more damaged images. Reality crashes back as the pieces crash into the perfect hardwood floor. She steps back and considers the newly decorated ground. Oh yes, she finds it agreeable to walk on. Stepping delicately on the shards with her bare feet, she ambles over to the doors to take a fresh breath of air as her feet breathe in glass slivers, and scream out drips of blood. She takes a moment to allow herself the grief she realizes must come before acceptance sets in.
Why did she think this time would be different? It wasn’t the beatings that caved her in, or their results on her body; those would throb, and scar, and eventually fade like all their ancestors. Was it the way her brother had felt no remorse as he battered her head into the wall again and again? Was it that she was so close to his face as he grunted out warm currents of hatred as he thrashed her, that she could see the process of his dehumanization; how rage had consumed any trace of humanity he had left in his eyes? Perhaps it was the way the walls trembled in fear at the fury he unleashed at her for using his computer at the wrong time, as she faced him with resignation and without a tremor. Maybe the fact that though she fought with all her strength, her frailty from throwing up her meals and from abusing numerous deteriorants, despite her constant efforts to fortify her body would never be enough to match his anger. She would never be strong enough, he had screamed at her with his voice, with his fists. She would never win. Stop trying.
She wondered bleakly at the outcome of her little brother. She recalled a time when once he was her best friend in the whole entire world, a world that merely extended to the other side of the street and down a few blocks. She thought detachedly of his slow drift towards blaming her for problems out of her control, and his. She thought maybe it was that; maybe it was the fact she had observed him progressing towards hating her, hating their family, hating himself, and had done nothing to stop it. But probably, she reasoned, it was because she still loved him. The saddest fact of the matter was she still cared for the little boy that this brutal and enmity-filled persecutor once was. She had fought back with all her might, true; but it was purely self-defense. Not once had she tried to gain the advantage during the beating. Not once had she tried to attack in any way other to stop him as he cracked his hands against her face, as he hammered her into submission and walls.
But perhaps the breakdown was due to the way her mother had slammed into the house and glanced over, irritated at the bleeding figure in her living room she was sure had caused disturbance in her structured household. It have been when her mother walked through the door and observed her daughter bleeding quietly in the lavender room, while her son slammed the door shut and turned up his music; it could’ve been when her mother berated her to not cause trouble that she broke down. Though she resented her mother for her indifference towards her misery, loathed the woman’s criticism of everything, and despised her for her inability to keep her wretchedness to herself, despite all this, the girl still could not let go of her need for her mother to love her. The desire to be tucked in and kissed on the forehead by her mommy tainted what would be an otherwise pure animosity. She wanted badly to be coddled by her mother’s soft arms, to be held and stroked and murmured to that she was beautiful, and yes, of course darling, I am so very proud of you. I love you. She needed those words more than anything her mother’s American Express could purchase, and she needed them to mean something other than I love that you are mine.
The girl gazes out into her paradise, which waits a few feet beyond her. She sighs knowing that the moment has almost come, the resignation almost set, the apathy almost reached. But her mind still simmers at the edge of unreason and her mind storms and tosses the moment back into play that makes her realize exactly when she had shutdown.
The dial tone in the background quiets as the broken, bleeding pieces of mirror remove themselves from the floor and soles of her feet as Time warps to restore the room’s previous homey perfection. She finds herself back on the ground as her mother towers over her, though in truth, she is shorter than the girl by 4 inches.
“MOM, please! Can’t you see he was hurting me? He practically knocked me out!... Can’t you do something for ONCE?”
“For ONCE. For ONCE SHE SAYS!...Well, of all the nerve, you are just so very demanding for a daughter who does so little to give back to her family. For ONCE, why don’t you attend class, hmmm missy?”
“Mother, are you kidding me! I don’t think CLASS ATTENDANCE IS TOO IMPORTANT RIGHT NOW SEEING AS I’M BLEEDING FROM MORE THAN 6 PLACES ON MY BODY.”
“Don’t you be sarcastic with me, young lady! You’ll be lucky to turn out half as well as your brother if you’d TRY to apply yourself. YOU have been causing more than your fair share of trouble, missy! After that CRAP you pulled at school, involving counselors and teachers in some hypocritical investigation of our HOME! SHAME on you! For ONCE, why don’t you just stop thinking of YOURSELF, and start thinking about our FAMILY, how it looks to others, how YOU look…”
“Mom…please” the girl could no longer hold back the sobs desperately needing to rack her frail, battered body. “Mommy, I’m hurt, okay? He hurt me. Please, JUST PLEASE FOR GOD’S SAKE DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT FOR ONCE!”
“WATCH THAT TONE!” The mother brought her elegantly manicured and bejeweled hand to slam the left side of her daughter’s face.
“YOU BITCH!” The girl shrieked out. “WHAT THE FUCK! GODDAMN IT, I TRIED TO COVER IT UP, IT’S NOT MY FAULT IF THE TEACHER CALLS ME IN TO THE NURSES OFFICE! I CAN’T WEAR LONG SLEEVES IN FUCKING 80 DEGREE WEATHER AND I SHOULDN’T HAVE TO! FUCK YOU! JUST FUCK YOU!”
“WHY YOU, YOU UNGRATEFUL LITTLE BITCH. GET BACK HERE!”
The girl jolts into panic, quickly leaps, and pushes through her room in desperation as she attempts to outrun the pounding sounds of her mother’s heeled feet. Her ruined hands shoves open doors as her body forgets what pain means, while the adrenaline pumps into her bloodstream and rushes out her wounds. Yet the house is too unmaneuverable for her to escape her doom. Her mother corners her back in the living room, and strikes her back down into the ground with a thud, followed by a thorough thrashing. Feeling whiplashes back into the girl as pain reminds her body how true defeat throbs. The girl’s head cracks into the ground as her back scrapes against the floor with each strike. Still, the ground tremors far less than the girl as she sits up shakily at the mercy of her mother.
“You watch your mouth, young lady. And don’t ever talk to me like that again.”
The mother storms over to grab her stylish Fendi purse and car keys, and slams out the front door the same way she slammed in. Lying on the floor in a gravely similar position to the one she had formed 7 minutes ago, the girl is mute, the room soundless and still. A wave of déjà vu seems to pass over the lavender room, as she lies damaged and silent on the floor yet again. She rises up slowly, too shaken to process her next action clearly. In her daze, she turns to the final resort she rarely invokes. She finds the cordless phone on the ground nearby and dials.
“Hello,” she speaks softly into the mouth piece, “Is my father available? Oh, he’s with a client, I see…” she hesitates. She is hesitant, but more so she is desperate. She decides to risk his anger and the consequences later. “Well, this is an emergency. Could you please tell him it’s an emergency? A home emergency? Thank you, yes, I can hold.” She breathes quietly as soft classical music drifts from the receiver. 5 minutes later the secretary drones back at her a polite and suspiciously jade-tinted response.
“What?...what do you mean, he’ll call me later?...Did you tell him it was an emergency?” she asks incredulously. “Look, this is really important; I need to talk to him right away.” The secretary reassures the girl in bored, buzzing tones that yes, her father was quite aware she believed it was an emergency. She continues on patronizingly to state that her father, however, is a very busy man and isn’t convinced that her emergency can’t wait till he arrives home later tonight. “Later? Not CONVINCED?” the girl repeats back disbelievingly. The secretary, a world-weary well of enthusiasm, confirms the repetition with unspoken superiority. Recognizing the disdain lurking behind the polite voice, the girl feels her insides blaze with fury. Reaching a limit rarely crossed, she is engulfed in rising hysteria as normally restrained rage against her brother, against her parents, against the teachers and peers and therapists, and all the wrongs done to her explodes. Unfortunately for the haughty secretary, she happens to be the only available target for the girl’s wrath that won’t hit her back.
“WELL WHAT THE HELL DOES HE NEED TO KNOW TO BE CONVINCED RIGHT NOW?! LATER IS TOO LATE! WHAT IF I’M DEAD BY THEN!? IS HE TOO BUSY FOR ME TO DIE?!” she screams into the phone.
The secretary, dropping her droll tone, hurriedly asks if the girl needs any assistance or is in any danger. Gently, the girl laughs.
“Danger?” she questions eerily.
As the secretary grows more disturbed, the girl takes the liberty of a few more disturbing laughs that she know she will pay for later one way or another.
“Lady, danger is a relative term.”
The secretary loses all arrogant pretenses, and now genuinely concerned, asks (…is that emotion detectable in that perfunctory voice?) in a gentle manner if there is anything she can do to help.
The girl laughs maniacally as tears cruelly threaten the corners of her gleaming eyes. Nausea is flooding over her head like a wave, and her head, already in a painful spin is rotating off orbit. Her body throbs like the birth of a sun, her thoughts are exploding like supernovas as the emotional tidal wave inside expands like a balloon about to burst. Her world has tilted much too far, and suddenly she is much to large to fit her tiny role in the order of the universe. She is nauseous, and her miserable autobiographical tale is about to vomit out her lips until another laugh shakes sense back into her. Acceptance sets in as all the broken little girl on the floor can do is laugh.
The secretary awaits a response rather anxiously on the other end of the line. A peculiar calm enters the girl as the irony of the situation is realized. Strange how this stranger cares more for her well-being that her father does, and her family ever will.
The girl bothers to reply only in response to this woman’s unexpected kindness.
“Maybe once,” she answers softly. “Once.”
The girl lies alone and bleeding in the midst of perfect appearances, expectations, and lavender walls. Her imperfect garden, beloved in its flaws, was much more than 3 feet out of her reach. The girl quietly apologizes for her irrational behavior, and wishes the secretary a merry Christmas Eve. As she sets the phone down next to her gashed thigh without bothering to hang up on the confused woman, she notices the fading warmth from the light caressing her back as she presses her face to the floor. Once, this would have been an ideal moment to cry. But ideal moments for tears had grown far and few through the years, as she realized again and again that she would only cry herself out to cry again the next week. Her eyes now were too dry from experience, and the stars that once twinkled in their dark night were dimmer with apathy. As she lay bleeding and broken on the beautiful hardwood floor as Led Zeppelin thumped from her brother’s room, she waited for the twinkling of the stars outside to once again appear.