I have this repetitive dream of myself floating on my back in a pool of moon light. My blonde hair spreading out around me, unfurling slowly, and reaching out as if I were Medusa and my tangling hair was her snakes tickling my earlobes and whispering pretty plans and murderous melodies into my head. The plots reach their way down into my imagination and grab tightly.
I keep floating mid-center with my eyes half-closed. I am content to go on feeling only the pulse of my own heartbeat as it drums steadily away deep inside my chest. I count the beats. . . one. . . two. . . three. . . four. . . before His hands, large and rough, make contact with my chest and slowly push downward until I am submerged. My lungs contract slowly, and all air is lost.
My mother slammed the frying pan down against the stove letting her frustration announce itself into the room and settle down thickly between us as it so often did these days. I could feel the sense of betrayal and bitterness she exuded now after having discovered all the traits I shared with the man who left us two years prior and took the flat screen tv with him as his only sign of saying goodbye. Selfish, she would say. Passionate yet pragmatic, I would say. Everyone needs a television. I knew she thought I didn’t have enough of her twisted and tangled within my DNA. Although, 23 of my chromosomes belonged to her first; it wasn’t enough.
I bit deliberately into the green apple I had chosen as my breakfast despite her pitifully trying to replicate a pancake that far better resembled a blackened, crusty scab within the pan. She had begun to attempt a conversation best saved for another day: her desire to date again. More specifically, her desire to date that Friday evening.
She had said, “It’s with Mr. Jones from my divorce support group. The one that meets on Tuesday evenings. You know the one, don’t you?”
She had meant, “I don’t want your dad to come back.”
I had said, “What about Dad?”
I had meant, “Aren’t you supposed to believe in the ones you love?”
I continued instead with, “I just think you’re not giving Dad a chance. He’s going to come back any day now.” I sounded naïve, yet the words poured from my acidic mouth as sour as the fruit on my tongue. The apple was bruising red and purple between my grip.
Mom turned towards me, a picture of hopelessly mismanaged beauty, “He’s not coming back, Marjory. Give it a rest.”
“He’s not coming back because of you.”
She scraped her abomination of pancakes onto one of our overused blue plates before trying to lay it in front of me. I pushed it aside and continued to plead for her not to uproot my life with this change. To not finalize the ruin of my once untouched world and unscathed family.
My blue eyes searched her green ones urgently. I tried to keep my face clear of malice by consciously keeping my eyebrows un-furrowed and my lips downturned in a childish frown rather than pulled back in the sneer that often fell across my features. Yet my eyes still betrayed what I hadn’t said aloud: Dad wouldn’t have left if he felt she truly loved him.
She dropped into the chair across from me, eyes low, and voice solemn, she held, “I want to be happy. Won’t you let me be happy?”
But why wouldn’t she see that this decision made me desperately unhappy?
I got up and grabbed my bag, willing to arrive 30 minutes early to the first day of my junior year of high school if it meant escaping this conversation.
Dad’s traits revealed themselves yet again as I sucker punched her one last time with my words, “Your love is fake. If I were Dad, I wouldn’t come back either if it was back to you.”
As I turned to slam the door behind me, I caught only one glimpse of my flesh and blood’s face crumple in pain. But it could have easily been a trick of the light.
Mom surprised me and went on her date that Friday night. I had thought she had put thoughts of her middle-aged, bile-inducing rendezvous behind her. She hadn’t mentioned the occasion for the remainder of the school week, but I found her in front of her bathroom mirror nonetheless a quarter to six readying herself for the evening. As I watched her place each ring methodically onto her small, un-weathered hands and each topaz earring carefully onto her ears, my heart ached and pained as if it were stripping down muscle valve by muscle valve in an excruciating demolition. My family would never be the same again, and it was all her fault. All her and Mr. Jones’ fault.
My beliefs of what was good and right, as well as holiness and happiness shattered just like those old and ugly blue, stained plates she loved dearly. I slammed the set down on the edge of the counter not more than five minutes after she’d left the house trailing Mr. Jones. My thumb trailed lustfully across the sharp, glassy remnants of Mom’s happiness still held between my hands. I liked the way the sharp edges felt against my skins. The broken edge cutting into my thumb looked and felt like the violence intentions coursing their way through my bloodstream, filling my lungs with sulfurous ash, and manipulating my mind with desperation for revenge. This would hurt her just the way she was hurting me.
When the first tear glided down to the edge of my jawline, I was caught by surprise. Self-loathing and defeat was washing over my body, and the sleeping pills I had found hiding amongst my mom’s prescriptions left me feeling as if I were dragging heavy weights strapped to my shoulders up the familiar stairs and into bed that night. I didn’t hear Mom come home around eleven.
The next morning, I imagined the sadness she must have felt when she had turned to face the room and realized she had lost yet another precious thing. I kept quiet even as the guilty tears marked my face just as they had the night before. I hoped that she wouldn’t hear me.
Even without the use of sleeping pills, I still carried a heaviness with me. It was hard to go about my life with those weights tied on. It wasn’t even worth attempting to lamely roll out of bed to greet the responsibilities of belonging to a public-school system. Not until threatened by the truancy court.
My eyes appeared deeply set within my skull as dark circles etched themselves under my eyes. My face had depleted of emotion. Yet, here I sat, in the back corner of the AP English Literature class at a vandalized wooden desk, nearing the end of a Monday afternoon and reading the deplorable phrases etched with sharpie and knife.
Fuck this place! it screamed. I agreed.
Desdemona W. – Snapchat: dezziexx, it promoted. I tried to smear the black letters away.
Z + A 2017, it promised.
I put my head down.
What did I care for Mr. William’s lilting tone reciting Shakespeare? I didn’t want to hear The Taming of the Shrew nor The Merchant of Venice. His voice jumped upward and downward in dramatic gusto. I wanted Hamlet. I wanted Macbeth.
The person to the left of me asked if I was feeling all right.
You feeling okay, Marjory?
I lifted my head up to catch a look at who sat there asking after me.
That is when the goosebumps hit.
He was perfect. His brown hair lay immoveable upon His head. Each hair was placed into impeccable balance, and the gel worked in throughout helped to keep any hair from moving and disrupting His bodily artwork. It was buzz cut short on the sides with hair most prominent upon the top section with a severe part that swept the hair to the right. He had run His hands through His hair to get that sweeping look so often that it now just naturally edged rightward in compliance. His jawline was another story. A Henry Cavill as Superman kind of jawline. It had a perfect slope downward towards His chin and was uninterrupted by hormonal flaws or stray hairs pushing their ways through the surface of His skin. Every curve of His body stunned me. Each connection – neck and shoulder, wrist and hand, earlobe, and jaw: it all left the hair on my body rising.
God had really gone out of his way on perfecting the details on this one, I imagined.
I knew this boy. I’d had a class with Him a year back, but I had never seen this side of Him before. His body had reshaped from childish gangliness to solid, adult stature. He was so much more caring than any of the other boys our age. Here was somebody finally worthy of my time. I could willingly rip out my soul for Him.
Finally, I nodded back yes that I was feeling okay. I didn’t want to alarm Him or classmates in the vicinity, but I was becoming increasingly aware of a tingling sensation that seemed to pull me towards Him little by little. My body began to shift imperceptibly towards Him starting with the angling of my feet in His direction, and I remembered reading once that a person can tell how another feels about them based upon body language alone. My body language slowly was betraying it all. I felt as if electromagnetic currents connected His body to mine even as He sat more than a foot away doodling a cartoon for National Honors Society member Claire Evans. Oh, He was perfect.
I climbed the ladder up into the clouds of my daydreams for the remainder of the hour. Mr. William’s voice rattled me awake only when he stumbled slightly on his words, disrupting the iambic pentameter. I no longer wanted Hamlet. I wanted Romeo.
I left class that day with a new sense of strength and dizzying happiness. It was easy to follow Him to his locker. The classroom doors opening left and right to dispense young adults out into the waiting hands of their parental guardians helped to hide me from detection. He walked with a group of testosterone-spiked male figures in the middle of digging their maroon baseball caps out of each respective bag and gracelessly swinging their arms upward to drop the hat hastily onto their heads. He’s on the baseball team, I noted.
I was jostled to the side of the hallway by a group of lowerclassmen. Neither I nor them were paying much attention to our surroundings. A round of immature hollering rose like speech bubbles up the red, laminate lockers and hit the ceiling as the collision took place. He didn’t look up and towards the sounds of surprise and indignation but rather stopped only once he had reached the locker numbered 222
222. I would leave Him small surprises in it when we became more serious. I wanted to show that I care. I bet He’d like poetry ripped from my journal or insulin-spiking cookies. I’d have to get His locker combination for the cookies. . .
I kept walking by, doing my best to keep pace with the students around me. He didn’t even turn his head towards me. He only looked up when brown, doe-eyed and gap-toothed Claire opened her locker next to Him.
Mr. Jones sat at the head of the table across from me and filled his mouth with creamed corn. We locked eyes as I stirred my corn patiently and waited for the time to pass.
Mom was in the kitchen putting the final touches on some heinous crime scene of a meatloaf. When I had seen the creation while passing through the kitchen earlier, I had doubted it seriously in realms of edibility. I kept my mouth shut thinking maybe Mom was about to accidentally sink her own budding relationship right before my eyes.
She had gathered Mr. Jones and I tonight in an attempt to build connections between us. Mr. Jones and Marjory – aging man, raging girl – I don’t think her scheme had much hope. I had yet to change my mind about the man sitting before me since that first day four months ago when I had witnessed him striding in the front doorway as if comfortable in my territory. My desire to build bridges was also marred by my desire to get out of the house and away from this dinner as quickly as possible. I was trying to get to a baseball game before it ended at 9 PM. It was already 7:15. My foot was tapping against the floor. Mom needed to hurry up on that meatloaf.
“How long have you been a fan of baseball?” Mr. Jones asked between bites of corn. His lips were glistening with a layer of butter and cream that I could see under the dim lights. I was absolutely revolted.
“My whole life.”
Mom was entering the room with the main dish just as these words passed between us, and countered with a cheery, “She’s just shown a greater interest in it these last few months. I don’t know what’s gotten into her. She’s been going to every single game. She has to be that team’s biggest fan at this point.”
“It’s great for kids to have their passions.” Mr. Jones’ face lit up with sweat and admiration as he looked up at my mother. She smiled back, and I knew there was something between them that was beyond my comprehension. Maybe, she felt for Mr. Jones in a way similar to the way that I felt for Mine?
Mom’s meatloaf was able to astonish Mr. Jones. I began to suspect that he wasn’t getting very many homecooked meals besides what my mother provided when they had dates. The interactions between the pair of them had its subtle charm, but I was beginning to feel more like an intruder in my own home. 8:15 slowly drew near and my thoughts were flooded with thoughts of Him, but also about the relationship sitting before me that was growing stronger day by day. The way they laughed so easily together confused me. Where were the nerves? Where were the butterflies? Did they even like each other?
“How do you feel about my mom?” I cut in across their laughter.
Smiling faces turned towards me frozen. They glanced towards each other with pink cheeks, neither knowing how to properly respond to my question.
“Oh, well,” Mr. Jones rubbed at the back of his neck with his palm in agitation, “Your mom is a really special lady to me.”
“In what way? Like do you see this just being a friendship thing or . . . ?”
“Come on, Marjory.” Mom intoned.
“Mom, this is on you for wanting to date.” I reminded her, “My words, as always, are just the product of my environment.”
“I like your mother romantically, Marjory.” Mr. Jones tried to calm the stormy atmosphere. “When I lock eyes with her, everything just seems to fall into the place so easily. I’ve never experienced anything like it before.”
He seemed to think that love was calm. In my experience, it never was. My mind filled with images: Mom and Dad fighting over money, fighting over miscommunication, fighting over me. But I was just a kid no older than seven or eight. She begged him not to grip her so tightly at the base of her scalp. He pulled so hard. I would pick up clumps of red curls off the aluminum tile and tie them like ribbon into breath-taking bows that Mom would throw out regardless of their beauty. Yet, he always apologized. He always bought flowers and would sob at her feet. She would forgive him, and the love haze would spread throughout the house into every corner like the safe smells of freshly baked bread or fresh linen. Their love was passionate and desperate, and so real.
I wondered if he’d ever felt as if the one he loved had asked him to lay down onto the gray cement while holding a sledgehammer between her hands. I wondered if he had felt like his chest was being splintered open to expose his heart. Had he felt the raw and the real? I know Mom had with Dad, and I know I did now with Him.
I got up quickly, knowing Mom wouldn’t stop me from leaving.
It was time to go see Him. Maybe tonight would be the one in which my eyes would lock with His and we’d talk. He’d ask me how I was again, and the sledgehammer feeling would get me.
The water bounced off my skin and hit the sides of the white, tiled shower wall. I stood dead center in the heat of the spray. The water poured across my ears in a thundering stream and the cold bit at my legs whenever I inched too far away from the center. I clutched at myself in disbelief.
He had been slowly inching his hand towards giggling, joyful Claire Evans. He had kissed her besides the bleachers as the remainder of the spectators drifted away to their own homes to end the Friday evening. He and Claire didn’t go home. They remained beneath the stands giggling and sitting and laying, and then when the night became starry and the stadium lights had dimmed, he hitched up her skirt and they . . .
Fuck. I stubbed my toe on the faucet as I angrily raised my foot upward in an attempt to try and kick it towards Off.
I got out of the shower raging. He was supposed to be mine! I wrapped a towel quickly around myself but let my hair drip freely to the floor. He cared about me! He asked how I was doing! I crossed the hallway to my room. How was Claire even relevant?! I quickly began putting my clothes on, thinking I should go talk to him.
After all, I know where he lives . . .
It had taken me two weeks to gather the courage to follow Him out of the school building into the parking lot. One day later, I increased my courage towards following His car down the road and to His home. Each time I did this, I would stay two cars behind always. Except for those few seconds where my car would be right behind His as we entered the neighborhood. The first time, I was nervous this would draw attention to myself. I quickly put the fear aside by driving a street further as if I were just another neighbor going home after a long day. I would then wait a few minutes before turning down His street, parking, and sitting awe-struck in my car imagining His home life. His mother and father must love each other very much. They were probably still together, and He was better off for it.
I just needed to make Him understand that there was something between us. There was undeniable chemistry, and I knew that He’d love me. I knew that I already loved Him. I was going to have to find a way to get Him not to lie. He had to admit that I was the one He wanted to be with. I knew it was a fact, but someone else might call me crazy. Someone at His house might make up lies as if I were not special to Him. As if we didn’t have a common understanding of each other. I grabbed my car keys and put on my shoes imagining a solution to my problem. Behind the stack of medium slim fit blue jeans within Mom’s closet was a shoe box holding a small pistol that I wasn’t supposed to know about. I had found it while going through Mom’s things a week earlier when looking for secret bottles of alcohol she didn’t want me getting at. I presumed she had gotten it courtesy of Mr. Jones. He kept changing my life right before my eyes. Mom had never been a gun-handling person before. I imagined her holding on to it in the case that Dad were to show up. How cruel they all were! I would take the gun.
I would take the gun and hide it in the pocket of the sweatshirt I had put on, and if anyone were to call me a liar or crazy then I would show them the gun and the real answers would come out! I wasn’t crazy. I knew there was an unspoken bond between Him and I.
I had no problem acquiring the weapon. She would be downstairs typically cooking up some sort of disaster. I quickened my pace going down the stairs, across the kitchen, and towards the door hoping to avoid her small chatter, but Mom had left her usual station beside the stove and was moving closer to the exit as if to block my way out. She forced me to a stop when I realized I’d have to push passed her if I were serious about leaving.
She asked, “Where are you going?” My curfew was eleven. It was 11:22.
“Out, Mom!” I groaned. She wouldn’t understand.
“Marjory,” Her voice was hard. She seemed to have come to a mental resolution of being strict with my unrewardable behavior. Probably one more result of the intruder in my life: Mr. Jones.
She continued, “You’ve been scaring me. I don’t know what to do.” Her eyes locked with mine and seemed to search for an answer. “I see what’s going on, Marjory. You’re acting out in retaliation against me. You stay out late. We have the curfew for a reason, but if you’re not already home then you break it. I know you go through my things for drugs, money, or whatever, and I want you to stop. I am so tired, Marjory. I have no fight left. Why can’t we be happy? Please stop doing these things. Please stop disappearing for hours. Please, Marjory.”
Please, Marjory. Almost like “Please, Mom.”
Please, Mom, I had said. Please, Mom, please give Dad another chance. But, no, it doesn’t look like either of us will get our way. My shoulder collided with hers as I pushed passed her and opened the door. I ran down to my car, opened the door, threw the gun to the passenger’s seat beside me, and then climbed in.
“Here we go,” I breathed.
I entered the main thoroughfare, car still shaking from flying over the last of the speed bumps a block back. He lived three miles away. The fastest means of getting there was to drive down the highway for a time rather than keep hitting lights. I made the first right I crossed paths with and swung left to enter onto the southbound highway. I increased my speed to 70 mph. He had to be home right? I wondered. He couldn’t possibly be out with Claire.
The tension in my body frightened me. The muscles in my shoulders, arms, and legs were so tight that I felt as if I was a spring ready to pop upward and attack anybody who stood in my ways. I involuntarily found myself scratching at my neck. My nails digging into my flesh distracted me from anxieties, but every so often I caught myself thinking: What if He really wants to be with Claire? What if he wants to give up on our love? I can’t let him.
The car was moving fast passed a marsh separated from the highway only by a metal fence. The marsh was overflowing with water by this time of year. The rains had made the brown water reflecting the moonlight appear to be level with the highway a few feet east. It was spooky, but it was beautiful.
My mind seemed to free itself for a split second as I glanced over that body of water. I felt calm knowing that this ecosystem could grow, thrive, and diversify even as human’s popped tires and crashed bumpers only a few feet away. My body was relaxing, my breathing was steadying, and my heart rate was lowering. I had no excuse for a lapse in attention.
I had no excuse to drift that close to the fence at an increased speed of 96 miles per hour. I only began to notice the accident after it was well passed potential energy and well into activation. I only had the time to glance away from the body of water long enough to see how close I was to the metal fence already. I was well out of the highway lane and one second away from collision. I let out a breath.
My car collided with the fence, but it also seemed to take the fence by surprise. It was as if the fence weren’t expecting a force to ever need to be stopped from crossing its boundaries. Both a portion of the barrier and my car hit water while my foot was still on the gas pedal. This caused me to continue right into a deep, tangled portion of the marshy lake.
My car was stuck. The front bumper angled downwards into climbing water. I was dazed. I only half-realized the fence had broken through the front windshield allowing glass to shatter which cut my face and a began the process of blood pooling above my eyebrows before thickly dripping down onto my eyelids and blocking my part of my vision. The shattered front windshield also made it possible for water to continue its climb upward hitting my knees before I could comprehend the situation. Hitting my chest only as I began to realize that I should unbuckle my seatbelt. My hands waded through the dark water blindly trying to figure out how to unfasten myself, yet my mind paused leading my hands to falter.
I couldn’t understand how He could do this? How He could capture all my affection in a dizzying speed and still not want me? Why did He have to walk into my life and destroy me like this? It was greedy.
Why don’t they love me? I heard the voice in my head ask softly.
I leaned my head back in defeat against the headrest. I thought about Mom and Dad, Mom and Mr. Jones, Mom and I, Claire and Him, Him and I, and Romeo and Juliet.
All as the water continued to climb.
Mom was the first person my eyes latched onto when I awoke in a room at Saint Agnes Medical Center, a hospital in the north part of our dusty town. My wrists were bound by a thick blue padding two inches in width with a white strap connecting them to the bed frame so that I couldn’t move positions or-
“They’re to stop you from hurting yourself.” Mom nodded her head down towards the straps. She looked disheveled with her hair falling into her face and her forehead sticky with sweat, but I felt as if there were a gentleness in her voice I hadn’t heard in a long time.
I was so tired of fighting with her about all of it. I was tired of being angry, and I was tired of fighting all of the things that were out of my control. It might have been the sedatives thickening and slowing my blood flow down, but I just wanted to exist with her in peace. For once. Mr. Jones presence neither surprised me nor upset me. I knew he was here for my Mom.
He sat in a chair by the window perfectly content to stare out into the rising morning light down at the glistening, dew-covered lawns of the Catholic saint-named hospital. I found myself happy to see him. I suppose my mind was filled with apologies and the regrets I felt as I let the marsh water wash over me. His presence didn’t feel out of place among the white gauze and band aids. He didn’t feel the need to talk to me, to intrude on this moment of weakness, nor to throw in a witty aphorism hinting at the severity of my actions. He just sat and looked out, and I appreciated it.
Mom told me that traffic had halted as my car collided with the fence. A few individuals had left their own vehicles to brave the cold water and wade through to help me. I was cut from my seat belt and dragged out to safety. Later, my car was pulled from the water as well where the gun was found still on the passenger’s seat. Mom had confided in the emergency personnel that I was acting out of her control, and so they had secured me down to the bed.
Mom told me that a psychiatric evaluation was scheduled for later today.
It was out of her control, and it was out of my control. Just like so many things often were. She reached out to grab hold of my hand and slowly traced circles on my skin with her thumb. I wanted her to know about the boy that I thought was going to solve all my problems. I wanted her to know that even though He didn’t want me, I still felt like He was the answer. I wanted her to know I felt alone so often, and when I felt alone, my mind turned against me. It told me that no one was in my corner. But I knew this would all pour out of me eventually like the remainder of the marsh’s water dripping from my clothes.
In the meantime, she continued to hold tightly to my hand, and we prayed for my peace and forgiveness.