It had been nearly three hours since he slammed the door closed and left you shaking and crying on your bedroom floor. You’d managed to find the energy to drag yourself up on weak legs to wash the blood and tears off of your face, because you hate it when he comes home, gently cups your face in his hands and kisses you, whispering that you look so damn pretty covered in your own blood. The thought of his voice in your ear, having to see him when he comes home turns your blood to ice.
You glance at the clock; it’s 1:07 am. He should be home soon; he rarely stays out all night, unless the fighting is really bad. It wasn’t that bad tonight. In fact, you couldn’t even remember what you’d been arguing about. You flinch upon recalling what had happened mere hours ago. When you close your eyes, you see a wine glass shattering against the newly painted dining room wall, deeply red liquid staining the beige carpet. You see his anger-filled eyes that had once held so much love. The monsters creep into your head, swirl around your brain and settle like a dark blanket.
This is your fault they whisper.
If you were better, this wouldn’t have happened.
The monsters scoff and sneer and you drop your head onto the knees you’d pulled as close to your body as possible and you try to ignore the pounding in your head but it doesn’t go away. You think you might have a concussion but you’re not even sure what the hell that is. You drift back to third grade when you got hit in the head with a baseball and you remember lying on your back in the dusty outfield, hearing the laughter of the boy who hit you and it sounds far away. You remember the coach’s hands on you and hearing him ask questions that you felt unable to answer.
Do you know who you are?
Do you know where you are?
I think she has a concussion, you heard the coach tell someone distant.
You think that this is a lot like how the concussion felt, though it is hard to know. It had been nearly 15 years ago.
But you try to answer the questions for yourself, and find it hard to do so.
Do you know who you are?
No, you don’t. Not anymore. You know your name, but you don’t know what it felt like to see a smile on your own face or go a day without fear or speak your mind without worrying about the backlash of doing so. You don’t know who your friends are or why you’re sitting here on the bed curled into a ball and hoping that one day he’ll just kill you so this can’t go on. You don’t know the brave, witty person you were two years ago. You look in the mirror and sees this pale-faced creature with fading bruises on skin pulled tight over bones because most of the time you’re too anxious around him to ever eat anyway, and your eyes are hollow and when you lift your hand to your face your fingers shake and they shake all the time and you don’t know how to make any of it stop. You don’t know this timid, frightened child who has made a home in your skin and won’t leave. You have an image in your head of the boy you fell in love with who turned into one of the monsters in your head, and you keep hoping that things will change but it’s been like this for eight months and you’re starting to doubt that it ever will. You’re too afraid to leave; you have nowhere else to go because all your friends left after your boyfriend stopped letting you go out and your parents don’t talk to you anymore because they didn’t like him but you swore that you were so in love and you were going to get married and your parents couldn’t stop you. You should have listened; maybe then there would still be light in your eyes.
Do you know where you are?
You used to think that you were home, but now, you’re not so sure.
You lay in your bed, mind racing and the ceiling seemed to begin to swirl the longer you stare at it without blinking. Your eyes begin to burn but you can’t bring yourself to close them.
It is 5:37 in the morning and you have to be up for school in an hour, yet you can’t bring yourself to sleep. Slithering through your mind were images of things you were usually able to ignore, but came out of hiding while you slept. When you sleep, what occurs in your mind is out of your control.
You blink and a tear slides out of your eye and trails down the side of your face. You don’t bother to wipe it away. You know that you won’t be able to sleep that night, and you wonder how the hell you’re going to function during school that day.
You think about the three-page essay that you hadn’t done, and the promise you made to yourself the last time this happened. You live under the illusion of fresh starts and second/third/thirteenth chances, but feeling this much worse had not been a part of the equation.
At 6:03, you decide to get out of bed. You rub dried tears and ignore the aching in your head and the black spots that dance in front of your vision as you walk wobbly to the bathroom. You wash your face with cold water and brush your teeth hard. When you spit there is blood, and you avoid meeting your own eyes in the mirror. You run fingers through your hair and lean closer to the mirror to get a better look at the things you’ve deemed unsatisfactory.
You consider the purple bags under your eyes from lack of sleep and the chapped lips from biting them too much. Your eyes trail down your body, dully noting the bruises that appeared overnight and the bones that stuck out awkwardly. You avert your eyes, take the image of your corpse-like body and file it away in a drawer that you would never open again.
Your flesh will begin to rot and you will ignore that too.
You go back to your room and pull on baggy jeans and slip a big sweater over your head. You do your makeup to imitate someone living. You try not to buckle under the weight of your backpack as you slip out the front door quietly, as not to wake your sleeping boyfriend on the couch.
You sit in class under a black veil that conceals you from the rest of the students. The world feels hazy and distant, and all you can think about is the fight from the night before, the blood under your fingernails, and how he hadn’t slept in the bed with you.
You attempt to focus on the lecturer but the words are mist that you can’t grab no matter how hard you try. You are a mannequin; the real you is still lying in bed, staring blankly at the ceiling. No, the real you had died a long time ago and left this half-body and crumbling brain.
You walk home on the only raincloud in town and feel your heart rise in your throat when you see your boyfriend’s truck parked in the driveway. Gripping tightly to your backpack and inhaling deeply, you turn the doorknob and enter the house.
There is no hurricane when you walk through the door. The house smells like your mother’s chicken noodle soup and, with your heart in your throat for a different reason, you creep to the kitchen.
Your boyfriend stands there, stirring something on the stove. He hears you and turns, smiles, as if nothing had happened the night before. As if nothing had happened ever.
“I’m making your favorite,” he says, voice like velvet.
He motions for you to come closer, and, tentatively, you do. He puts an arm around you and it feels like a lead weight on your shoulders. You see the future in the pot of soup as he kisses you on the top of your head. His lips feel more like a slap in the face than anything else.
You sit across from him at the dinner table, swirling soup around in its bowl and picking at the hole in your jeans while half-heartedly listening to him talk animatedly about his day. You hope you appear to be more alive than you feel. You hope he doesn’t comment on your silence.
You prop your head up in your hands and watch him rinse the dishes. Something about his relaxed posture and tuneless humming causes something to click in your mind, and with slightly shaky hands, you pick up the knife resting on the table and glide over to him.
He turns as you bring the knife down and you slice into his arm instead of the centre of his back. He barely flinches as he grabs your wrists and shoves you into a cabinet. The dishes on the counter tremble as you crumble to the floor.
He curses as he kicks you but all you hear is white noise. You tune out the sound and feeling of your ribs cracking, the corners of your vision dimming. Eventually he leaves you lying there and you stare at the ceiling with its peeling paint and dusty ceiling fan. You close your eyes as your breathing quickens and slows. What a shame; you’re dying after only being alive for 23 seconds. You’re dying. Finally.