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CHAPTER TWO: FOURTEEN YEARS

I did not want to be saved. I did not want to be okay. I was weak, and my weakness taunted me. I wanted to go away, to stop feeling. I didn’t have to be here. They could have released me, they could have stopped all of this. I wanted to be sleeping, I wanted to be gone. They brought me back for more of this, for more punishment, as though I’d not had enough. I couldn’t take anymore, I didn’t want anymore. Why was I here? I was I locked in this place, surrounded by promises of more. I knew better, but I wanted so deeply to buy into all of it, so I let them save me. I let them build me up. I smiled as they filled my head with promises of hope, and peace. They told me I was okay, and I rested on that. I was banking on okay, on better. They said such beautiful things. I had to believe.

She wasn’t here. This fortress they had built me kept her out, and I was better for it. My head had never been such a peaceful place to be. Her monotonous shouting had subsided, and I was finally free to feel and to experience everything she hid me from. There was not hurt here. There was no pain, no suffering. All of the things she had guarded me against had been a façade. None of it was real. I was real, I was strong. She’d told me so many times that I was nothing. Now her lies were all coming into view. I was not weak, I was not nothing. I was alive and breathing. I was okay.

* * *

 

Life offers so much pain, so much hurt. Innocent people loose so much while I capitalize on the cannibalism of all that they have to offer. You have all ached, you have all suffered. While you were there for every tear, for every screaming fit, I ignored you. I walked all over you and took advantage of every resource you offered me. I am undeserving and the cold that I have felt is my punishment. Perhaps justice would truly mean that I should stay here, that I should writhe and fight and suffer. You would not let me. The goodness in you, the greatness in you would save me. It has come to this, it is my responsibility to save you, to stop this, to give you back the life that I have taken from you. Here tonight, I am finally paying you back for all of the care that you have given me. I am finally taking care of you. I am saving you. Relief does not make you a bad person. You are free.

* * *

 

My parents had sent me to Ohio. They were far away and grateful to be free of me. It didn’t hurt anymore though. I was glad for the space they had given me. I had room now, to grow and be whatever I wanted to be. I was free of their expectations and demands. I was not confronted with their relentless disappointment. I was able to live for me, and to make sure I was pleased without worrying about what anyone else wanted. Mom and Dad had thrown me away without realizing that was the best thing they had ever done for me.

Now, I was with people who cared. Everyone spoke to me with an understanding that I’d never known. There were other girls with me. All of them spoke of the same things I’d felt, all the things that I’d known and clung to my entire life. They knew of the self-loathing and the need to be better. They knew of the unending search for themselves. A search that could be so tumultuous it could break you. I was not alone. I was not the only one.

I’d never been given the chance to bond with people they way I was able to bond with the girls in the rehabilitation facility my parents had shipped me off to. I’d never been given the chance to bond with myself. In the past few months I had been able to explore ever inch of my being. I was more aware of myself than I’d ever been. I was finally coming to terms with all that I had to offer. I was falling in love with myself. All of it was finally coming together. The biggest change of all was the trust I was finally allowing myself to put in people, in Ryan in particular.

Ryan was a year older than I, and so much wiser. I never understood how she had come to this place. Everything she said was graceful and beautiful. Her self expression was so flawless. She was everything I admired, everything I wanted to be. At first, I felt so undeserving of her acceptance. She absolved me of that. Her presence was so comforting.

Her and I bonded almost instantly. From the moment I had arrived, she sought me out. For what reason, I will never know. She listened to me, and pushed me to tell her all of my ugly truths. She sat there and listened, always careful to point out the inaccuracies in my self deprecating tales. She pushed me to tell her things I’d not told anyone else, all the ugly little truths about the disease I had invited into my life. She listened without judgement, waiting until my stories had been completely examined and exhausted before sharing herself with me. She had so many similar thoughts and feelings. She wanted to save me from all that haunted me, from all that weighed me down. She never gave any thought to saving herself, and I never made her. I let her hold me up at the expense of herself.

* * *

 

I have shared you. I have taken from you. I will not take anymore.

* * *

 

It had been months since the time Ryan and I had shared together in Ohio, and I was finally going to see her again. I missed her everyday. I felt as though living was just a means of passing the time until I could get home and talk to her on the telephone. She would council me and tell me that I was okay. I listened to her intently in all that she had to say about my problematic existence, never able to reciprocate the support, never realizing where I was falling short. She never asked for anything in return, and I was more than willing to take from her. She seemed so grateful that I took. We had grown into the perfect symbiotic relationship. Without her smallness, and her deference, she felt as though she had nothing to offer. Without her encouragement, I simply had nothing.

Standing there with her in the air port, I was happy. I had someone with whom I could share everything. Our experiences and feelings had bound us together. Through our self hatred we had found each other. Neither of us had known what it was like to feel accepted yet we were all too familiar with he feeling of rejection. We had segregated ourselves, built up our individual walls to hide behind. With Ryan, those walls disappeared. There was nothing standing between her and I.

* * *

It was my destiny to tear everything apart, to putrefy everything and everyone around me. Pain and deception are the only things I’m good at. Darkness is the only place I am at home. You don’t want to be here with me. The end is the only gift I have left to give you. This is the only kindness I can manage. I have watched and admired others for their mercy, here is mine.

* * *

 

Much had changed for Ryan since the time I’d spent with her in the hospital. She’d grown into herself, and was more confident than I’d ever known her to be. She didn’t hide from the world anymore, she lived in it. She had friends. She was having fun and enjoying life. She was seeing someone now, and I’d never seen her more excited about anything. She talked endlessly of Ben. Her admiration of him was overwhelming. Neither of us saw the danger in it. She was so consumed by him, and he seemed to reciprocate all of it. Despite the four year age gap between them, they seemed to have so much in common. They seemed to be so in love.

For our entire visit, Ben was there, always holding Ryan’s hand. Their passion bread so much hope, so much encouragement. It was beautiful to see them. It was s wonderful to see Ryan happy the way she was with Ben. She was happier than she’d ever been. She was free of whatever had clawed its way into her life and dragged her to her starvation. She was refreshed and beautiful. A lot of her joy rested in Ben.

* * *

 

I have spent a life hurting and pushing. In my emptiness I was unable to open myself, to truly be humane. I have purported to be a friend, a lover, a daughter, a sister. I am none of these things. I am nothing. The pain of it all is so great. I can’t tell you of the agony I have toiled under. I hope that despite all of this I will have your forgiveness.

* * *

 

“You’re beautiful,” he muttered as his lips found mine again. I didn’t say anything. I welcomed his touch. His skin felt warm against mine. I ignored the wrongness of all of it. I could not think beyond this moment. I couldn’t think of anything but his lips on my body, of his tongue following the curves of my hips. His hands traced a line up my thighs and played their way under the cotton of my underwear. My body shivered as it welcomed him. No one had ever touched me this way. He pressed himself into me, and without thought my body responded to his.

Ryan was asleep just down the hall from where I was stealing from her. Ben and I didn’t care. She’d not even entered my mind. I had to have known where this was going. I was not innocent here. We had been drinking cheap gin and Ben kept getting closer and closer until the alcohol had finally taken hold of Ryan and she’d fallen asleep.

I had carried our glasses to the kitchen sink. Ben followed me, cornering me against the counter. His breath was hot on my neck. He wrapped his hands around mine, and there was no going back. There was no saying no. I didn’t want to. He kissed me until I was weak. As we made our way to the kitchen floor the overhead light flicked on.

Ryan stood above us staring at the mess of what we had done. She rubbed at her eyes with the back of her hands as if this betrayal could just be wiped away. “No,” she breathed. “No! No, no, no.” Ryan was screaming as she rushed down the hall to the front door. “No! Not this. Not her. Not you!’ She shouted as Ben caught up with her.

I was alone, naked on the kitchen floor. I stared down at myself and felt true disgust. I turned my head and vomited all over myself. I could do nothing, I couldn’t move. My body racked with sobs as I climbed to my feet and fumbled my way to the bathroom. I turned the light on and was faced with what was left of myself. Chunks of whatever I’d eaten earlier in the blurred evening clung to my ratty hair. Mascara spread down my cheeks with each tear. My lips quivered, and I hated me. What have you done? It was her speaking to me again. She’d been so quiet for so long. Her coldness was unfamiliar to me and shocking after the warmth of Ben’s body.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I don’t know…” my voice trailed off into deeper cries of disgust and wretched hate.

Sorry? You are sorry. You are pathetic. I told you you’re worthless. I told you to leave her, to save her from yourself. Friend? You a friend? You are nothing. I wrapped my arms tightly around myself. She was right. This wasn’t my life. I was an impostor here. Even the acceptance of lust, of cheating and all that was wrong, wasn’t for me. I was undeserving.

I had destroyed Ryan. She gave me her trust, her friendship, her life, and I took it all and killed it. Like everything else I touched our friendship slowly turned to a putrid black. Are you happy with yourself? she was unrelenting. I did not blame her. I deserved her loathsome, bitter words. You’ve ruined it. You ruin everything. The rot inside of you spreads to everything that you touch.

My tears stopped and I stared at myself differently as a new feeling washed over me. This was what you wanted when you came here. You wanted to tear things apart. She had something you didn’t. You just couldn’t be happy for her could you? You disgusting little pig.

I stared blindly into the blackness of my reflection. I groped around the edge of the bathroom sink until my hands closed on what she was looking for, a pink plastic razor blade. I slid the delicate plastic razor across the fleshiest area of my inner thigh. Blood traced a line along my leg where Ben’s hands had been, erasing all the evidence. I closed my eyes loving the sting loving the pain. “I am sorry Ryan.” I sank to the floor and wrapped my arms around my folded legs. She was there, the only one to comfort me, the only one I deserved.

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