There’s broken glass on my bedside table. It litters my carpet, tiny fragments and shards getting caught beneath my feet…and then I’m back there in that room and I’m seeing his glasses just waiting on the table and I’m hearing his voice too hot and too low in my ear and I’m feeling my skin crawl, crawl again. That’s the dark place, though, the place Dr. Whosit and Dr. Whatsit tell me to stay away from when I sit in their office and stare at their crayon drawings, the place of remembering but what else can I do when we have the same checkered place mats and the same vanilla soap in our bathrooms and he looks like everyone I know and I don’t understand. I think the broken glass, here, that’s from me. I think I did that, broke something, maybe my water glass, maybe my window, maybe I broke my fingers and they splintered out and disintegrated and this is what’s left.
What confused me most about those first days was that time hadn’t stopped. I thought it had, at first, in the moments it took for the police to come, the eons of me lying on the floor and smelling my own blood, salty, bracing. My head pounded and I remembered that he’d hit me a few times, hit me with his hands and his knees and his mouth, too. I waited then for the room around me to press in and squeeze the life out of me, until I was just a little splinter and I was a part of the wood floor, just one more part and nothing had happened.
I watched them clean up from the ambulance. The world was a mess of red lights and white lights and blue uniforms and questions, but all I saw was three men in light blue scrubs putting the blood on the floor into bottles and throwing towels away when they were soaked through, and I thought about how I’d never lie in that spot again and no one else would either.
It was later, when I went home and I was shaking so hard that my mom had to help me into my pajamas like she’d done when I was six because I wouldn’t let my father touch me, not yet, and I crawled into bed and it was just the same but everything was different. I know I woke up the next morning, and the sun had risen and I didn’t understand why or what I was supposed to do about it.
I showered twelve times that first day, and eight more the second. I showered and the water in the faucet turned red and blood poured down on me, and I scrubbed and scrubbed and kept scrubbing, thinking maybe I can use this bar of soap to scrape away all my flesh and then just fall here and live peacefully, never moving, right in this shower, a porcelain pile on the tiled floor. But I closed my eyes tight and opened them and the water ran clear again, and I know that’s not how these things work, so when my skin was red and raw but the blood was gone I left the shower and I got back into bed.
The doctor said that when I saw the blood it was a hallucination. She gave me little white pills for that, all wrapped up in their orange bottles that covered my counters until there was no room for soap or towels or smiling pictures of my family, my friends. She gave me pills for sleeping, and for eating, and for some long words that sounded like Latin. I flushed all of the pills down the toilet, every last one of them, or I pushed them in the shower drain or I threw them down the sink, and they kept coming every week.
A week after it happened they told me I was ready to go back to school, but I wasn’t ready at all and I couldn’t breathe. My feet wouldn’t walk across the lawn, they were stuck in the ground and no matter how hard I tried I couldn’t get them out and I couldn’t get into the building, I needed my mother to push me a bit so that I could walk forward up the steps one by one, if you don’t think about it your feet just keep moving. Sometimes I’d turn and he’d be right there at the desk next to me and he’d lean over quietly and breathe in my ear, so I’d jump and I’d look and he’d be gone and people would look at me thinking damn, that sucks and I don’t blame them; that’s what I would have thought if it wasn’t me. But I know he’s not in school because the police came and got him with their loud voices and shining badges, I remember that even if everything else about that night is blurry, fuzzy, wrong.
The second day back was the worst; at least in the first no one knew what to say so no one talked to me, the second all they wanted to do was talk, and I had nothing to say. There were twenty miles between me and everyone else, and when they spoke their voices were too soft in my head and they looked the same but each one of them was different, too. The school psychologist sat me down that day and she was wearing her horrible pink sweater, and I couldn’t even believe that I still noticed what clothing she was wearing. There was a picture of him on the wall, last year’s graduating class and when she saw me looking at it she buried her face in her hands and apologized, said she couldn’t believe how stupid she’d been to keep that up but I didn’t care. She said the same words they all said, and that was what I hated her for. She looked at me with saucer eyes and gave me pamphlets on moving on, and I wanted to hit her, right across the face and I needed my left arm to hold my right one down, but it was hard to coax myself into releasing my fist, I almost couldn’t do it, and I saw the men in blue scrubs mopping my blood off of the floor until the puddle shrunk, shrunk, wasn’t there at all, and there was only a stretch of brown floorboard, barely even a stain.
Sometimes on Saturdays I’d put on the dress I wore that night. I didn’t want to; I hated it, and it was stained and dirty but my hand always picked it out when I reached into my closet, I didn’t know why. I’d put on my high heels, the one that I couldn’t run in, couldn’t walk in, and I’d stand silent on my floorboards and listen to them creak, tilt my head from side to side and think about how he never drank at all. I’d lie on the floor in my dress and look at my ceiling like I did that night, or trace my eyes in the mirror and think about a girl who didn’t get down on the floor at all, who looked him hard in the eyes until he burst into flames, a girl who’d walked out and walked home and gotten right into bed. I wondered when I hadn’t become that girl, why I hadn’t become that girl. I could almost see the stars through my ceiling those nights, giant and always there and reflecting into my eyes and my legs and my open mouth. In those moments the ceiling seemed right above me, two inches from my face. If I’d stood up I would have broken clean through it, stood amongst the stars and felt the cool night air, the breeze and it would clear my mind right up, I knew it would, I wanted so badly to see the sky. But something kept me down, kept me on the floorboards with the dust and the mice and the thoughts that swirled around in my head, around and around and around and I couldn’t see how they’d ever stop.
Maya Lockman-Fine, Age 16, Grade 11, The Dalton School, Silver Key