“Lying in my bed again, and I cry cause you’re not here. Crying in my head again, and I know that it’s not clear. Put your hands, put your hands inside my face and see that it’s just you. But it’s bad and it’s mad and it’s making me sad, because I can’t be with you.”
- The Cranberries
At 17, I am no longer the age of innocence. I am torn open. The phone is ringing, and I hide my body within a gray sweatshirt and black sweatpants, enveloped by three layers of blankets and the voices of redemption: Bob Dylan, New Order, Smashing Pumpkins, The Psychedelic Furs, The Cranberries. They make me want to stay under the covers forever and forget about how disgusting I feel, a part of this world.
There were hardly any sunny days in 2007 and I would not have known if there were even a few, the blinds in my bedroom shielding the light. I thought I would implode if I was exposed. I was a bat during the daytime.
I still went to school, of course, but with purple sunglasses on.
I attempted to learn, and in some classes I really did. In other classes I stared at the tendons in my mottled purple hands and pulled at the skin. I wanted to disappear. At 17 years old I was already bored with life because of the consistent emptiness making each day incomprehensible. I couldn’t yet drive a car, couldn’t yet drive out to the slippery black highway and cruise to another state, change my name, or erase the failures I carried and reflected into others’ swollen hearts.
I woke up in a depersonalized and foggy state of being. Spanish 4 Honors was arduous, boys were tricky to read, and I was disgusted with my pretentious English teachers, especially with the voices in my head never quieting down.
I made frequent trips to the bathroom, especially in the afternoon. I cried in the stalls. Sometimes I would hear another girl come into the stall next to mine and I wouldn’t leave until I could hear the echo of her footsteps.
Without warning, I would get sick. I would stay home weak and ill because of a shaky immune system. Yet, I was strong enough to light up another few cigarettes and walk to the local Royal Farms to buy Diet Sunkist, another lighter. I have always believed you can never have too many lighters. I listened to the Plastic Ono Band when I got home. Some of the songs on that album were broken records. Seriously. But sounds are always intriguing.
This pain has no origin, at least not that you know of. It carves into your blood and bones. Your appearance already fades into the background of all the chaos. You fade right in front of your own eyes.
Focus on staying awake.
Try not to notice the time falling away as he holds you in his scrawny arms, telling you that he wants to keep seeing you but is too scared to be with you or anyone else.
Oh, dear. He still wants to get close.
You know he doesn’t see you, but through all of this blurred cold, you see him. You see him even though he doesn’t want to look at you. Three years of being in his presence has made you yearn to get close.
Get close, even as he pushes you away with his forced detachment and his slow descent into liquor. Nothing is imaginary.
Days jumble just like his useless words and promises until the dreaded gray cloud hovers over you. Rain falls hard and burns as it hits the ground. You want to hear from someone that you can be whole even though you are feeling like you are about to crumble. Insanity is not what it seems. You see it coming but when it actually hits you become blind and miss it completely.
Gradually, then suddenly, you find yourself walking into the bone-cracking coldness of the backyard, barefoot with icy breath flowing out of your chapped mouth.
Time stops seeming like the thing that can transform you into something halfway decent. You feel like you have lost your way like Edie Sedgwick, one of Andy Warhol’s superstars, when she suddenly jumps out of a cab and starts running toward an invisible destination. The coldness screams on you when you wind up trembling with confusion in your familiar alley.
You are too tired for this.
Too tired of running to a place that you hope will make you rise above the instability.
Edie would be able to relate to the running, the yearning to be seen and necessary.
You would hold each other’s breaking bodies and say nothing.
Clara Roberts will be studying creative nonfiction at Johns Hopkins University starting in fall 2012.