There are certain things I keep secret. Things I’ll never tell anyone about. I heard this Billy Joel song once, about this vow of silence. I’ve got that.
So I sat in the bathroom, my back against the wall, gritting my teeth because it hurt, my feet pushed against the sink cabinet, which pressed my back harder against the wall.
If I could focus on the pain, and only on the pain, I wouldn’t have to think about other things.
Like my mother.
Or my dad leaving me behind.
Or Uncle Stephen going on ahead.
If I made myself hurt badly enough, I wouldn’t have to think at all.
I stood up, opened the mirror cabinet, looked for something that I could use to hurt myself. Witch hazel, cotton balls, toothpaste, deodorant, cotton swabs, floss, mouthwash, hydrogen peroxide, and at the back, rusted to the bottom, a safety pin. I pried it up, bent it open, washed it with soap and water, poured the peroxide over it, sat on the floor again.
I scratched out ten deep bloody lines on the inside of my forearm. I sat there, staring at them.
It actually felt better. I could breathe again. There was space in my head again.
How psychotic was I, anyway?
I read this book once, about this guy who had this girlfriend who would always cut herself up, her legs and her arms and stomach and breasts; anything she could reach. She finally ended up killing herself and the book was about him getting over it, letting go of blaming himself. He was the main character, the person the reader was supposed to identify with. Yeah. Well. Whatever.
I was just so tired of never being needed. Tired of never being wanted.
I saw this remake of Romeo and Juliet. The one with DeCaprio and Danes in it. Being so intensely connected with someone that without that person life was meaningless. That kind of desperation interested me. I wanted that. Wanted to burn.
It was emotionally exhausting to know that I was totally and completely superfluous.
I got up, washed the cuts, went into my room and pulled on a long-sleeve T-shirt. I had to go upstairs and eat.
Life was such a never-ending joy. Joy! Humph.
I had paintings to finish, a history chapter to read, and the end of Ethan Frome to wade through. When had I begun to lump painting in with the rest of my homework?
I avoided looking at my reflection in the mirror on the dresser. If I stopped thinking about me maybe I wouldn’t notice the pulse in my wrist, the air I pulled into my lungs.
I liked vampire books. Not only were most of them cool but what they really addressed was our collective fear of death. They could kind of be more psychological in nature than say, anything we’d read in English so far.
The point being that whatever did or didn’t come After We Die and my fear of It was what kept me here.
I liked to think that was the way for a lot of us. Maybe even most everyone.
Upstairs I sat at my place and picked at the food on my plate. Dirk and Cider had devised a plan to buy some guy’s car that they knew. They’d get their permits soon and wanted a learner car. I pushed my broccoli from one edge of the plate to the other and then to another spot.
“We’ve got like, half of what he wants, Dad, from the summer jobs, so we were hoping you’d match us and we’d pay you back over the year, finish it up next summer. What do you think?”
I glanced up. They made me sick, all their freakishly well-planned adventures, all their hopes, lying across the table like gleaming intestines. You can’t show that much trust, that much of yourself. Dirk and Cider were too innocent, too tender, too kind, too much. All of them made me sick.
“Well, kids,” said good old Pop. “I see you planned this out well. Your mother and I will have to look over the finances, see what’s available. But I think it’s time you got your own car. I think you’re ready for the responsibility. What do you think, Anna?”
She smiled. “I find it amusing that you want to buy one car for the both of you. It’s indicative of your relationship.” She laughed. “Fine by me. Just don’t fight over it.”
Dirk and Cider frowned, looked at each other, back at Mrs. Grant.
“Mother,” Dirk said. “What would we fight about? We always go to the same places.”
I found myself standing, the chair I’d been sitting on lying on it’s back behind me. They all stared at me, like I was a lab rat who’d finally done something interesting.
I breathed shallowly, audibly, chest rising and falling too fast. “Fuck,” I said again. “Cut the clone-family crap.”
I turned and ran down the stairs, locked the bathroom door, sat in the tub. With my head on my knees I took shallow gasping breaths.
What was normal?
Who was to say what the parameters are of normal?
Was I more normal than them?
Were they for real?
Oh, how I wanted them to be for real.
A knock on the door, a quiet, “Violet?”
Mrs. Grant. I wanted nothing better than to go over to the door, open it, set my head on her shoulder and cry.
But I wouldn’t allow myself that kind of luxury.
I said, “What do you want?”
“Are you okay? Can we talk?”
“Talk? Right. Talk. Safe, right? Talk’s cheap, right? Not in this lifetime.”
I stopped because I’d started to sound like a bad gangster movie, which made me feel stupid. Stupid. Not in this lifetime? God. Such a freak. The upside of our chat was that I had stopped falling apart. Bully for me.
I stood up, stepped out of the empty bathtub, unlocked and opened the door. Her face was white, one arm across her stomach. She blinked.
“Why are you so angry with us? We haven’t done anything. You can say the most horrible things, Violet. I want to help you but you just keep pushing us away. Can you help me understand what’s going on with you?”
She couldn’t possibly understand me. I didn’t understand me.
Finally, a crack in the facade. An edge of anger, even?
So she would be no different. No one could possibly be different.
“You should come back up and eat, Violet.”
She took two steps back. “I wish you could trust us. It would make everything easier.” She turned and left.
I guess I should’ve been relieved.