Inkspill

Nocturne

By Jessica W.

I’d be better off dead.

But I’m a coward, and I can’t do it. I’ve tried countless ways, countless times, but I keep on backing away. Leaping back to safety, clutching at something, dumping the glass down the sink, somehow rescuing myself from something that I do want, badly. I just can’t bring myself to let go of this world, even though I’m hardly attached to it anymore. It seems so unfair that I’m not even allowed this one last wish.

The thorn on the rose I’m clutching pricks my finger, drawing a faint trickle of blood that twists down my hand like a serpentine tattoo. I throw the red rose to the marble floor and crush the petals to powder with my bare heel. The scent of roses and blood pervades the room and I want to gag.

I heave myself on to the window seat, pressing my back against the wall, cold as ice. Tucking my legs against my chest, I rest my chin on my knees. The white skirt of my dress trails over my pale feet, the bones standing out more than ever. I smile, ironically. I used to work so hard to keep myself slim, exercising and staying on healthy diets. Now I don’t even try and I’m light as a bird. As skinny as one. But not as free. No, not as free. Never as free.

Ignoring my bleeding finger, I press my palm against the blurry glass. It’s a lovely cold that chills my fingers and starts to spread through my arm to the rest of me. For a moment I allow myself to close my eyes, tilt my head back and feel numb for a bit, to forget everything and let the cold take over. But then I blink and everything comes flooding back, painful as ever. You’d think that after this long, the pain might fade a bit. Disappear, even–doesn’t time heal all wounds?

I turn my attention back to the window in an attempt to avoid the pain. It’s pouring outside, rain spattering against the pavement and slicing against the window. The roses in the yard bend beneath the weight of the water that pelts them relentlessly, dipping to the ground. Looks like I’m trapped inside again today, trapped in this house.

My house. The palatial fixtures, high-ceilinged rooms– the house used to be breathtakingly beautiful when it was full of life. Photographs on the mantlepiece smile back at me, from a different time, a different existence. A reminder of what used to be, and what is long gone.

But now, it’s utterly empty.  The marble floors, satin curtains, mahogany furniture, it all reeks of loneliness. The empty chairs that were once always occupied sit forlornly in the living room. I’m all alone here, the only person in an empty house.

It wasn’t always like this. You used to be here, too.

The neighbors think I’m crazy, and I don’t blame them. If I were them, I’d label me crazy too. What else do you call a girl who wanders aimlessly around an empty white house, with closets full of identical white dresses?

But they don’t understand. They don’t know about me and you.

In another time, I would be ashamed. Embarrassed that other people thought I wasn’t right in the head. But now I don’t care. Strange, how it was you who taught me that. Taught me that, if people didn’t like me for who I was, they weren’t worth my attention. “You shouldn’t have to pretend,” you said. So I won’t. And I didn’t–was that why you left me? Was it?

It’s suffocating me, this emptiness that rebounds all over the house, no matter which room I’m in.  The silence is unbreakable. Screaming doesn’t help. Nothing does. It’s trying to rip me apart, and I think it might be working.

I don’t care if it’s raining, I’ve got to get out of here. Rising unsteadily, I drift to the door, looking back to see that my finger left a smear of scarlet blood on the window glass.

Of course, I’ll be trapped in this house no matter where I go. Because even if I’m on the other side of the world, I’m still living in this place, still ambling through the echoing corridors. Maybe I’ll be like this when I’m dead, too. It can’t be much different from now, can it?

I push the door open. Icy rain and bitter wind fling themselves at me, but still I step out and close the door behind me, breathing deeply.

For a moment, I just stand there, letting the rain soak in to my black hair, pool around my bare feet, the wind tearing at my snowy dress. When I can’t keep the pain at bay, I just let it take me, let it wash me away. If you immerse yourself in enough pain, you’ll stop feeling it.

The neighbors used to scold me, seeing me like this. “you’ll catch a cold,” they’d say, and I’d laugh hollowly. I don’t care about that. Not anymore. Now, they’ve given up. They don’t speak directly to me, but I can hear them whispering about me, pointing at the strange girl that stands barefoot with her face tilted upward to the rain.

This is your fault, not mine. This is what you’ve done.

I wasn’t always like this, you know that better than anyone. I was the girl others envied. Carelessly happy, enchantingly beautiful. I could charm a snake.

I did charm a snake.

You.

Only a snake wouldn’t have hurt me like you did. All it could do is kill me. But you did worse.

I splash through the puddles on the driveway that hasn’t seen a car in months and on to the road. The fabric of my skirt trails in the rain water, and I start to run down the road, tripping on the hem of my dress. But when I fall I just stumble up and start running again, feeling the wind attack my exposed face. No one’s behind me but I’ve got to run, because as long as I run I won’t feel. And that’s the goal–not to feel. Because I’m tired of feeling.

Eventually, though, I have to halt. The cramps in my stomach are building up, so strong that I have to stop, gasping for air, bending forward and hugging myself. A blast of wind tips me backward and I sit down hard on the cement, pulling my knees to my chest. I’m nothing but a whisper of a person now, easily blown down by the wind. I used to think I was strong, that I was invincible. How wrong I was–how naive.

And just like that, everything comes surging back into my head, everything that I’ve been trying to hold back. I dig my nails into my palm, curl myself up tightly, but it’s no good. Pain can get into me in ways that blows can’t. I can hide behind shields, I can lock myself up. But nothing will ever keep it away forever. Once again I let it take over, feeling all my strength flow out of me like water from a faucet. I’m out of strength, and I don’t want to try anymore. Why can’t I just let go, and remove myself from here forever?

I just sit there, still as a rock lying at the bottom of a pond, staring emptily up at the clouds and thinking about the only thing I ever think about.

You.

I’m not ashamed to admit that I miss you. Even though I know that, if you do come back to me, it’ll just be to tear me down again.

But you can’t ruin me again, not now. Because, you see, I’m already ruined.

Remember how it used to be? How I could make you laugh with a single word? How I couldn’t remember what it felt like to cry, to despair. To be alone.

Your sister, she warned me about you. Told me you were no good, that I couldn’t let you take root in my mind. Maybe I should’ve listened. Maybe. But I don’t regret anything I’ve done. I just regret what you’ve done–but then, that’s not for me to regret, but for you to. Do you regret what you’ve done?

My eyes find the clouds, remembering what you once said to me about them. Remember? “I hope I never end up like them,” you said. “If they’re not crying, they’re shadowing the sun. And they never have anywhere to go, they just drift and drift and drift. They’ll  never be happy.”

I remember that I thought your words were strange. Weren’t clouds always associated with happy situations? Kids laying in meadows trying to make out shapes in the clouds, brightly colored cotton candy, sheep.

But now I think you’re right, that clouds aren’t happy at all. “I know what it’s like,” I whisper to them, my words barely audible, but I know they can hear. I know that they’re listening to my words, listening to the words that know so much anguish and so much loneliness. Listening to the words that understand what it’s really like to suffer and to not care about it.

Ultimately, the storm stops, and I rise up. I don’t know how long I’ve sat there, but my toes are numb and the cloth of my dress clings to wetly to my skin. Sweeping back a lock of my drenched hair, I start walking down the road, back the way I’ve come. My feet brush against the wet pavement, the lingering coolness of the rain seeping into my toes. Wasn’t rain such a romantic thing, always? Something beautiful? Now I was only thinking of the dirt and the grime that was now stuck to my toes with the rain. There’s nothing magical about rain. It forms in clouds and squeezes out once they can’t bear keeping together anymore. The rain peels off and leaves the cloud behind, all alone, to drift and drift and hurt.

Overhead, the sky is lightening to a shade of pale silver. Pausing at the side of the road, I glimpse a shimmery, half-translucent rainbow stretching across the clouds. To see it, you have to squint, because it’s so faint– but still it’s beautiful, as if all the colors in the world had been pooled together and gently painted across the cloud-paper.

I’m not unused to seeing rainbows in this rainy area, but this one seems different from the rest, because it’s brighter. It’s not so faint–and, maybe I’m imagining it–but it seems to be growing stronger by the second. Now it’s a vibrant clash of colors, standing out among the clouds like someone’s pushed it in front. As I watch, each color fills up till it’s a vivid hue that makes even those expensive paints that professionals use fade in contrast. What we use is nothing, just our puny attempt at replicated colors. If you want to see the real thing, you have to look up.

For some reason, I smile at the sky. It’s a thin, wavery smile but it still has some light. Wrapping my arms around myself and watching the clouds glitter behind the rainbow, I wonder if maybe you’re wrong, about the clouds. How they’ll never be happy.

Maybe, maybe they really can be happy, but it’s all packed inside of them and they like to hide it. To stand by, to let others take the spotlight, like they’re resting behind the rainbow now.

“Ella?”

Swiftly I turn around, and the moment’s broken. Naturally, it’s Mrs. Willow, the old rich woman who lives next door to me. “Hello, Mrs. Willow,” I say.

“Honey, you’re soaking wet. Are you all right?” Her brown eyes are genuinely warm. She never gossips about me like the rest, but I know I’ll never tell her about you. You’d like her, you know. You two are so similar– checking to make sure everyone’s feeling all right, not because you’re curious but because you really care.

“Are you all right?” Close my eyes, swap her high-pitched voice for your smooth, beautiful one, and it almost feels like that day I first met you, forever ago. I was destroyed then, too, like I am now. But I patched myself up again, didn’t I?

I smile slightly, look up at the sky. “I am now.” I say, turning and starting to walk back home again.

 

3 Comments »

  1. Alyssa Said,

    November 15, 2012@ 9:35 am      Reply

    I look how you hooked the reader, and make it seem like everything is happening to me.

  2. Kathy Liu Said,

    November 15, 2012@ 9:35 am      Reply

    This is truly awesome piece. I thin think that you really captured the feeling of unbreakable loneliness in this story. The way that you describe her trapped in her own house really enhances the story.

  3. Trinette Said,

    September 17, 2012@ 4:00 pm      Reply

    “I could charm a snake.

    I did charm a snake.

    You.”
    I love this part!!


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