Tuesday, June 5, 2012


Photo from FreeDigitalPhotos.net
by Melissa Jacobs

It’s late at night and all I can hear is my father and Lydia, my step-mother, arguing. I can’t hear their words, only the tone of their voices. I have no idea what they’re going on about, but I know one thing. It’s not about me. They mostly ignore me on the weekends I’m forced to stay over at his house. It’s the summer before my sophomore year, and nobody seems to realize the reason I moved out of this house is because of their arguments. Sitting on the floor in my room, I’m leaning up against my bed, trying to read. They continue to argue downstairs, and I hear my step-sister bring my little sister upstairs. They go to her room, and no one bothers to check if I’m alright.
           I’m invisible, here, at my mom’s house, and at school. It’s hot in my room, and I’m stuck wearing shorts and a tank top. I wish I had an air conditioner, but my dad doesn’t feel he should spend all the money getting one installed just for me. I sigh and look at the one window. The sun filters through the skylight, flittering between the branches of the tree that grows outside. I hear a door slam, and feel the vibrations of it through the floor. There’s silence, and I cautiously open my door. There’s a lull in the arguments, but it feels more like the eye of a storm rather than a stop to the fighting. I go back inside, thinking I’m going to grab my bag and go for a walk before they start up again.

            I don't make it.  My father resumes yelling at the top of his lungs. I catch a slew of curse words spewing from his mouth as I shut my door. Walking to my stereo, I turn on the local rock station, hoping the angry music can drown out their fighting. Tears start as I think about how I can never escape all the anger, all the fighting. My mom’s house is not any better. Not only does my mom get into screaming matches with her fiancé, but I’ve also had arguments with him. School isn’t any better for me. Even the kids the popular crowd teases hasn’t accepted me. I thought moving would be better. I thought that if I changed schools, changed houses, the pain would go away. I was wrong.

            Tears come as I walk across my room to my dresser. The bottom drawer comes off its track easily, making it an ideal hiding place. In there are the tools to take away this pain I’m feeling. I told myself I wouldn’t do this, told myself that I would try other ways to make the pain go away. I guess this is just one more thing I failed at. I reach into the secret spot, and grope around my coarse carpet until my hand closes around an X-acto blade. Taking it out, I slide the protective case off the blade.

            I remember the first time I used physical pain to numb the emotional and mental pain. I was hiding in my room when my dad and Lydia were arguing as usual, and I felt like I couldn’t deal with it anymore. It was the summer before ninth grade, in July. It was about a month before I decided to make the move to my mom’s house, and I was just trying to find a way to make the pain go away. I was in my room, and I was trying to work on school work, but I couldn’t drown out the noise of the fight going on beneath me. I crossed my arms and was gripping my shoulder, trying to concentrate. Without realizing what I was doing, I had gripped my shoulder hard enough that I broke skin. I looked down at my arm, first in horror that I had done such a thing. Then the cuts on my arm started to sting. The pain from the scratch distracted me from everything that was going wrong in my life.

After that day, I would scratch myself in places that could be easily hidden. Soon my fingernails weren’t enough. One day, after a particularly horrible day at school, I stole an X-acto blade from my art class. Before digital art was around, any form of collages would rely on the artist to use these blades to cut the paper with precision. We had an abundance of them in school, and no one noticed the one missing.

            I was too scared that night to actually use the blade, and was horrified at myself for even thinking to do such a thing. That horror didn’t last long, and before I knew it I was self-harming with the blade.  

            Once I get the blade out from the hiding spot, I stare at it, tears falling fast and hard. I lift the blade to my leg, wanting to feel the pain of it running across my skin. I want to be numb. Just as I was about to touch the blade to my skin, my younger sister Chelsey burst into my room. She is seven years old, so she doesn’t understand what is going on.

            “What are you doing?” she asks as she jumps on my bed.

            “Art project,” I mumble as I move to put the blade away.

            “Val’s taking me to the playground. Wanna come?”

I look at my sister, who is so young and too innocent to realize what is going on around her. Too innocent to notice that her parents are always at each other’s throats, that I had scars I try so hard to hide. My step-sister, Val, walks in the room just then. Val is older than me, and sees through my façade right away.

            “She’s doing art, but she’s stopping now to come to the playground,” Chelsey tells her, in that brisk manner that children possess.

            “Art project?” Val raised an eyebrow, but says no more. 

I sigh with resolution, and follow them out of my room. The three of us left the house, leaving a note to let the adults know where we went. As Chelsey skips ahead of us, Val puts her arm around me. I can smell the coconut lotion she uses every morning and night. It is odd; she never showed me affection. We walk in silence until we get to the park. There is no one else here, so Val and I sit on the swings as Chelsey starts to play on the slides.

            “Look, Melissa. I should apologize. I haven’t been there for you like I should have been. But you need to believe me I never knew things were so bad for you. I guess I just had my own problems to deal with. I should’ve noticed though. How long have you…”

            “About a year. I tried not to. I just can’t help it sometimes. It makes the pain go away. It makes me numb.”

            “I’m not going to sit here and tell you that I know what you’re feeling, and what you’re going through, because that would be a load of bull. I will say this though, I’m full of pain over all the crap that goes on in the house, so if you need someone to talk to…” she says as she lights a cigarette. The swings creak as we slowly swing in them. They were rusty, and probably needed to be replaced.

            “How do you deal? There’s just so much to deal with.”

            “I write. Sometimes, I come up with this crazy poetry I didn’t know I had in me. But most of the times, I just write. I don’t stop to think about it, I just let go. It helps me a lot. You think you can try that?”
            “I can try, but why bother? I fail at everything else I try to do.”

            “Try it. If you feel yourself slipping, if you think you’re going to cave, I want you to call me. I know I haven’t been there for you in the past, but that won’t stop me from being there in the future. Promise me you’ll try. You’re an amazing girl, and you don’t deserve all the pain you have kept inside.”

I start to cry again as she’s talking. But these seem to be tears of relief. I can taste the salt from them on my lips, and I nod to her, promising I’ll try. It’s getting dark, and we stop swinging to collect Chelsey and head home. I have a feeling my father won’t be too happy with us, but I’m not scared to head home. After talking to Val, I feel lighter.

 On the way home, we stop at a drugstore so I can get a journal and some pens. That night, for the first time, I pick up a pen instead of a blade. The scratch of the pen on paper provides a better release for my pain than the blade did. Writing helps. 

I promise myself the same thing I promised Val in the park, except this time, I mean it.


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