Catharsis This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

     It’s snowing when I go to see you. The snow flutters in the headlights of your mom’s car. I climb in the back seat, and she pulls the long door shut. We drive, your mom flying down the highway, honking at any car that dares pass her. You know how she does that. I always loved your mom. I love her crass sense of humor. She twists life into something funny. I wish you and I could do that.

We pull into the parking lot. I’m distracted by the sign, the glowing blue Mental Health scrawled on it, like a billboard of your worst secret. Your mom signs us in; I answer a few basic questions, how long I’ve known you, my age (15 sounds so young, even to me). In a few minutes, we’re permitted to go up. We take the elevator, it shudders up a long chute, the doors open slowly, and we’re out.

The nurses ask your mom to come in first, talk to you, make sure you’re “up” to seeing me, whatever that means. I know you want to see me. I see the way the nurses look at me. They give me a weak, condescending smile. Oh, there’s the good-for-nothing boyfriend. It’s amazing how cliché adults can be. Just when you comfortably think life isn’t really like that, adults prove you wrong. Your mom gives me an empathetic smile and walks away. The nurses hurriedly close the door behind her. I walk down the small hallway and see a collection of four chairs by a window.

Being here is so weird. My stomach and skin feels jittery, and there’s a dull ache in my back. I bring my coat closer to me and lean forward, arms on my knees, head facing the floor.

Remember when we fell asleep on your floor? It was that unbearably hot day in July, and the whole world sagged. We walked around your neighborhood, and the air felt tangible, pressing against our skin. We came back to your house sticky with sweat and lay on your floor because it looked like the only place that might be cool. You looked across the floor at me, your face all pretty and scrunched, and we both fell asleep.

Or there was the time in the fall when we were on your trampoline way past curfew, staring up, counting the stars through the suburban haze. (There were three.) And you slid your hand down my arm. I could feel the bones (carpal, metacarpals?) through your papery skin. And you folded your fingers into mine. It amazes me how our bodies are built, how they can fit together like a 3-D puzzle, sliding and snuggling into place. This moment mattered to me more than anything else. I wish I could have stayed there forever, in the fingers of your thin hands.

But nothing stays forever. You once told me that everything falls apart. And I was aware of that. Being aware never really helps though, does it? Our flaws emerged from our depths, ugly and big and real. We didn’t really fight, exactly. It was just this shift, this feeling of ending. Like that feeling you get when someone dies early, or a flower withers prematurely. It’s that feeling of something unexpectedly failing.

You know how they say: “It’s better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all”? That’s bull. I open my backpack and pull out a piece of paper, write it down, fold it up. A little folded lie to make you feel better. But as I sit here on this February night, in this waiting room, I realize how flat and stale those words really are. Because love, especially lost, is more destructive than anything I have ever seen. It has more power to destroy, more power to cripple than any force on earth. I still think it tunnels into your soul in a surgical way. “Love is nothing but an exercise in destruction.” I write these words down on the top of the folded paper. Better.

I sit here in the waiting room, my folded arms on my thighs; my stomach hurts. The soda machine rumbles. The elevator doors scream open. And I want more than anything to cry. I remember one time you told me your favorite word: catharsis. Purging. Well, that makes sense. You were always so thin, and in the back of my head, I always knew. But in another sense: purifying, cleansing. That’s what I need now. Some catharsis. I need an emotion I can card catalogue, dog-ear for future reference. This dark jumble in my head is too messy. Inside there’s just too much going on, these thousands of emotions are scraping at my insides. I’m so exhausted now. I’m sorry, but I want nothing more than to leave.

I sit hunched over, my eyes blinking back absent tears. Your mom and the nurses come back, say it’s okay to come in. I walk past the colored paper hearts for Valentine’s Day through the double doors. I see you from behind a nurse. You take a tentative step toward me. You don’t look as different as I thought you would. Your hair is shorter, choppy (you must have cut it). Your arms still have scars; your wrists are still bone thin. But you throw your arms around me in a clumsy embrace. Your mood is pretty high. Pills. Your mom did say you were on a huge dose of Prozac. You’re jittery too; I can see that. Your arm is shaking. I look at you, unsure of myself, unsure of everything I’ve ever done to this point.

You look me in the face, say “Hey!”

Your voice is so high and startling, jangling with hope. It’s like a gift, seeing you, this naked, this wounded, and yet amazingly, unbelievably alive. I know that you’ll slide back into the war raging inside your head. But for now, I’m glad to see you.


This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.

Join the Discussion

This article has 34 comments. Post your own now!

Leets said...
Jun. 21, 2015 at 2:44 am
This is a beautiful piece of art. The words, the story, even the title are all amazing. Keep it up Kevin, you've got a talent that most do not have. Reading it inspires me to become a better writer. Thank you so much for this piece.
BeilaThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. said...
Apr. 19, 2015 at 1:46 am
This title is pure brilliance. And it takes off from there. I love the raw emotion, the ugly truth and the false comfort, and how startling they look next to one another as you weave the story. Writing such an emotional piece from a guy's point of view is beautiful and unfortunately rare- I love that about this story, too. A friend of mine who was in a similar situation as this girlfriend for mental health/ eating disorder once told me, without preface or explanation, "Life is certainly a thing.... (more »)
Amai-kun This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Apr. 17, 2015 at 12:51 pm
Very well written. You write with emotion and amazing flow.
SkylerEldredge said...
Apr. 16, 2015 at 8:24 pm
This is AMAZING, it hits right to the heart and is so bittersweet, never stop writing!
casey_lg said...
Apr. 16, 2015 at 3:10 pm
Wow. Just wow. Please do not ever stop writing.
gill said...
Jan. 18, 2015 at 11:09 pm
this is really beautiful. moving may even be an understatement well done.
MasteroftheMind said...
Nov. 13, 2014 at 2:44 pm
Absolutely perfection. By far the best piece I have ever read. EVER. I love it. From the very beginning I was hooked. I love it. I cannot express enough how much I love this. I love it, love it, love it. This is the kind of story that gets an inside reaction, the story you never forget, the one you tell everyone about, the one that you take to your grave remembering. Perfection is what this is. Absolute perfection. I love it. Wow, I really have no words that can express how ... (more »)
Nicolette4455 This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 16, 2014 at 10:04 pm
Extremely powerful. I love how you show the good memories of the past, and contrast them with the hardships of your present. I loved the imagery when you two lied on the trampoline and looked at exactly three stars, and I love how when you talk about her hands searching for your arms because at the end when you talked about her arms I pictured the two of you in that happy past moment again. Extremely, etremely powerful, beautiful, and well-written. 
Canadotas This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Jan. 31, 2014 at 10:27 pm
Very powerful. Really well written. I love the casual and personal tone.
mereCat This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Nov. 26, 2013 at 2:10 am
Wow! beautifuly written and so truthful, you truly deserve to be published in the magazine. A year ago I was in a very similar position (with my brother) and it's almost like you worte this from inside my head. Thank you for sharing. I wrote a book based around my experience but it's very difficult to share something so personal - my parents haven't even read it - so submitting it to Teen Ink was particularly hard. You summed up in one page what I took ... (more »)
RelativetoWriting This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Aug. 30, 2013 at 6:30 pm
Beautiful descriptions and touching! Thanks for writing this. 
Dakota88zxc said...
Jun. 25, 2013 at 11:17 pm
Like a violin playing through a heart. Love without words pieced into a masterpiece. Thank you for writing this.
bookmouse said...
May 12, 2013 at 11:12 pm
Such a unique perspective!
Wintergirl said...
Apr. 29, 2013 at 1:23 pm
I am like the girl in the story. This story has given me strength when I am weak. I don't wanna put my love through this....... I knew as soon as he had paper skin and mental ward she was either anorexic or bulimic. I was suprised to find she was bulimic....It makes me feel less alone....
Rosebirds said...
Mar. 29, 2013 at 12:30 pm
Loved this so much, touching and wonderful
thatunknownthingThis teenager is a 'regular' and has contributed a lot of work, comments and/or forum posts, and has received many votes and high ratings over a long period of time. This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Mar. 7, 2013 at 7:40 am
amazing writing.  
Elizabeth-of-rohan This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. said...
Dec. 9, 2012 at 2:33 am
DrPepper said...
Nov. 16, 2012 at 8:16 pm
this is so delicate.  its just like my story, but in the girl's place.  i love it.
indrani said...
Aug. 15, 2010 at 9:40 am

wow! so descriptive! i was absolutely hooked! :)


PoAph said...
May 2, 2010 at 7:58 am


Very well written!!

bRealTime banner ad on the left side
Site Feedback