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P.S. Don't Save Me MAG
That’s all I am to him: Trapped in my under-developed body. I want to scream, but my mouth is dry.
His words drown together, lost somewhere between his mouth and my ear, until she nudges me.
“… However, Ms. Lock, we are concerned about her low attendance, failing grades, and frankly, her overall well-being.” He pauses to glance at the montage of papers spewed across his desk and scribble, presumably, nonsense. “Many of Rachel’s teachers and superiors have expressed great concern and brought it to my attention numerous times. Now I understand the circumstances, but Ms. Lock–”
“Don’t be silly; call me Kari,” she interrupts as she lends him a closed smile. She tucks her chemical blond hair behind her ear, which is visibly weighed down by her faux diamond earring. She scoots closer to him.
Words no longer retain form, accompanying the hum of the heater. My eyes are engrossed in the carpet’s pattern, following each zig and zag, until finally I end where I began.
He hands her an official Harper High pen and points to the line on which she is to provide a signature, as he summarizes five pages of legal information. He claims he’s found the perfect program for me. He says lots of other youth who have faced similar obstacles as me have been very responsive. He says he thinks that I will be too.
I silently wish him luck with that.
No, I am not going.
I’m a lot of things but not a charity project. Nope. Never. No, thank you. She can’t make me go. Can she? She makes me go, despite my pleas.
I step outside into the unwelcomingly brisk morning and begin to unwrap a granola bar. Kicking a small pebble, hands safely tucked in pockets, I watch my breath, like smoke, exiting my body, vaporizing into air. Maybe this is as close as I’ll ever get to proof of my existence.
I enter the building which he claims will save me. Taking my time to roam this unfamiliar territory in search of room 201, I find the hallway to be unusually narrow, almost as if its walls are closing in on me.
I take two deep breaths before entering the room. The door creaks open, and I get the uneasy sensation that I’m not only late but intruding on an exclusive moment. I am greeted by blank stares and a middle-aged woman sporting blond pigtails and a feigned smile, complete with a coral pink lipstick smudge across one tooth.
She leaps from a plastic chair and shrieks a welcoming serenade, assuring me that my tardiness is excusable because it is my first day, but to never let it happen again. She looks me straight in the eye and gives me the firmest handshake I’ve ever received.
I enter the circle of chairs. However, it seems to have taken the shape of a blob. I find myself in the middle of a mousy freshman dressed in head-to-toe purple and a boy who reeks of Indian food.
I look around from chair to chair, searching for a familiar face. Some look like they’ve been messed up. Most look completely normal, but they don’t fool me. No, I see past the pink eye shadow, the beat-up jeans paired with punk-band T-shirts, and the brand new team jerseys. If I were religious, I’d find myself right here, in this very room, praying to God that I’m not that easily read.
Pigtails hands each of us a journal. She tells us that anything is fair game, just as long as we write each day. She says it’s important to get our thoughts onto paper, even when they seem miniscule. Miniscule – I know what that feels like.
I am scared to open the journal. Words are dangerous, especially when we write them down. If I’m not careful, they might betray me.
The next morning, Pigtails asks if I will read my first journal entry aloud. I shake my head no. She doesn’t push me and quickly moves on, telling us that the visitors in the room are our new counselors, here to meet with us individually. I feel terrible for mine.
I am paired with a Mr. E. Tear, as he formally introduces himself, but says that I should call him Emmitt. In return, I tell him my name is Rachel, and that that was probably as much as he’d ever get to know about me. I make sure he knows it’s nothing personal.
“I agree, I’m not much for talking,” Emmitt replies with a wink. “If you keep it between you and me, I want to be here just about as much as you do. This counseling gig is only temporary.”
I nod in acknowledgment.
Once I arrive home, I smell the foreign scents of a home-cooked dinner. I make my way into the kitchen to find my mother in his lap.
“Rachel, honey, you remember Daniel, your principal, right?” she asks, almost as if she’s mocking me.
He shifts her from his knee onto a separate seat, standing as he brushes the wrinkles out of his suit. “Rachel, it’s wonderful to see you,” he states.
I laugh out of despair, pivoting in the direction of my room, leaving her to apologize for me.
Sometimes I play a game. I let my alarm clock sound, without shutting it off, as I lie in bed, counting the hours until someone, anyone, notices.
Emmitt looks surprised to see me, but he never asks me why I haven’t been showing up. I sit down and he hands me a photograph of a woman. She isn’t beautiful by society’s standards. However, the more I contemplate her crooked nose and the way her freckles mask her face, the more she begins to grow on me.
Emmitt tells me how sorry he is he never took his own passion for photography more seriously. He says it’s the only thing that makes him feel worthy of occupying a life, that in his mind, capturing beauty and humor on a five-by-seven sheet of paper, is the biggest miracle he’ll ever perform. That maybe his art could change anothers’. He says that for the most part he hates people. All they do is care about themselves.
“We’re just too single-minded!” he keeps exclaiming, as he grabs what little hair he has in frustration. At the end, I’ll ask that he bring another picture next time.
I fumble through my journal until I find a fresh sheet of paper. Sometime after learning of Emmitt’s fire for photography, I lost my fear of words. And suddenly, I’ve become addicted to them, to thinking that my words are important enough for paper. In some ways, I blame Emmitt.
Pigtails asks me to read a journal entry aloud again. I lower my head until my eyes reach the piercing white of the paper.
Has Faith departed
Both stand in Blank’s shadow
She stands the same as yesterday
Peeling the Daisy’s petals
Each descends slowly
Kissing the grass beneath
Aging into ivy
“Blank made me do it!” she exclaims to
Boy stands the same as her
Only three states away
Daisy in hand
Feet covered in petals
I raise my head to the class.
“Roses are red,
Violets are blue.”
Emmitt says he has what no one else has: A third eye. He believes the lens of his camera allows him to see things his own two eyes can’t. I map my finger around the fiery red curls of the girl in his photograph as I just listen, soaking in his truth.
I enter my house. The lights are dim and the atmosphere cold. The sound of rain pattering against the rooftop is accompanied by sniffles from the kitchen where she sits, cupping a cold coffee mug.
The telephone base flashes, indicating missed calls. Once she sees me, she lifts her hand to her mouth as tears stream down her face, hitting the blanket that lies upon her lap.
Once I sit down across from her, she slides what seems to be my journal across the table. I open it, scanning my words and my thoughts, confirming my assumption. I stand up, heartbeat increasing. My mind goes blank as I grab my journal, holding it as close to my chest as possible, as if somehow this can flood the words back into my heart and off these public pages.
“What are you doing with this?” I ask, and my words wobble and hands shake.
“Rachel, I just want you to let me in again. I want to know you like you used to let me.”
I am no longer in control. I cry. I cry so hard I start to heave. I cry about her and about me, but mostly out of humiliation.
“You know, sooner or later you’re going to have to say something to me,” she sighs, defeated, like a balloon whose air is slowly let out. “I liked your poems,” she tries again.
“You had no right to read them. These,” I point to my notebook, “these were private.”
“Oh, Rachel, don’t be a drama queen,” she chuckles.
“I hate you,” I spit.
“Damn it, you will not speak to your mother that way. I raised you better than that.”
“My mother? You haven’t been my mother in four years. Four years. You let man after man into your life, and put me second behind loser after loser.”
She rolls her eyes. “Rachel, don’t make it about that. This has nothing to do with that.”
“THAT? For that, I’ll always hate you – for bringing him into my life, for letting him touch me the way you let him. That has everything to do with this.”
I go to bed with complete intentions never to wake up, but when I do, I grab my journal and begin to write. I write about love, deception, hope, and mostly about myself.
I reflect the woman
Who sighs as I let her down
The uncertain, the reserved woman
She is calm, a hesitance inside her
Squinting to see her soul
The more I stare
The more I see
I reflect the child
Who laughs and dances
The innocent, the carefree child
She is bright, a sparkle in her eye
Her soul clear as crystal
Intertwined these two beings
Like deep black coal that woman
Aged into a diamond this child
Once I enter room 201, I search for Emmitt. I think today I might show him what I’ve written.
“Rachel?” Pigtails gets my attention. “I’d like you to meet Mrs. Price, your new counselor.” She places her hand upon the small of my back in an effort to guide me toward her, but I don’t move.
“New counselor? What?” I ask in confusion.
“Mrs. Price will be replacing Mr. Tear. I really think you’ll enjoy her,” she tries to convince me by wrinkling her nose and flashing a blindingly white smile.
Pigtails grabs the arm of a woman dressed in a men’s forest green pantsuit and points in my direction. The woman furrows her eyebrows before her hand reaches for mine. I shake it as she introduces herself. I am not impressed. She isn’t Emmitt.
I don’t last long under the instruction of Mrs. Price. I turn to walk away from room 201, most likely for the last time. My pace increases as I enter the hallway. I push the door open, and as the blistering breeze hits my face, I begin to run. I am running because I don’t know what else to do. I run for freedom, for security, but more for answers.
My eyes scout out a payphone along the sidewalk. I thumb through the battered, hanging telephone book. My eyes reach Tear and my finger finds Emmitt. I dial his number, and am greeted by a chorus of rings.
“You’ve reached Emmitt …” I smile. “And Lindsey!” a woman’s voice interrupts.
I hang up because I feel like I’ve just spied on him, like I’ve just imposed. Of course he has a life of his own. I knew I wasn’t the only part of him. In fact, who am I to say I was a part of him at all? Not once had I talked. He knew hardly anything about me. Frankly, he knew nothing about me. So why had I expected him to stay? I wasted his time. He lasted longer than he should have.
“Emmitt stopped by,” my mom calls from the living room. “He dropped off a letter. It’s on the kitchen table.”
I take it to my bedroom, where I stare at it for a long time. Placing it inside my weathered journal, I decide not to open it. I like to imagine what the letter says sometimes. Maybe he tells me he’ll be coming back, that Mrs. Price was only a substitute, and that it was just a big misunderstanding. Or possibly, he writes of how he wants to take a photograph of me, and the letter describes a time I was to meet him. Maybe, it wasn’t a letter at all, but a newspaper clipping he thought might make me smile.
Tonight I can’t sleep. The noise beyond my windowsill awakens me. I switch on my bedside lamp, and open the drawer where my journal lies. I click the pen and begin to write a note I know I will never send.
I don’t think you know this about me, but I have learned to love writing. In a way, it has become my third eye, letting me see the world beyond the capacity of my own. I think you gave that to me. Thanks for letting me listen.