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It’s a rush. It feels like standing on the side of the highway, feeling the wind from the speeding cars as wisps of hair hit your face. It’s better than you’ve felt in years, and you feel like the grin you’re bearing from the high could last forever. There was no tomorrow, there was no yesterday; hell, it didn’t even feel like there was a today. You’re trapped in a forever moment, and you can’t understand why he wants you to stop.
Then, the moment is over. You start to understand. He extends a hand to you while you’re on the ground, and all of a sudden, you’re disgusted. What kind of person goes to a club on a freezing cold Wednesday night, and then faints? And who doesn’t even realize she’s falling until she hits the ground? A f***-up, that’s who. You’re a f***-up. You’ve always been, and you’re realizing it now.
“Natalie? Natalie?” He bends down to kneel beside you. You’re so wrapped up in a sudden moment of self-loathing, you forget that he was trying to help you up. Although you don’t think you need the help, your legs feel like they’re about to give out beneath you, even though you’re sitting. When he offers his hand again, you take it and pull yourself up. As you take a step, your right knee buckles beneath you, and you grab his arm the same time he steadies your waist so you don’t hit the ground again. Then, you continue walking to his car, and you remember what part comes next.
“Nat, you told me you’d stop.”
You stay silent. He doesn’t understand.
“Why do you keep doing this to yourself?”
You stay silent. He doesn’t understand.
“This has to stop.”
The tears begin to form as you remain taciturn. He doesn’t know.
“What about everyone who cares about you?”
You don’t have the heart to tell him that he’s the only one. He can’t know.
“I need an answer, dammit!”
Your tears are an answer enough, and once he looks at how pathetic you’ve become again, he pulls you close against his shoulder. The fabric from his sweatshirt absorbs the wetness from your eyes, and when he puts his arms around you, your bare arms start to lose their numbness. You’ve probably ruined this sweatshirt, too. Actually, you’ve ruined a lot of his things lately; nights spent finding you half or completely unconscious, trust that you could stay home for a night and handle yourself, and any possibility of him living a life without having some f***-up dependent on him.
It’s an uneventful drive home. You usually spend this sitting in the front seat of his car hugging your knees to your chest while he drives, and tonight’s no different. By this point, you’re usually too ashamed to look at him, so you just close your eyes or stare out at the whirs of light outside the window. Once the car reaches your house, you say goodbye while looking at the floor mat and head up to your room. It’s the same from when you left it earlier that night; backpack by the door, tissues on the floor near your nightstand, the clothes you wore that day to school laid out on a chair. Before you change, you get a glimpse of yourself in the mirror. A pathetic disaster. As you run your fingers through your unkempt hair, they snag on the knotty curls. You snarl at your reflection in disgust, focusing in on the dark circles that stand out under your eyes on your pallid face. The last thought in your mind before you sink under the covers of your safe bed is if things could get any worse.
An acrid smell from the kitchen wakes you up from your four hours of sleep. Either your house is on fire, and you’ll open up the bedroom door and be incinerated alive, or your father is making breakfast. Definitely the latter, you discover after you shower and put on an outfit mostly compiled of things you fished out from the laundry basket- no clean laundry. Your father is scraping something from a pan into the garbage can, and your mother is hovering over the coffee pot as though it holds the answers to all her problems. When you go over to the cereal cabinet, your father acknowledges your existence.
“Morning, sweetie.” It’s an attempt to be chipper, but his words are almost delivered in a robotic monotone.
“Something burn?” you smirk.
“It’s just a little black; adds flavor.” When you peer at the shriveled, blackened sausage links on the plate, you decide to skip out on the breakfast meat.
“Whatever you say,” you mumble. Your mother is still staring at the coffee pot. What, you think, is she supposed to stare at the dripping coffee and remember everything? Is the gurgling of the old machine supposed to be a catalyst in remembering you? The pungent aroma, the epiphany that helps her recall her past? Once you get the box of Cheerios from the cabinet, you realize your mother is standing in front of the cabinet with the bowls. “Excuse me, Mom.”
“Oh, I’m sorry Natasha.” She moves out of the way, but you’re frozen.
Your mother still can’t remember your name, and it’s been a week.
Natasha Natasha Natasha.
Your father gives you a look. A “be gentle, she can’t help it” look. It was pretty much the only face he makes lately.
“Natalie,” you spit. “My name is f***ing Natalie.” The look on your mother’s face is both pitiful and innocent, and it only frustrates you more. When your father motions for you to go into the living room, you only obey his orders because your backpack is in there.
“Was that really necessary, Natalie?” your father scolds.
“Yeah, it was,” you roll your eyes, picking up your backpack.
“Your mother comes home from treatment, and the least you could do was be supportive. There’s no need to make things harder for her.”
“She’s made things harder for me. Why don’t you go lecture her, too?”
“I’m late for the bus.” You walk out of the damned household and embrace the cold January air on the way down the block. The truth is, the school bus came twenty minutes ago, and the school is a half hour walk. By the time you reach the school, you’ll have missed first period. You didn’t do those stupid physics problems last night, anyway, so it’s fine.
In the hallway, you see Henry. He doesn’t see you, though, so you weave between groups of people in hopes that he won’t see you. When he does, you avert your eyes for the fear at looking at the bags under his own eyes from his lack of sleep. Every time you look at him, you can only think of the guilt. It’s almost a relief when he gets your hint and walks away in defeat.
Once the school day passes by with nothing significant in the academic world occurring (other than a few undesirable grades), you walk home. It might be crazy to walk for half an hour in this weather, but it’s slower than taking the bus. When you reach your house, your fingers and cheeks are numb and your mother is at the kitchen table with a box of photographs.
“Oh, hi, Tashi. I bet I used to call you that,” she giggles.
“No, you never did, because that isn’t my name.” You stare her in the eyes, and she looks back at you delicately, as if she’s afraid of you. “I’ve told you that. Why can’t you remember my name?”
“Natalie?” she says after a few moments.
“Yes. That’s my name.” You crack a small smile despite yourself.
“See? It’s all starting to come back to me.” Even though you’re uncomfortable in her presence, you linger around to see what else she remembers. She keeps a smile on her face and hums as she continues to look through the photographs.
“…is that it?” you ask after a few moments.
“It’s an improvement, don’t you think?”
“Yeah, but do you remember other things? I’m more than a name, Mom, or did you forget I’m your daughter?” The smile on her face quickly falls. “What’s my birthday?”
“How old am I?”
“Where do I go to school?”
“What am I allergic to? What’s my favorite meal? Was I born prematurely or late? Am I involved in sports or drama or music? Have I ever broken a bone? Do I have asthma?”
Your mother looks into her lap and you can tell the tears are starting to form.
“Should I just call you by your name because a mother is supposed to know those things, Diana?”
“I’m trying…” Her voice wavers and you can hear the tears behind it.
“But aren’t you just supposed to know?” Now you’re fighting your own tears. Her crying becomes audibly louder, and you grip the edge of the table, trying to keep it all together.
“Natalie, what the hell is going on in here?” Dan calls out as he enters the house. Now Diana is full-out crying, and your father races to her side to put his arm around her.
“Diana doesn’t remember me,” you simply respond.
“You’re not making matters any better for yourself, Natalie. What happened? You’ve obviously upset her enough to make her cry.” The look he’s giving you is intense, like he’s protecting her from you.
“And she’s made me cry for just about my entire life, and you do jack s*** about it!” You can feel your body shaking, and you hold your arms tight to your body in hopes you can steady yourself.
“Natalie!” he bellows. Diana’s sobs are more evident than before, even though her face is pressed against your father’s shoulder.
“Just…f*** it.” You storm up to your bedroom and throw your pillows off your bed as you go to lie down. The sick feeling in your stomach combined with the hiccup-y feeling in your throat is too much; there has to be a way to get rid of it. Then you remember the rush, and how everything bad just melts away. The rush maybe isn’t a solution, but it’s the only thing that makes sense right now.
Tonight, you’re seeking the rush again.