If things were different

October 15, 2011
By Anonymous

If things were different, I’d be able to look you in the eye when I speak to you. I wouldn’t avoid that awkward moment when irises lock irises, so afraid that I would give too much away. If they were different, my stutters would melt away to smooth sentences flowing into conversations like water just at the right times. I would be smarter, stocking my locker with AP this and AP that, instead of being subjected to these special education classes, my intelligence locked inside the depths of my mind, with no connection to my mouth. If things were only different, this label, autism, that I have been branded with for life would fall away, a mere sticker clinging to the floor. I would be free. I would have friends at this high school. Like the rest I would be applying to colleges now, my parents would be proud of me for getting into Princeton, state or even community college, not proud of the mere career at Wal-Mart that they have found me capable of. Bored once again I gaze out across the hallway, through the windows of the music room. A girl stands, a violin pressed against her chin, the bow sawing back and forth violently. If fate had been kind, maybe I would fill her lofty stilettos in place of my scratched sketchers.

If things were different, I would not have to talk through my fingers, like a crazed Guido. I would know what my voice sounds like. My silence would be broken and I would speak out loud. I would hear the music I make, instead of just the vibrations. Sure Beethoven was deaf, but the part they don’t tell you is the hours he spent, on the verge of insanity, longing to be closer to the music. To hear it pulsing through your ear drums, through your head, circulating with each beat of your heart as you play. To be able to turn up the stereo and sing along. Julliard, that’s where I’d be this time next year, already accepted and ready to leave this town and its ignorant stares behind. Parents were proud, one of the only hearing impaired ever to attend. But worries still tugged at me, tearing me to the breaking point. Just learning to read lips, I was slowly sculpting my language skills, each word a mountain to conquer. What if I couldn’t learn in time? How would I survive out on my own? Alone. Not many people knew ASL. Not many people made the attempt to learn. I reached the end of my song, reaching for the next; I realized he was staring again. I didn’t know who he was but continuously without a fail he would show up during my studio time each day, to look through the window and listen. He was unlike the others I had learned who would just avoid me, cringing away like I was something fragile, that with one wrong step would shatter across the hallway .Or worse still, those that shrunk away at my presence, as though deafness was something that could be contracted, like AIDS. But I wasn’t retarded, just deaf. I was a person, a teenager just like them with problems and talents, hopes and dreams. He seemed to understand. I wished I could talk to him, to know and understand why he bothered to listen. To crack this silence, that held me like a fish in a bowl, visible but kept distant from the world. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs, to sing, to shout and make him understand my words. To unlock the thoughts held prisoner in my mind, they were getting restless. My mouth ached with the words left unformed, left to fester on my tongue. Then the silence shatters, I could almost hear audible crack as it fell to the ground around me. The boy had begun to flutter his hands back and forth, side to side, up and down. He painted a conversation across the air with his fingertips. Although the hearing accent was still strong in his attempts at ASL I was able to make out a sentence, “Hello. My name is Justin. Do you want to go to prom with me?” I looked at this stranger with new eyes, and although I barely knew him he had touched my heart. He had cared to listen to my music; he had bothered enough to learn my language, to be my deliverer from the silence that had engulfed me. He had set me free. “Yes!” I signed back to him, and for once I wouldn’t have it any other way.

If things were different, I’d be out of here by now. Long gone from these hallways that keeps me caged in like a convict at the sate pen. I would have my diploma and I’d leave this town in my tracks, to forget me and move on with their own stupid suburban lives. I would leave them to their dumb block parties and picket fences and that would be the end of that. But no. If things were different Dad would have never walked out on us. I would never have had to toss and turn at night hearing the thundering of his drunken voice, rising like steam from the floor below. Would have never had to hear the soft murmur of Ma’s tears or sit eating my fruity pebbles the next morning watching her patch up the damage with a Walgreens full of concealers. Never would have had to run stumbling down the stairs as his truck ignition roared for the final time as he pulled out of my life forever. Or Watch him go, with my five year old feet in the snow; shouting after him to come back, that I needed him until the winter wind stole my breath away. Ma wouldn’t have to be working two jobs, dead on her feet, just to make sure I can get my diploma. I wouldn’t be repeating this year cause I have to get my little brother from school last block instead of going to class. I wouldn’t be bent over the porcelain express, puking my guts out trying to quit the things that helped me to forget. Forget the could haves. Forget the should haves. Forget the has been. Forget the world. To feel free. And it worked for a while, that is till Ma found out. I can’t bear to see the tears she crys for me. The future she wants for me, to be different then my old man. Can’t say I blame her. That day I looked in the mirror, and though the face was different, I recognized a coldness, an indifference in my eye to be his. Scared, terrified, afraid I’m turning my life around. Instead of getting smashed third block, I’ve been listening to this chick play the violin. She’s real good, like Carnegie material. Come find out she’s deaf, so I been reading up on how to sign. One thing led to another and this is how I find myself, in another man’s tux collecting a corsage from the fridge for someone like Izzy and not the usual suspect like Crystal.

If things were different this crown perched on my head would make me smile. Prom Queen, a bonafied teenage dream. And they had chosen for it to be me. Still, tears welled up in my eyes and thoughts began to race through my brain, a roller coaster dragging me along for the ride. “What’s next? What are you going to do now?” little ghouls whispered in my ear. Tonight was beautiful, I was glad I had chosen this one. A good note to end on, one of the happiest of my life. Things didn’t have to be this way. They were going just until a week ago. I had finally gotten back down to size Zero, the excitement was overwhelming, and I was down to 87 pounds, 3 past my goal. If I could just round that to 85 and maybe make it into size double zero by summer then I would definitely be the skinniest and therefore the prettiest girl in school. I was able to find a dress that hid my love handles perfectly, a blood red floor length, with a cutout down the back, showing off the only anatomy of my body that was not splotched with fat. I had found stilettos that would match perfectly and at the same time keep my kankles hidden from the public’s eye. Everything was going perfect until that is my mother tried to make me choke down a bowl of lucky Charms the other morning. I should’ve just eaten them, I know I should’ve and just thrown it up later, but I just couldn’t justify having the sugar infecting my blood stream, giving it the right to transform to bubbling fat. It made me want to scream. To shout at her. To break something, to watch it shatter. When I refused, she dragged me into the bathroom and shoved me onto the scale. The weight that I had earlier been so proud of, 87 pounds flashed across the monitor and became my worst enemy. Her eyes took me in with a mixture of disgust and contempt. How could I, she demanded, after everything that I had put the family through on my road to recovery the first time, relapse. Why was I destroying myself this way? The accusations went on and on, but what she didn’t understand was that I was not damning myself; I was rescuing myself from a life of mediocrity of imperfection, of cottage cheese and beer bellies. Of all the things that made me shutter and drove me to run that extra mile every day. Then she announced that I would be attending another recovery session this summer, to cure me of my almost perfect body. No, I wouldn’t go. I was almost there, almost perfect and she was not going to wreck it for me now. It had taken me months to recover from what the last recovery program did to my thighs and I was not about to go back there again. And so soaked with tears, crumpled against the tile of my bathroom floor I made a solemn vow. I would rather die perfect than live fat. I recall the vow now as I collect my purse with the sleeping pills enclosed, and head for the hotel bathroom. I ask God to give me strength and forgive me for what I am about to do, to understand that I cannot live this way. I’m so tired of fighting, I have no more strength to keep up the battle any longer but I will not surrender, not ever. A martyr for my cause, I count out the pills in my hand, 9, 10, and 12 that should be enough, to deliver me from this place, to keep me safe, to set me free. I fling them back across my tongue, easily as tic-tacs. Awaiting the moments of my final departure, I look in the mirror, one final time. The fat that I saw in my face this morning melts away, like ice in June. The girl that looks back is beyond her years. Burnt out, worn out, and ready to get out. Cheek bones protrude, her eyes sunk to the back of her skull. Her hair is arranged to cover the patches where it has fallen out, more and more recently. Her collar bones hold back two large basins of air on either side of her shoulders. I can count each rib and bump of her spine and each bone in my hand. Her legs look like they would snap like twigs, with the effort of supporting her skeletal frame. Images of Auschwitz children flash through my memory and I realize that I am looking into the very face of death itself and that the face, I find to be my own. If things were different God would have made me fat, double digit pants, and thighs thick as tree trunks. He would keep me safe; would have struck me dumb, deaf or high, anything but anorexic. As I breathe my last breath I pray to him to keep the others safe, the girls that whisper what’s your secret, when they see me in the locker room. They don’t want what I’ve got. If things were only different I would not be lying on a bathroom floor, cold and rigid in death, my life come to an abrupt conclusion at 17. But at long last, I am finally free.
Emmy: What is she stupid? Why’d she do it? Had no right, no right to take a life, not even her own. I f things were only different I’d show her what mental illness is really about.
Izzy: Why’d she do it? She was top of the school, prom queen, top of the world. But it only gave her farther to fall. If only things were different I’d make her hear how much we loved her.
Justin: Why’d she do it? So much to live for. Knew it would happen, someday. Why today? Why now? If things were only different she’d have a second chance.
Crystal: The monitor beeps with each pump of my heart, waking me, informing me of my failure. Couldn’t even do this one thing right. Tubes and wires restrain me, hold me down, hold me back, keep me tethered here, to this world, to this body, to this hell. If only things were different, it’d be antebellum and I’d be safe six feet under with roses on top.
All: If only, If only…

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