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“Elizabeth Hawley, you’re next… Elizabeth? Elizabeth come up or get a zero… Now!” My head spins as I hear these words spill out of her mouth, and a tsunami floods my thoughts, with horrible words, mean words, evil words. My eyes swell up with tears, as I pick up the papers for my project and watch my hand tremble with fear. I walk to the front, while the eyes of my peers burn through my flesh leaving marks that will never fade. Once I got up to the front… It happened. My hands, now shaking like an earthquake, drops the papers while I stand there, afraid that if I move it will only get worse. One, two, four, five, seven tears trail down my face, wetting the papers that lay in front of my feet. All the air is sucked out of me, leaving me gasping for air. Each second I look more and more like a fresh tomato, ready to be picked out of the garden of the others. The cruel laughter of my classmates boom in my ears.. “Are you okay?” The kind voice of my teacher calms me down, but not enough. I fall to the floor, and the last the last things I see are laughing people, and four horrified eyes staring dead at me.
I wake up to the beeping of the heart monitor. I’m the emergency room with my mom sleeping next to me and my dad in a chair. A ray of light beams through the slight crack between the closed curtains. I lay awake, thinking about what happened and if I wanted even to go to school ever again. I felt so tired but at the same time restless. A bunch of thoughts spun around my head. I wish I was someone else. Why do I have to be so scared? What did I do to deserve this? Everyone hates me. I tried so hard to push these thoughts out of my head but they just kept coming back and hitting me in the face. I press my face into the pillow and begin to cry.
When my parents wake up, they take me home. Finally. While we are driving my parents ask me if I was okay and what happened. I tell them the whole story. “I’m a failure. I probably failed the assignment, and I failed to even say one stupid word.” I put my head in between my knees trying not to cry anymore, and trying to convince myself that it is not a big deal.
“You are not a failure, honey” my mom says looking in her rearview mirror. “You’re being way too hard on yourself. One day you will be able to get up in front of a big crowd and speak like you are talking to me or your dad. Now hold your head up high because this one instance does not determine the rest of your life. The more time spent with your head hanging, the more opportunities you miss. Everyone has their bad days and that was one of yours.” I love my mom’s speeches; she always knows how to cheer me up. “Where do you want to go and get breakfast before we head home?” she says with her eyes still staring into the rear mirror.
It happened in slow motion, but not really. Our cars collide like a newton’s cradle, sending the other car spiraling . I cover my ears trying to muffle the sound of the breaking glass and the striking metal, my eyes tightly shut. “Mommy? Hello? Daddy?” I whisper, my hands still covering my ears.When I open my eyes my whispers turn to screams. “Mommy?! Mom?!” I repeat, “Dad?!” I shake him wildly. The only movements come from me.I try to open my door but I can’t, it’s stuck. I bring my knees to my chest and breathe slowly trying to calm myself. “It’s going to be okay.” I’m whispering again, and I continue until I hear the sirens of the ambulance.
When the police look through the window, I become aware of the tears that finally managed to escape, stinging the cuts that cover my face. I see their mouths moving but couldn’t catch their words. Quickly, they get to work, trying to open the doors that trap us in the car. They get me out first, tying me down uncomfortably to a stretcher. As all this is going on, I think about colors, numbers, and every “what if” question I can. Everyone in the ambulance looks so tranquil, giving me false hope. Once again, I’m headed for the hospital.
They rush me to a room, where they begin running tests and tend to my wounds. The nurses try to assuage me with reassuring words and pain medication. The smell of the room makes my head throb even more. My dad would have to be in the hospital for at least two more days, but I got to see him after a couple of hours. He smiles when I arrive to his room, showing the dimple on his left cheek. A cream covers a red bump on his forehead. As I stare at the condition my father is in, I realized how lucky I am.
The doctor enters the room as my dad is asking me how I feel. His face is full of anguish as he talks. I knew what it was before he said it. I knew it when the car crashed. I knew it when they brought us into the hospital. Based on the expression on his face, I guess my dad knew, too.
As the doctor speaks, he struggles to look us in our eyes. “Your wife is in a fatal condition due to the crash. She is predicted to pass tonight. If you would like to see her, I can take you to her.”
I feel like I’m suffocating, my chest moving rapidly. Suddenly, it gets hot and a nurse is rushing towards me, trying to calm me down. My dad just sat and stared, his face making him look older than he really is. All he does is nod, and they leave the room to go get a wheelchair for my father.
He cries as he speaks to her. He talks about their past and the little things that no one else would have noticed she did. She looks relaxed as she listens, her eyes closed. I had never seen my dad cry before and it only made me feel worse.
All I could think about was why this happened. I was scared. Afraid of what the people around me thought. Nervous that I would mess up and they wouldn’t accept me. If I just didn’t care what they thought, this would never happened, but how do I do that when my whole life is based around what others think? I start to focus on my breathing. In and out… In and out.
* * *
I sit on my unmade bed, sleeping medication in my left hand. After grabbing the cup of water, I glide my thumb over the circular pills. Why is life so hard? I wish I could be with my mother. I toss them in my mouth, followed by some water. Even before they make their way down to their destination, I feel numb.
Laying on my back, I pull my covers up to my chin and think as I wait. My dad sleeps in the room next to me, alone. I slide out from under the cover and head for the bathroom. Knowing exactly what to do, I force myself to throw up. I rinse my mouth out with mouthwash and slip into my dad’s room, falling asleep where my mom would’ve been sleeping if it wasn’t for me.