I tapped my wooden pencil against the desk nervously, watching each hand of the clock move slowly. My heart pounded in my chest loudly, like a drum, dreading what was going to happen. Ms. Davis's phone rang, echoing around the classroom. Students looked up from their papers, hopeful looks written on their faces. I looked down and closed my eyes in panic. My arms shook and my breathing became heavy, making it difficult not to draw attention. She grabbed the phone off her desk and said something that sounded like, "Okay, I'll send her down."
She set the phone back and looked around the room until her eyes landed on me. I shifted my gaze down, ashamed of the gnawing feeling in my stomache. Fear.
"Rae, the office needs you." Ms. Davis said loudly.
The whole class turned their heads towards me in a swift motion. Some students whispered, "Oooh someone's in trouble." As I got up from my seat.
I wish they were wrong, but the words sent a new wave of panic crashing through me. I walked towards the door slowly, my head hung down to avoid any unnecessary eye-contact. That didn't work, because my eyes subconsciously drifted towards the boy sitting near me. Lee was smiling, but that didn't fool me. He wore a mask to hide his feelings, but his blue eyes told a different story. They were full of regret, hurt, and most of all...pain. I knew what he was truly feeling, because I felt the same way.
Summer had been hard with everything that happened, everything we lost. I pushed my darkening sorrow aside, I could deal with that later. My foot bumped against a backpack laying in the middle of the floor. I stubbled slightly but caught myself before I could fall. I knew my face was bright red from embarrassment but surprisingly, nobody said anything. Pulling the cold doorknob, I stepped into the hall.
It was quiet and empty, eerie even. I jumped as the door closed behind me, locking me out. I fidgeted nervously with the hem of my shirt as my footsteps echoed down the empty halls. Why am I so afraid? Why can't I seem to breathe right? The office door grew closer until I stood directly in front of it. A panther was drawn on the grey metal, growling at me to leave. I touched it gently as I took a deep breath. I knew what was inside, only a single door separating me from chaos. I was scared, but I was terrified of the chaos inside of my head. I didn't know where this would lead me, but I knew I had to try for my own sake. I wasn't ready to give in, but I knew I needed help in order to fight it. How could I tell the people I love about the monster inside of me? How could I tell them it was eating me alive? Hesitantly, I opened the door.
My therapist stood in front of the office desk with her briefcase waiting for me. Walking towards her, I put on my best fake smile and announced, "I'm here."
She spun around, obviously startled. "Hello, I didn't hear you come in." She spoke in a friendly voice.
I've known her for a long time, she's always been there for me to talk to. Talking about my problems with her never really made me feel better but at least I knew somebody was listening. Our office worker led us through a door and into the hallway. Fishing out a pair of keys from her coat pocket, she ushered us into a empty room. I looked around and settled into a chair in the corner. My therapist sat across from me and started digging through her bag.
My eyes scanned the familiar room, one I've been in dozens of times. A couple chairs and desks were the only objects besides a few drawings hung on the wall. I sighed and propped my elbows on the table, my hands cradling my head. She grabbed a pen and a large notebook, prepared to take notes on everything. My thoughts, my feelings, the way I look at the door longingly.
Looking at me in the eyes, she asked, "How was your day?"
"Fine." I automatically answered like I always did when someone asked me.
She always asked that question first. Every week, I always had the same response. She wrote something down before talking again.
"How are you dealing with your friends death?"
The question hit me like a train. My breath caught in my throat and my chest started to feel really heavy, like someone was applying pressure to it. My mind raced to grab a thought, anything but that. Unable to respond, I simply cried. I didn't want to think about her right now. Yet every time I try to forget, something reminds me of the fact she's gone and I couldn't do anything to stop it. I cried into my hands until I could find my voice again.
Wiping my eyes free of tears with the sleeve of my jacket, I whispered, "I don't know."
More tears escaped, ones I've been holding back all summer. Ones I've tried to banish. Ones that never seem to go away.
"Do you want to talk about it? I'm here to listen." She said in a soothing voice.
No, I didn't. She would tell someone. They would send me away. But isn't that what my friend thought before she killed herself? Did she also feel lonely? Like nobody cared? What if I don't speak? What if I remain silent?
"Its not fair!" I cried.
She grabbed her pen hastily before asking, "What's not fair?"
Unable to calm my raging thoughts, I released it, every memory, all my hurt into my next words.
"She killed herself! She's selfish! How could she do this to her family? Her friends? Her boyfriend Lee? Me? Why, why, why!" I sobbed, putting my head down.
Words are powerful, but silence is the deadliest weapon. I don't want to feel this way anymore. I don't want to be unheard, forgotten. I'm ready to face myself. I'm ready to face the dark thoughts that have haunted me day and night. I'm ready to destroy the naging voice that tells me to kill myself. That tells me I'm useless, unloved, broken. I looked into her eyes, trying to find the right words to say. There was no way to describe how I felt, so I decided to be blunt.
"I wish I didn't exist."
Her breathing hitched and she asked carefully, "Are you saying your going to harm yourself?"
Unable to meet her calculating gaze any longer, I replied hesitantly, "I already have."
I told her everything. I told her about the cutting, the suicidal thoughts. Everything from holding a knife to myself to standing in the middle of the road.
"Why did you move?" She asked when I told her about the car coming towards me, oblivious to the thirteen year old girl laying in the dark road.
I remember the memory easily. I walked into the road, feeling disconnected and numb. I was not afraid, not thinking. I just wanted to feel something other than the blinding pain in my chest. Hear anything but the thoughts in my head. I sat there quietly, waiting for a car. When I saw it, it brought me back to my little brothers. I wanted to see them again. I wanted to protect them against the world. How could I ever leave them? I wouldn't, so I moved to the side and stood up. Walking down the dirt path leading to the house, I felt the same. I still felt the need to leave this world, even when all I wanted was to live for my brothers.
A voice brought me back to the present, "Rae, are you still there?"
I nodded and finally answered, "My brothers stopped me. I didn't want to leave them."
"If you don't want to leave them, then why do you keep hurting yourself?" She questioned.
"Because no matter how hard I try to live for them, the voices keep telling me its not enough. They keep telling me that I'm not enough. I just want to feel something, anything but this." I whispered, trying not to cry.
She took a deep breath before telling me, "With all the information I've gathered, I think its best if I took you to the hospital to get a diagnosis. They will know what's best for you at this moment."
I knew this was most likely going to happen, but it still hurt anyways.
"Do I have a choice?" I started to argue, my anxiety rising by every second.
She shook her head and replied, "I'm afraid you don't at this point. Our conversations can't stay confidential if your going to hurt yourself. I'm sorry."
Tears stung my eyes again because I knew it was true. I hated myself for not being normal. Why couldn't I control my emotions? What did I do to deserve all this pain? After a moment of silence, she finally broke it.
"I'm going to drive you to the hospital so they can evaluate you. When we get there, I'll need to call your Mom. Is this okay with you?"
I nodded my head numbly because I knew she was just being nice. I didn't have a choice. She gathered her things and signed me out of school. Leading me to her van, I took one last look at my school. A feeling told me this would be the last time I saw it. I took it all in. All the painful memories, all the fun times, all the trouble. Wiping my eyes, I grabbed onto the handle of the car door. Once inside, I buckled myself and emotionally prepared myself for the ride ahead because I knew it wouldn't be easy.
The car pulled to a stop in front of the big, white building. My eyes wandered around, wanting to look somewhere else, be anywhere else. My therapist opened the door, releasing a gust of ice cold wind towards me.
In September, the air was frosty and bitter. I shivered in my seat, not because I was cold, but because I was nervous. I unbuckled my seat belt and felt a little better. I had a sense of freedom now. I could run away. I glanced out the window as the thought filled my head. If I run, maybe this would all go away. Everything would fade away into the distance. Every bad memory, all the pain. Everything, all of it.
No matter how much I want to leave, I knew deep down that my past would only catch up. I would get caught. I pushed down the pressure with own will. I pushed until the voices were silent. I numbed my feelings until I felt nothing. Like an empty shell, I was nothing. I don't realised she opened the door for me until I felt a tap on my shoulder. Pulling on my black hoodie, we walked towards the entrance. I slid my hands in my pockets as the automatic door opened, allowing us inside.
She walked to the front desk and started talking to the lady running it. For a minute I stood awkwardly, unsure where to go. Finally, I decided to take a seat near the magazine rack. I buried my face into my oversized hoodie, wanting to be invisible. Ever so slowly, my numbness was replaced by a bitter sadness. Tears stung my eyes but I refused to cry. Not in front of everyone. Memories flashed through my head, stopping on a specific one.
I walked through the doors at school, trying to hide my crying face. People sat with their friends, laughing with each other. I kept my head down, hoping nobody saw me.
I turned my head to see my friends waving me over. I gave them a slight wave and continued walking, not ready to face anyone.
"Hey, what's wrong?" Rhiannon asked me, a look of worry on her face.
"Nothing." I replied, ignoring her gaze.
"You know you can tell me, right?" She continued, watching me.
"I know, I'm fine." I said with a fake smile.
She smiled back and led me to the table where our friends sat. I sat next to her and fiddled with my fingers. Alora sat across from me, drawing in her sketch book. She looked happy, but I saw something behind her eyes. Something didn't seem right, but I ignored it. It was probably just my imagination.
They all continued to laugh and joke around. I never felt so alone. I was surrounded by friends, yet I felt like I wasn't there. The room seemed dull, like I was watching a black and white movie. Nothing had color anymore. I felt...hollow.
The memory faded away, leaving me confused. Part of me still felt like I was there, watching Alora break inside. Ignoring it, like everyone else did. What could I have done? I didn't see the signs until it was too late. I could've done something, if only I payed more attention. In the distance, I heard someone call my name. Not knowing if it was real or not, I ignored it.
"Rae?" It repeated, this time in front of me.
I looked up and jumped when I saw my therapist standing there, with a worried expression.
"Yeah?" I asked dumbly, not knowing what she said.
Still recovering from the memory, I was confused where I was. Confused why she was here. Looking around, I remember I was in the hospital. It felt as if the air in the to thinned, making it hard to breathe. Sadness, anger, and disappointmen consumed me. I don't want to be here. I want to go home. But where is home anymore? Home sounded foreign, painful. It was just a word. It wasn't real.
"I have to call your Mom now. They won't take you in here unless your parent allows it." She told me.
My Mom would be mad at me, she won't understand. She would make me come home and force me to tell her what's going on. I can't ever tell her, its too complicated. Grief stabbed my chest, panic rising more every second that passes by. If I talk, I might just break. Instead of using words, I gave her a lame nod, giving her permission to call. My Mom would find out anyways, if the school didn't already call her.
The phone ringed until my Mom's voice came through, "Hello?"
Not wanting to hear their conversation that was surely go wrong, I ran to the bathroom across the hall. My stomach began to cave in on itself, making me feel sick. I opened the nearest stall and began to throw up in the toilet. When I was done, I leaned my back against the wall and cried. The door creaked open after a few seconds and footsteps walked across the cold, tile floor.
"Rae, are you okay in there?"
I knew it was my therapist, which means she's off the phone with my Mom. I stood up with wobbly legs and opened the door. She looked at me for a while before guiding me out of the bathroom. We slowly walked out of the hospital and into her van. When the doors closed, she sighed with a regretful expression on her face.
"Your Mom wants me to take you home right now."
I stared at her, knowing this was going to happen.
"I figured." I replied, trying not to panic.
"But we still have another option. I could take you to the emergency room. They don't need parental consent. I should've taken you there the first time."
I looked at my hands, silently at war with myself. Do I want to go home and explain everything to her? Do I need to get help? I'm not ready to talk about everything. I haven't even told my therapist everything. If I go to the emergency room, I don't know what will happen. I don't want my Mom to be mad at me. I don't want to disappoint her. What's the right decision?
"I know this is hard, but I need you to think about what's best for you. What's right for Rae? Not Mom, not Dad, not me. Only you know what's best for you."
These words triggered something I kept pushed down for so long. Memories of Alora burned through the barrier I spent months building. Pain. Pain is what I felt when I heard her name. When I saw pictures of her. I always tried to ignore it, but now that's all I can see. She hung herself to stop the pain and what did that do? It got passed on to me, to everyone who loved her. Pain never goes away. Not everyone can be happy. What if I do the same thing she did? What if I'm not strong enough one day? What if it becomes too much?
"I can't go home. I need help." I said, my voice cracking with emotion.
I never admitted that I need help. I thought I could do everything on my own, but sometimes we can't hold all the weight. I don't want to be crushed under everything. Without hesitation, she drove across the street to the emergency room. All my doubt was kept at bay by my anger. I was mad at myself for not being there when Alora needed me. I was mad at her for being silent. I was furious at the world for being cruel enough to take her from me.
The van stopped. This time, I didn't hesitate getting out. I stared at the emergency rooms dark windows and sliding door. The last time I was here, I had a stab wound on my arm. My hand subconsciously touched the scar, making my arm tingle. I was outside the classroom when it happened. I was talking to my friends, Rhiannon and Ruby. I was unaware of the fact Ruby was holding a blade until I felt the cold, sharp metal. I looked down to see a river of blood pouring down my right arm. It happened so fast. The blood, the panicking, the running. Rhiannon used the sleeve of her sweatshirt to stop to bleeding. It was soaked within a minute. Ruby grabbed my other arm and pulled me towards the building.
"Let's go to the bathroom!" She said in a panicked voice.
Still confused of what just happened, I stared at her sleeve against my arm in disbelief.
"I-I thin-k I ne-eed a band-d ai-d." I stuttered, starting to feel dizzy from the sight of blood.
"No, you can't go to the office! Please, I'm so sorry!" Ruby said fearfully, still trying to pull me towards the bathroom.
I pulled my arm away from her and took a few steps back. I was confused. Did she stab me? Why?
"She needs stitches or something!" I heard Rhiannon shout.
Rhiannon led me towards the office, her sweatshirt sleeve still pressed against my bleeding arm.
We walked through the doors, into the office.
"Hello ladies, do you need something?" The office lady asked, looking at her computer.
"She needs the nurse, her arms bleeding." Rhiannon said while I clung to her, feeling sick.
The office lady looked down at my arm with wide eyes and opened the door to the nurses office for us.
"How did that happen?" She asked, inspecting it.
"I don't know." I replied truthfully, my head cloudy.
"Unfortunately, the nurse isn't here today. I'll see if I can find a big enough band aid while you wash that up in the sink. Rhiannon, you may go back to class now."
Rhiannon hesitanted before leaving, waving a small goodbye to me. I ran my bloody arm under cold water, hissing when it stung the wound. The bleeding didn't stop when I took my arm out of the water, so I put a paper towel against it. Sitting down in the hair, I waited for the office lady to come back.
"This is the biggest one they have." She said, walking towards me.
It didn't cover the whole cut, but it was good enough for now.
"Shouldn't we call my Mom? I think I need stitches." I asked her, watching the blood slowly soak through.
"Come back during lunch to get the band aid changed. It should be good be then." She replied, leading me out the office.
A few minutes later, I was back in class. I walked to my seat, with everyone watching me. I sat down and everyone went back to work.
"Are you okay?" Rhiannon asked worriedly.
"What did you tell them?" Ruby asked at the same time.
I was confused by what she meant until she pulled a blade out of her pocket. It all started to connect. Ruby, my friend, had hurt me.
"Did you stab me?"
Reality flooded back as I stood outside the doors of the emergency room. I dropped my hand from my scar and walked foward.
"Are you ready?" My therapist asked.
I nodded my head and we walked through the glass doors into a place I will never forget. A place that will be imprinted in my mind forever.