Chapter 1 Iris
I try to ignore the dark spots, black holes...the voids that fill my mind. I think back and back and there is nothing. No memories. I close my eyes and everything is black.
“Iris.” I don’t open my eyes at my name even though I am sure that I should. Instead, I sigh, and wait for the words that I know will follow. I will ignore them like I ignore the darkness. “Look, we can’t get anywhere in here if you stay in there. In your mind I mean. We’re here to talk.”
The therapist whose name I don’t remember groans on about how I need to ‘open up’, ‘let thing’s out’, ‘just start talking’. I pass my time in silence.
This is therapist seven in the past year. Not one has made me talk, but today I am feeling, well, pissed. Today I am leaving again.
“What’s the point?” I say opening my eyes. I watch the odd man start and sit up in his chair. “Look, number seven this is our last session. So, I figure I will give you the gift of hearing me speak. I am moving today. Again. I am mad. I am tired. And honestly, I just don’t want to exist anymore.”
“Do you want to hurt yourself?” I think about this and tell him something I think will get me out of the fact that I just opened my mouth.
“No. That’s not what I said. Don’t put words in my mouth.I think about ceasing to exist. I think about not needing to live in a world that my parents’ brought me into without my permission. I think about the void.”
“Iris I’ll have to talk to your parents about this.” I shouldn’t have said a thing, but something about saying my waking thoughts out loud feels good. Each day I wake up and all I can think is how much I don’t want to exist. I don’t want to be here. I want to disappear.
“Good luck.” The van is packed. As soon as I walk out these doors we will be on to the next destination, the next therapist, the next black hole.
The cool window of the car bounces lightly against my head as we bound down another unfamiliar road. So many different places paint my past, and yet almost none have stayed with me long enough to remember. I stare out the window at more memories that will fade with the next long trip we’ll make. I can feel a groan coming from every inch of my body.
I’ve lived in six different countries, more states and counties than I can count, and none of them long enough to know a single thing about them. My parents move around a lot for their work; journalists on weather and climate, Mom writes and dad takes the photos. When I was little I thought it was the greatest thing in the world to travel, but being almost seventeen and not having lived anywhere long enough to have kept a single friend, well all the fabulous traveling gets old. Maybe that was why my imagination liked to “travel” on its own too.
“Iris honey, it’s your turn to drive. Baby, wake up.” My mother’s hand is placed on my shoulder and shaking me as I try not to think so negatively. The only thing that crosses my mind however, is how I am approaching seventeen, have been driving for years, but we have never found enough time to get my license.
“Where are we?” The murky moisture of the air is starting to leak in through my open window as I try to pinpoint our location. Where is it exactly that they want me to drive?
“Oh, you must have been sleeping for a while. We’re in Louisiana.” Dad has pulled the car to the side of the interstate and is looking back at me, waiting to switch places. I suppose I am still groggy. They are here to do an ‘expose’ on the sinking land and erosion; something about how New Orleans would soon become the next underwater Atlantis. I certainly don’t feel like I am under sea level.
“Easy peasy, just follow the big green signs.”
Sitting behind the wheel, my mind starts to wander. I honestly can’t remember a single place clearly from my childhood. There had been no Christmases and trees, or big birthday parties; no real memories from any one place. I guess when you’re on the road all the time, your life just blurs like the cars that pass by; you can see some distinct details, but never enough to have seen inside the vehicle; never enough to remember clearly.
The most prominent memories I have were all of my accidents. I was extremely clumsy as a kid. I think it had a lot to do with not knowing I needed glasses until I was twelve. I can remember the casts, and bruises, but never the hospital visits or how they happened. My imagination has always come in and saved the day. Monster attacks, dark places, and black spots fill the void where memory should be. Everything I do remember is little roadblocks I put up so I wouldn’t have to know how the pain really happened. I heard kids do that sometimes. Heard about it in a psychology class I almost finished once.
The blinker of the car brings me back from my reverie. I take quick glance at my parents, checking on them. ‘Come on Iris! That’s so dangerous. I could have crashed us. I don’t even remember how we got here.’ My hand shakes slightly as I smile hugely and nervously at the passing cars around me. ‘If I am the most responsible one of us, we are all going to die.’
“So, you guys forgot to mention all the one-way streets and roads just for pedestrians. Oh, and how the land is so completely unlevel that the streets don’t even line up! Do you know how many times I almost got us killed while you two napped!?” I half yell at my parents while they just laugh.
‘Okay, so a lot of the almost crashing is because I wasn’t paying attention, but still! They are the adults here!’
“You did just fine.”
“You didn’t even budge us so you must not have been driving too badly!” I put my head in my hands. We have stopped at a restaurant to eat before we attempt to find our new house.
“The point is that I was almost pulled over twice and I still don’t have a driver’s license!”
“Okay, okay, we will find the time this year. I promise.” I was growing weary of those “promises” she made at every new place. She smiles, but I know she is exasperated with me. Maybe I am acting childishly.
“Mom, I graduate next year. You promised we would stay in one place until I finish my senior year. I want to call someplace home for more than a couple of months. Can’t we just be together this one time? I start college soon and then we won’t see each other. You guys will be traveling and I’ll be in one place: at a University.” I am rushing. I want them to listen.
“Iris you can’t go to college.” I choke on my own food staring up at him. ‘Did he just say that?’ My mother looks aghast. My dad notices this and keeps going. “I mean, we’ve never even talked about it before. Wouldn’t you rather just take some online courses and stay with us? You could be our little intern.” I am still entirely choking.
“Just because you guys don’t listen doesn’t mean I haven’t talked to you about it!” ‘Only my parents would want their child to not go to college...’ I’m nearly shouting now. I can feel the other customers staring at us. I let my head slip to the table. My forehead gives a satisfying thud as it reaches the cool of the table. My arms dangle beside me. I give a sigh and wait.
“Why do you act like we don’t listen hunny?” ‘Here we go...’
“Yes Iris, what your mother said. We spend nearly every day together exploring. It would be impossible for us not to listen, and besides, we are together when we travel.” My dad states all this plainly. He talks a lot with his hands. I can feel his movements through the vibrations of the table. He moves, a lot.
“And why does a house have to be a home? What’s wrong with the van? It’s been our home since you were born.” I had heard this talk of theirs too often in the past to care or respond. I hold my head, pretending to hear them out just as a shadow crosses my eye. I look around quickly but there is nothing there, just more words from my parents. My imagination always seems to get me in trouble. I shake my head and try to listen to them.
They continue on like that for a while, back and forth. I know it is just a normal teenage struggle, getting to know your parents, but I never thought that wanting to be normal would be such a difficult topic. It will be just one more house, one more school, and a few more broken promises to add to another dot on a map.