“When you are in love and you get hurt, it’s like a cut…it will heal, but there will always be a scar.”
The moment I submerge my right hand achingly beneath the cold running faucet the water clogging in the sink turns murky brown, a sort of red-rust coloration. The incisions on my wrist sting like hell, but all I can do is hunch my shoulders tightly and grip the edge of the dinky porcelain with my other hand. The over-head lights flicker, casting an eerie army of shadows in the far corners of the small bathroom. All three doors on the stalls are gone, taken down by the students themselves in acts of aggression. The walls are plagued by vicious gossip, angry curses, and naïve declarations of teen love. I look down. The tiles were once green but over the years had succumb to a limey-puke shade with traces of black mold wedged between the cracks—in time having worked its way over the ancient putty. My red beat-up converses stare back at me like dirty 3rd world country children in despair.
I use my free hand to fold the reluctant sleeves of my scruffy hoodie that’s two sizes too big, and in effect, hangs on my shoulders like a sheet on a linens line. It’s a gift from my last boyfriend, Travis. It rained the day he left me. And ever since then this hoodie has been my sole comfort. I close my eyes and try to remember his smile. I have been so sad lately that I think I’ve forgotten how to smile. This sadness is like a disease, or perhaps an ambitious parasite, yes, a parasite is inside me. This emotional parasite is eating at my innards and will never cease until I have become a wrinkled paper sack of skin and gnawed bones. Sadness is a killer.
I sigh, and after attending my self inflicted wound, I leave. Opening the door, I am fed into the flow of students as they course like blood through the vein like hallways. I flip the hood up to hide my face. It’s no use, people know me and they hate me. They talk about me behind my back, knock books out of my hands, and even threaten to jump me. Everyone avoids contact with me, even my close friends Becca and Reese act distant towards me at school. I am like a leper, but worse, because not even Jesus can wash my reputation clean. Today starts the 4th week of my junior year of high school and it is atrocious.
“Look at those ripped jeans, totally skanky!”
“I heard that Erick voted her for homecoming because she has big breasts.”
“Why? They don’t have ‘homecoming whore’.”
“Ick. Check out the slut.”
Voices swarm around me, penetrating my pathetically weak armor. I can feel the tears pricking in my eyes; I bite my lower lip to discourage them from falling.
A bulky girl rams into my side, nearly knocking me over, but I use the momentum to veer into the refuge of my US history class. I duck into the safety of my desk and take the hood down. I exhale as if it is the first in forever.
The students pile in just as the late bell screeches into my bones. I tap my foot and chew on my lower lip. An itch works its way down my leg and back. I don’t scratch it. Instead I twirl a curl of ink black hair around my finger as the teacher stands from his desk.
“Emily Montoya, will you pass these out?” asks Mr. Vang as he hands me a thick stack of ink-marked paper. I take it begrudgingly as I stand stiffly. I pass the desks swiftly as I drop off the assignments like little bombs. Whispers trickle into my ears like blood.
“Okay, I’ll be right back; I’m just hopping over next door to Mrs. Hansen.” Mr. Vang promises as he leaves the room. I gulp. The old man has left me to the wolves!
As I hand out the last of the papers, I turn to go back to my seat just to realize that my way is blocked.
“Hailey,” I begin, “can I get past you?”
“Nope!” she simply states as she folds her arms. I let my breath out slowly and try to think of what Travis would do in this situation. Thinking of Travis gives me an ache in my chest and I think I may empty the contents of my stomach on Hailey’s flip-flops.
“Why can’t I pass?” I ask meekly, I am not even looking her in the eyes.
“I didn’t say you couldn’t pass…just not by me.” She responds with the evilest of smiles. She‘s a cheerleader, the Homecoming Queen. If I hit her everyone will side with her. I sigh and try to conjure up Travis and his peaceful manor. That usually calms me.
I do not need violence to solve my problems, I think desperately, I am better than this.
“Why are you doing this to me? I haven’t done anything to you.” I reason with a begging tone.
“Oh yeah yah did.”
The memory of a loyal smile, Travis’s smile, flutters in the back of my mind.
“No one likes you. You don’t belong. Why do you bother showing up everyday? Cant you see you’re not wanted?” her voice is like ice slowly creeping into my ears, spreading over my brain, and freezing my heart. I take a deep breath and exhale. I can feel my anger prickling up my spine towards that ice-covered brain where curses buzz violently.
And then here it is, right in front of me, flashing before my eyes vividly is the memory I’ve been trying to remember after weeks of suppressing it into nothing. The memory of when Travis and I skipped school to go to the beach for a picnic.
The sky was pock-marked with clouds that held no threat. The marine life was obnoxious; little fish would dart between our legs, scaring the hell out of us. We were the only ones on the beach besides a bored lifeguard, a middle aged man with a metal detector, and a bum smoking a home-made cigarette.
The ocean was alive that day. It reached for us with each exhale but drew away quickly with a deep breath. The turf was as cold as ice water and the waves were impressive, they weren’t surf worthy, but they still amazed you. The ocean had power, it brought Travis and I together. We were so happy that day, our fingers were laced together like the grooves of a zipper. His eyes never left me and his breathing came out in small pants as we kissed. The crashing of the waves in the distance was our soundtrack.
Even now I can still feel the chill of the turf biting at my ankles, taste the root beer soda on his lips, and see the gleam in his eyes.
But now I’m crashing.
The images are ripping away from me. The sounds are changing, becoming dull then sharper in acceleration. A pain throbs in my chest. I am overcome by a merciless head rush. Now I remember where I am. How dare Hailey disrupt my peaceful memory relapse by pushing me down?
“You slutty spaz!” she shouts. Anger fills my veins and I pop up like a jack-in-the-box, catching her off guard as I throw my balled fist into her face. I run out of the classroom just as Mr. Vang returns. I don’t care what he thinks or what anyone else thinks, I know what I did was wrong, I shouldn’t have hit her, but it felt good.
I halt when I hear my name being called by a boy’s voice hinted with a smooth accent. My heart flips and I spin around on my heels in hope that it is Travis. Sadly, a short, chubby Mexican boy with wide, dorky glasses and a major acne problem is all I see.
“What do you want, Enrique?” I groan.
“¡Hola! ¿Como ésta?” He cheers.
“Uh, no Spanish…now go away!” I turn to go, but Enrique catches me.
“¿Que te pasa?” Enrique questions, “¿Por que?”
“I really don’t know what you’re saying and I know you barely speak English, so welcome to America, now go die!”
“No me gusta el maestro.”
“Seriously, I’m leaving, bye.”
“Vang,” he repeats like a mantra, “Vang. Vang. Vang.”
“Mr. Vang, the history teacher?”
“¡si, si, si! You go. ¿por que?” he struggles, “why?”
“Mr. Vang isn’t my problem…it’s those girls.”
“Really?” he gasps.
“I’m leaving.” I roll my eyes and strut weakly away. I pick up the pace and burst out the back doors leading outside to the courtyard of the high school. This wouldn’t be so hard if Travis hadn’t moved away. He’s my first love, may even be my only chance at love. His parents don’t like me. They did at first, but when rumors started picking up over the summer about us having sex, they decided that I wasn’t good enough for their son. They didn’t want his future to be ruined because of me. So we had to date in secret. Soon the harassment became worse, even crueler in creativity. When his parents discovered us they moved across the country. It wasn’t fair of them to take him away from everything he knew. I would give anything to have him again, or to at least go back in time to stop Hailey and her friends from spreading those nasty lies that I was a whore, that I had diseases from sharing razor blades with heroin addicts, and that I had been around a few times with guys I didn’t even know. Hailey hates me because Travis loves me and not her. She had her chance, she cheated on him, and so he left her for me because I love him. I look down at the scars healing on my forearm. Three long slashes of red against pale skin.
I just hurt all over.
I sigh and sit beneath a tree hidden by the brick walls of the school. Scrumptious rays of sunlight tickle my skin. The grass beneath me is an envious green; I find the ground to be a welcoming place to lie. The tree, young and ambitious, strives to give delicate shade so refreshing, it is a miracle. The breeze on my neck is gentle, almost playful like the breath of a lover. The fragrance of clean grass and wilting flowers is strong and unique. The sky above is tricky, though it’s well into autumn the sky is the ideal summer setting, clouds are nothing but brief brush strokes of white against a sapphire blue. Birds captivate the sky, lazily advertising adventure. Voices flow out the window from the two story window; the words are lost in the day.
There’s something about this tree and the way its many gnarled arms reach out towards Heaven. Does this tree wish to touch the sky? Do its roots feel the world around it? Does this tree desire to capture the sun? Does the earth beneath me feel my body pressed into it? Does the earth feel my heart beating against it? Is the sky conscious of how I stare into its infinity? Does the sky even realize how much I dream of tickling its heart?
Even as I roll onto my side, ignoring the sky, ignoring the earth, I focus on the tree, knowing all along the truth.
You were once my tree; strong, protective, and reaching for the ‘impossible’. I was the ‘impossible’, always trying to kill myself, always running away in fear of falling in love. But I fell any ways because you were always there. You were there to hold my hand when I was scared. You were there to whisper praises into my ears when they were yelling profanities at me. You were there to laugh with me when I should have been crying. Having witnessed everything, joy and sadness, time has changed you and me. You’re not a tree anymore. Now I’m the tree reaching longingly for you and you’re the sky…
“We know what we are, but not what we may be.”