“Hi, Leeland. I’m Ida.”
Leeland. What an odd name.
“I hate my life.”
“Nothing goes right.”
“I know. It sucks.”
“What happened to you?”
“You want to know about me?”
“Yeah. That’s what this is for.”
“My dad raped my mom. That’s how she got pregnant. She was fifteen. She killed herself. My dad’s a drunk. He killed my aunt. So, now I live in Maine.”
“And you’re thinking about killing yourself?”
“Yeah... why not?”
“That’s not a very good reason.”
“Yeah, well, what’s so special about you?”
He was silent for a moment. I heard him gulp on the other line.
“I was diagnosed with something. It sucks. You don’t know what it’s like to be waiting for death, because you know it’ll come, but not when. Until then you’re just waiting. You can’t sleep. You can’t eat. You’re too terrified to. At first I couldn’t believe it... but then... it was a horrible mess.”
“Oh.. Oh, God. I’m sorry!”
“It’s fine. They say there’s certain stages. Disbelief, depression, and acceptance. What comes next is acceptance. I know I’m going to die. It’s fine. I welcome death. I crave it. I need it. But I’ve no clue when it will come. I’m just waiting. Just waiting as the minutes tick away, everyone possibly my last.”
“Wait, one second, you’re a boy, right?”
His voice was like Juliet’s. It was too high. Something was different.
“How old are you?”
“Really?! Oh, you poor kid!”
“It’s fine. I mean, they don’t do screening for it at birth, and treatment won't prolong life unless it is started shortly after birth. That didn’t happen.”
“Well, what is it?”
“It’s called Menkes. It’s something with copper. I’m dying. Slowly dying. I just sit here all day and wait for it.”
“I’m sure you’ll overcome it!”
What a stupid thing to say, it was a fatal illness. Damn, I was stupid. I was stupid and repulsive. I disgusted myself.
“That’s what they said. I looked it up. It’s not likely I’ll live past ten.”
“Yeah. See? You don’t have it so bad. Trust me, you’ll be fine. Just learn to like life a little. Look at the positive side. I’m just sitting here dying. I want to end it because I want it to end quicker. Thing’s will be alright. Trust me.”
“Yeah. I guess. Thanks, kid.”
“Yeah. I’ll probably do this all day.” He gave a long sigh. “Maybe I’ll call another line. I don’t know. Probably. I’ll see how it goes.”
“Good. Enjoy it.”
“I will. I always do. And you. You go have fun. Trust me, you’ve got a life. Go live it. You never know how long it’ll last.”
The line went silent. Poor little kid. Suddenly, my world didn’t seem like such a bad place. Suddenly things were alright. I sat there, smiling.
Go have fun. I’ve got a live. Go and live it. What a wonderful idea. I looked down at the scars on my arms. They were a mistake. Why would I ever do that to myself? Suddenly, I was at a complete different end of life. Just a little bit ago those cuts were feeling like heaven. Now they were a horrible reminder.
I got up off the bed, and pranced to the door. Today was a good day. I put on some sandals, and tucked the matted coils of hair back under a thick headband. I looked deep into my face. Gross, disgusting blonde eyebrows stared back, invisibly, of course. That was the problem. They weren’t visible. They made me look like I didn’t have any. I grabbed a brown pencil of eyeliner and over-exaggeratedly drew them in with plenty of definition.
There, that was tons better.
I walked all the way into the kitchen humming to myself, and stuck my head into the fridge. The revolting smell of old food greeted my nostrils, and crashed over them like tainted waves.
There, sitting on the top shelf, was a container of chicken. I snatched it up and inspected it. Green and black life grew on it; thrived off of it. The crazy old lady hadn’t even gotten rid of it. I put it into a paper bag, and threw it into the trash outside. I made my way back to the front door, and turned back around at the sound of footsteps.
“Oh, hey!” she said as she pulled the small little earbuds out of her ears and approached me.
“Nothing. Just making my way home, you?”
“Oh, well... nothing really.”
“You seem really happy today. That’s good. You’ve seemed sad recently.”
“Yeah, well, you know...”
“Hey, you’re going home?”
“Could I maybe come over?”
“Cool! My aunt’s gone. She went out, and you know, that means I’ve got nothing really better to do.”
“Yeah, as if you’d socialize with her anyway! Where is she? Do old people ‘go out?’”
“Apparently. I don’t know, she usually walks a couple blocks over to her friends house. She’s usually over there.”
“Well, I’ll be damned. Maybe it’s just personal experience with my parents. Seriously, how did their generation end up being so overprotective? Their generation! Geez, I’ll be lucky if I make it out of here not completely smothered.”
“Yeah, people are stupid.”
Honestly, I had no clue what she was talking about. In fact, I wished I had protective parents. At least I wanted ones that would care.
“Come on, let’s go.”
“Uh, yeah, hold on.”
I had been holding my forearm behind my back the entire conversation. I rushed into the house until I found a bandana. I rolled it up and wrapped it around my arm two or three times. It covered the scars perfectly.
“Alright, ready now?”
“Yeah! Let’s go.”
“What’s that bandana for?”
“Yeah, nothing. It looks cool.”
She stood there staring at it for a minute. I could feel the blood rushing to my face.
“Alright. Come on, let’s go now.”
I trotted over to her, and together we turned down the driveway and up the street. I had never been to Juliet’s house, and I was excited to.
“So, how do you get these things in your hair?” she asked.
We were sitting down at her bed, letting the day pass us. Her house was nice, and it was clean compared to anything I’d ever been in. She complained about it being dirty.
“It takes time. Lot’s of neglect. Or you can get them done at a salon. There’s lots of ways.”
“Oh. That’s cool! So, I like that bandana.”
“Yeah, is it your aunts?”
She snatched it and ripped it off of my arm, exposing the black and blue area of my skin. It was swelled a little, and the cuts had scabbed over to look like huge ugly scars.
“Oh my God! Ida!”
“It was one time!”
“God-dammit, Ida. That’s not nothing! That’s wrong!”
“What the fuck do you want me to say! Jesus, Ida!”
Juliet was in a panic. Her arms were on her head and her breathing was loud and shallow. It looked like she was going to faint.
“Juliet, calm down! Take a deep breath!”
“What did you do?!”
“Please! Calm down!”
“Why should I?”
“Tell me why, Ida.”
“Tell me. Why should I calm down? I think I should be upset! Look at this! Look! Fucking dammit, Ida!”
Juliet never cussed.
“Juliet! Calm the fuck down! Now! It’s not that bad! Just shut up!”
She shook in anger, and her short blonde hair bounced up and down in her frustration. I could never imagine her as an angry person.
I was silent. She turned away from me, and looked the other way with her arms folded across her chest. I listened for her breathing to turn long and quivery before I started again.
“It was one time. I won’t do it again, I promise.”
“I won’t do it again.”
“Then why’d you do it?”
“I really don’t know. Believe me, if I knew, I’d tell you. But I don’t. It just happened. I’m sorry. I feel horrible about it, too. Believe me.”
“You know why you did it.”
“Sometimes things just get...”
“Hard. Things suck.”
“I know, but that doesn’t mean-”
“Juliet, you don’t understand. I’m sorry, but you don’t.”
She turned back toward me. Her lip quivered as she spoke.
“I’m sorry. Just please don’t do it again.”
The fact that Juliet knew what I had done made me feel insecure. Suddenly, I felt like hiding. She knew what I had done to myself, and she was the one person that meant something to me in the world. Sure, there were those people from DHS, but I didn’t know them. They were good minute-friends, but nothing more.
“Don’t worry, I don’t plan on it.”
“No! You won’t.”
“Good. I mean... you’re...”
Her cheeks turned red in embarrassment.
“You’re one of my only friends.”
“That was stupid.”
“Juliet, you’re my only friend.”
She looked up at me with her eyes sparkling.
“What’s your favorite color, Juliet?” I said.
“Why?” she replied. A short little laugh pursued.
“Funny. Mine too. Your turn.”
We both laid down on the bed. Our arms were folded behind our heads and we stared off into the ceiling.
“Uh, favorite food?”
“Easy, bacon, you?”
“Never had one.”
“You’ve never had a kiwi?”
“Sometime I’ll buy one for you.”
“Favorite... type of music?”
“Yeah, sure, why not?”
“I can’t remember the last time I read.”
“Yeah, me either. Reading blows.”
And we talked. We talked and figured each other out. Juliet was the quietest thing I’ve ever known, but she had a fierce side that could pop out uncontrollably. I learned that today. When things got tough, it flashed it’s angry face loudly at the world. I told her everything about my life that I knew so far, which wasn’t much. Juliet had never done a drug before. Juliet had never gotten drunk. She had never been invited to a school party. She was an outcast. Yet, I was too, and I was the center of the party. They loved be there, and they hated me everywhere else. I brought the liquor, so they loved me when they wanted to get hammered.
We talked and talked and talked. Suddenly life wasn’t terrible again. Suddenly, I was at another high point on the roller coaster ride of life. I felt happy, which I rarely ever felt. Suddenly, I was opening up everything because I had never had the chance to get so close to another human before. Suddenly, I myself was a human.
I tried my best to hide my scars from view. I was feeling something I had felt often: regret. I hated what I did to myself now. Suddenly, I was a monster who had cut her arms. It truly was disgusting. At the time it felt so right, so perfect. That was an illusion. It was fake happiness. Being with Juliet was pure happiness, and it made the illusion manifest. So, I was regretful. I stayed that way. The scars were there, and they would take time to fade. Scars were a horrible reminder of what I had done and what my past was like. Scars made memories. Bad memories. I turned over on my stomach and hid them under what little breasts I had. I hid my memories. But I knew hiding would be futile. It too was an illusion that alluded faintly to my past. It tried to hide, yet it was manifest, and would not last. They were there. They were scars. They were a memory of something horrible I had done to myself.
If only it was just the past. No, it was visible. If only it was a forgotten memory. No, it was there; it was permenant. Horrible, horrible regret creeped into me. I bit my lip as Juliet shared some of her stories. I tried to hide my uneasiness. Though, it was nothing more than an illusion.