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My hair is red. Or, it used to be. Or…if there was any left, it’d be red, anyway. My scalp is red, almost as red as my hair used to be. That counts, doesn’t it?
The last time I came out of my room was…two weeks ago, maybe. That was when my mom said she wouldn’t feed me anymore if I didn’t come to the table. So I came to the table. I was wearing a hat, so they couldn’t see. Everyone stared at me. I sometimes wonder if they know, but they’ve never tried to help me.
Maybe they know I don’t want to help.
My surprise is only surpassed by irritation when someone knocks on my door. I’ve almost gotten the scab that was proving to be difficult off, and if I give up now, the numbness might recede. It’s not nearly as rewarding when there’s pain involved.
“Hang on,” I mumble to the door, though I can barely hear myself. I’m pretty lacking in the social department, if you can imagine.
“Open the door, Margaret,” a voice I don’t recognize orders me from the other side of the thin wall. Who could want to talk to me? I lost my friends seasons ago.
“Hold on! I’ve almost got this one, and it’s been bothering me for God knows how long…” I trail off as blood seeps from the cracked skin. It’s ruby red; a color too pretty for something so disgusting.
“Margaret, I’m not asking.” The voice is dead serious, so I crawl off the floor and grab a handful of tissues. I stuff them into my pin striped fedora and shove it on my head before cracking the door open.
“Who are you?” I promptly question, gawking at the woman outside my door. She’s tall and is wearing too much perfume. Her hair is dirty blond, and her eyes are as cold as an arctic torture chamber.
“I’m here to help you,” she insists, grabbing for the door, but I slam it shut.
“Help me with what? School doesn’t start for another month,” I inform her through the wood. I know exactly what she wants to help me with, but she’s insane if she thinks she can help me.
“I’m not a math tutor,” she hisses, wrenching the door knob around. “I’m Dr. Whitlow. I’m a psychologist, and you seem to desperately need my help.”
I throw the door open dramatically, glaring up at her. “I thought mental doctors were supposed to be nice to their insane patients.” Dr. Whitlow offers up a fake smile, but her eyes are as cold as ever.
“Margaret, you’re—“ she begins, but I cut her off.
She grimaces at me. “Maggie, you’re not insane. You’ve just got a little problem, and I’m here to help you.”
I nearly laugh. “You think you can help me? You think I can just stop? This is what I do,” I whip my hat off for dramatic effect, and she recoils despite herself at my scarred, bloody scalp. “I can’t stop.”
“Margaret, you’re going to get some infection, you’re going to get sick! You’re hurting yourself. Why do you want to hurt yourself?” she questions, all cold metal institutions.
I shrug. “I don’t want to hurt myself. I’m not some depressed kid who goes around wearing hipster glasses. I do what I do because…it’s relaxing. Rewarding.
“But you can’t understand. You’re just a regular person; you take bubble baths to relax and mow your lawn to feel rewarded. I hate people like you,” I inform her. “You think I can turn it off like a freaking light switch.”
And my mom is behind her, scowling at me and looking nauseous when she takes in the sight of my head. “Maggie, Miss Whitlow can assist you.” Oh, my mother. Channeling her office life, just for our lovely guest.
“She can assist you all the way to hell, Mom,” I snap, turning on my heel to leave them both in the hallway. With that, my mother takes my wrist, and is throwing me against the wall.
“Just ‘cause you’re f***ing insane doesn’t mean you can be an a**hole. You’re my problem, and I like to take care of my problems. You’re gonna do what I tell you to, and you’re going with the doctor. Pack your s***, and get downstairs.” She hisses, so low only I can hear.
Dr. Whitlow is staring in moderate amusement. Aren’t people like her supposed to report people to my mom to the authorities? So much for that.
My hand involuntarily reaches toward my hairless scalp, and begins picking at the scab again. “M’kay, whatever. Just let me get this damn scab off first.”
Hoffman Estates, Illinois
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Don't be a victim; be a titan.
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Boredom instigates extreme creativity.
"Bowing gratefully to all of my subjects, 'thank you. Thank you. The pleasure is mine." Nah, I'm just kidding. We're all kings together.'"