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Time Heals All Wounds
“We’re going to have to suspend you for five days,” Mr. Gabalski, the principal, announced nonchalantly as he walked into his office.
“Five days?! Five WHOLE days, are you actually serious?” The astonishment was written on my face as plain as a name on a grave. The whites of my eyes rarely see the light of day, especially at eight in the morning. His back was towards me but he had his eyes on the wall to his right. I noticed the smallest smile begin to form from the side of his mouth. A few of his teeth were exposed to the iridescent LED lights that were embedded into the ceiling. I couldn’t help but think to myself What the f*** are you smiling for? You want something to smile about? I’ll give you something to smile about. Smile as I knock your teeth down your throat.
“Yep, five days. It’s policy, effective immediately,” he paused for a second and turned around to look me in my eyes, “You’re looking much better from the last time we spoke.”
In that moment, my heart shattered into a million pieces, and when those pieces hit the ground, they shattered some more. His words wrapped around my throat and began to strangle me; I couldn't speak. I’m really getting suspended. You, Tori, are being suspended from school, the one place you can’t stand yet always refuse to stay home. You, Tori, Ms. Straight-A student is getting suspended. You’ve been cordially invited NOT to come for five days.
I don’t know what I expected, but it sure as hell was not a suspension. However, this was not the biggest battle I’d fight that day; that was just the beginning. The icing on the cake was the phone call home to inform my mother.
My mom heard the news and simply replied, “Okay, I’ll come get her,” with the same nonchalant attitude Mr. Gabalski had, ignoring the situation completely as if this was nothing new. That meant one of two things with my mother: she is waiting for us to be in private to address this or she does not care.
I anxiously waited in his office, trying to play out word-for-word all the million possible ways the conversation between my mother and I would go. I knew the ride home was the beast I had to endure: fifteen minutes of one on one, quality mother-daughter time. Lucky me.
To my surprise, the wrath of Mom that I feared was not there. My sweaty palms, trembling voice, and planned “I don’t know” responses were all prepared for nothing. Turns out, she wasn’t mad I got suspended because the one emotion that effaced anger was disappointment. She referenced the same example she did years ago when I would lie as a child, saying the same words: “How do you expect me to stand up in a court of law and defend you, saying you’re telling the truth, when I know you’ll look me dead in my eyes and lie.”
After she preached about disappointment and lying, it was quiet in the car. I knew it was too good to be true, I know my mom; just like deer, trouble for me comes in pairs.
“What should your punishment be?” She asks me and looks over to see the back of my head. I replied I don’t know and even if I did, it didn’t matter. She already created the ‘appropriate’ punishment, “You’re grounded one month for each day you’re suspended, you got it? No friends, no sleepovers, no getting food, no nothing. Don’t even ask, the answer is no. You’re keeping your a** in the house for the next five months since you can’t be trusted to go somewhere. You go directly to school and you come directly home, that’s it.”
“Alright.” I found it pretty amazing how in the span of one hour, I got suspended twice. I can’t go to school and I can’t have a social life.
At first, I thought five months would be a piece of cake. This should be easy. She would only let me do things on weekends anyway, and plus this gives me an opportunity to focus on my academics. It’s only October, on April 1st I’m free to go. And besides, her punishments never last. She gives in before they’re over. I just need to keep my grades up and maybe then I can rid myself of the “suspended” label.
The days and weeks went by as expected. At first time was dragging, there was a whole lot of time but nothing to do. Swiping through netflix and seeing the red box with white letters reading ‘New Release’ was my only form of excitement. Asking around explicitly for shows with long episodes and several seasons, hoping someone had found a show worth investing my time.
I spent a good chunk of my time scrolling for hours on social media, falling down all the rabbit holes the worldwide web offers. Checking my snapchat every time I remembered with the hopes that someone replied. Turns out, teens aren’t on their phones as often as one might think.
School was the only time I could socialize with people face to face. Those eight hours a day, five times a week was the lifeline to my social life—the lifeline to my life. I longed for the school day to end but despised what leaving school meant. Leaving school meant going back to jail. Back to my prison cell where it’s just me and my devices. Literally. Back to do the same thing on a different day. Back to finish out my never ending prison sentence.
Since I had all the time in the world, I often found myself thinking. I questioned for the longest why. Why? Why THIS punishment? My mom knows I’m an extrovert, she knows I thrive off of human interaction, she knows I hate being home; hence why every opportunity to get out of the house, away from my family, I’d always go for it. Weeks passed and I finally realized my answer. You see, to effectively punish someone you must take something they value. Little did she know, taking my social life would take away her daughter.
A blink later, now it’s Christmas break. I’m a thousand miles from mother dearest in the heart of the country but in the middle of nowhere visiting my dad. He knows about the prison sentence and feels it is too long. Try telling that one to Mom. Luckily, these were my two weeks of freedom. I was allowed to do what I wanted with whom I wanted. I was allowed to see the light of day outside of mandatory break time. My father released my chains and trusted that I would do the right thing. For the first time in forever, I felt free. I felt like I was sixteen, free to be an individual. Free to actually experience things. For the first time in a long time, I felt like me.
As the saying goes, good things never last. Break comes to an end and I’m on a plane back to Manasty. New Years is right around the corner and I couldn’t care less. For some people, New years means new beginnings, the start of something new, or maybe the time for someone new to blossom. For me, New Years meant same sh*t different year. There wasn’t a “new beginning” for me. All new years presented was an opportunity for dates on my papers to be wrong.
The longer my punishment went on, the more and more I noticed the kettle began to whistle. Everyday, my internal stove was turned up hotter and hotter. Inside the kettle boiled hatred for one special person: my mother. My mother handpicked resentment from the punishment tree. One thing about prolonged resentment is it breeds hatred; the longer spices have to ferment, the stronger the taste. And take it from me, resentment is bitter.
On the days Mom got home from work late, she’d take two steps into my room saying “Hi Tori” in the squeakiest I’ve-just-seen-a-puppy voice. Anytime she’d speak to me just to talk to me, the kettle would scream for release. How can you pretend as if you did nothing wrong? As if I’m not locked away in this dungeon. As if it is not true that I’m unhappy with my life because of you. You know I’m upset with you. I do not want to speak to you, yet you continue to reach out to me expecting my attitude towards you to change.
The home stretch finally rolled around; by February, my mental health was holding on by the skin of my teeth. On the outside and to everyone, I was amazing. Scoring the highest on tests and achieving academic success. In less than a month, I would’ve served all my time, paid my fees, and be free to go. I’ll no longer be a prisoner. Except, I was dying. Everyday took more and more strength to get the simple things. Being isolated for four consecutive months weighed heavily on my mentality. Getting out of bed was a chore. Doing my hair was a chore. I did not want to wake up in the mornings because my mind was trying to die while living in a body that’s fighting to keep it alive. Do you know how exhausting it is fighting yourself? The light at the end of the tunnel wasn’t there. Looking around to see more tunnel when you’ve promised yourself the end is near leaves one hopeless and full of despair. They say there’s strength in admitting what you can’t do, and I’m admitting it to you: I can’t do this anymore.
“Mom, we need to talk.” These are probably the most words she’s heard out of me since October.
“Okay, so talk,” she said, not breaking eye contact with her iPad.
“I’m sad, Mom. I can’t do this anymore,” I paused, giving her a chance to give me her undivided attention. I needed a moment to control the squeakiness of my voice before it breaks out completely, degrading me to tears. “I’ve been trapped in this house for four, almost five months. This isn’t a way to live. It’s one thing to do it by choice, but you know this isn’t me. You’ve isolated me from everyone I know.”
“And whose fault is that?” she replied, tilting her head to the side similar to that of a dog when you ask it a foreign question. The heat from the stove erupted into fire. The kettle’s whistle turned into the loudest bone-chilling screech. Tea flew everywhere, burning me with its scorching hot contents.
I exited her room, making sure the slam was loud enough to express my frustration from her answer but just quiet enough that she can’t be mad. To her question I thought You’re the one who grounded me. Nobody told you to make it correlate to the school’s suspension in any way, shape, or form. YOU made it conform to an extension of the school’s policy. So, Mother, it is your fault.
That’s the mindset I’ve held onto for the longest. Constantly blaming my mother for my unhappiness during those five never ending months. 140 days, 20 Saturdays and Sundays, 201600 minutes of being alone. The irony of loneliness is there is someone else feeling it at the same time.
Looking back a year to when this happened, I wonder how things would have been different had I felt comfortable being vulnerable with people. Suffering in silence until I hit rock bottom is what ultimately plagued my life, but as the saying goes, the one good thing about hitting rock bottom is it’s only up from there.
To this day, I still blame her for the way I felt during my prison sentence. However, it doesn’t serve me any good to judge her actions. I can disagree with her decisions and judgement all I want but pointing the finger at someone else does not change anything. Imposing guilt or shame won’t magically change the past. I’ve realized the path back to happiness is through ownership of the trauma I’ve endured and the pain I’ve inflicted on others.