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The Vulnerable and The Rescued
NOTE: There are some parts in this story that may trigger some people. Some subjects include: death, attempted suicide, mental illnesses, and negative thoughts. The things written in here are some of many that I feel strongly about and felt the need to bring attention to.
It has always been us 4. Always. We all grew up together and made plans to do everything and go everywhere with each other. Lots of wonderful memories that I sometimes like to replay in my head like a movie. Everybody knew of us as being that inseparable group of friends. I loved it. And I thought they all did too.
When I was 5 and Harley - one of the members of the group - was 4, I moved in next door to her. We began kindergarten together and were the closest of friends for many years to come. We met Elizabeth in the 3rd grade and Terry in the 5th. The first time we all hung out was that summer. We had went to the cinema to see a cheesy pg motion picture.
“Harley, sweetie, what do you want?” asked her mother. She was one of the chaperones. We were heading towards the arcade while her mom bought us snacks and drinks. Harley ignored her. I have no idea why. But, I did know that that wasn’t very nice. I wish I could have realized that she should not have done that.
The night was so fun that we decided to make it a tradition. Every Friday we would go to the movie theater or to someone’s house to watch a film. But, we don’t do that anymore.
I feel lost. Where do I go from here? I’m 15. Still young. Everyone already seems to know what they want and like. I don’t even know what I prefer to wear. I go from one thing to the next. I get comments thrown my way often about my appearance. I agree with most of them. “Why do you dress so weirdly?” “Why are you wearing THAT?” “Why can’t you just be normal?” “Emo.” “Basic.” “Embarrassing.” That last one seems accurate. It’s embarrassing. I’M embarrassing. But what’s the big deal? Why do these things bother me? I know that it’s okay to be different. And it seems that it’s a trend to stand out. But, it doesn’t make sense. How come when someone actually has the guts to put themselves out there, they get attacked? “Being the same is boring,” they tell us. “But don’t be too different. Or else that’s just weird.”
I know these things, yet I am still affected by the unavoidable judgements that this world has forced upon me. These critical statements are tattooed into my mind. Having a neon, light up sign that says, “Open 24 Hours” hanging in the window of my store for brutal remarks isn’t a good profession. It shouldn’t be like this. I’m trapped in a pit of despair with nothing but my own self pity burying me alive.
How do I escape?
I can’t do this, I tell myself. I pace around my bathroom. I can’t keep doing this. It’s not worth it. There tears racing down my face, forming a waterfall of stickiness all down my cheeks. It hurts too much. It’s too much to bear. I don’t even know why I’m like this. Why does it keep coming back? I can’t control it. All it wants to do - all it intends to do is rip me apart piece by piece until there’s nothing left. I’m consumed by it. I am it. There is nothing left of me.
I’m so sorry, I whisper into nothing. I don’t know who I’m apologizing to. I guess just to the force that tries to keep me here. The force didn’t try hard enough. I’m sorry. I head to the cabinet hanging above the bathroom sink. I reach in and grab a bottle. The small, deadly capsules rattle inside. It’ll all be over soon.
It was cold outside. I listened to the crunching leaves under my boots. Opening the black, rot iron gate, I turned into the stone invaded land with names carved into them. Only one of them caught my attention. I sat in front of the newly placed one that was added to the collection. “In Loving Memory of Caroline Mason.” I don’t know how long I’ve been visiting my mother’s grave, but when I checked the time, I realized it was almost dinner time. Right under the numbers shown at the top of the screen was a name that I haven’t associated with in a while. I ignored the missed call. Shoving my phone back into my pocket, I wish to be back where everything was okay.
It seems like that’s all I do anymore. I just wish. I wish for things to have happened a certain way instead of how they did. I wish for things to be different. I wish for my mom to still be here. I wish, I wish, I wish. It all occurred so quickly that I didn’t have time to process it all. It seemed like distancing myself was the answer. What happened?
What happened? I keep trying to pinpoint exactly when things went wrong. All I want to do anymore is figure out why all of this had arised. We were all best friends. I never thought that any of this would result in such drastic measures. I don’t know where everyone went. I don’t know how they are doing. I don’t know a lot of things. I still want to though.
I see people with their friends all the time. Out in public, on social media, and even in my own home. My parents are always having their buddy-pal-friends over for dinner or to watch the football game, while I’m isolating myself in my room, trying to figure out what I did wrong to scare all of mine off. Today is one of those days. It’s a lot more difficult than it has been for some reason. I leave my bedroom for the first time in hours and start to walk around town. I soon reach one of my favorite places - the frozen yogurt shop. I sit at a bench outside the store after getting my usual order.
It’s not fair. Why hasn’t anyone explained? It’s like they just suddenly got up and left. HOW can someone DO that? I begin to feel angry. Angry at how everyone is too immature to just say it to my face - that they don’t want me in their lives. They don’t want me.
I didn’t even realize I was crying from all the pent up indignation until someone approached me. “Are you okay?” I look up to see a dark haired, freckle faced boy staring at me and my pathetic state. I quickly drag my sweatshirt sleeve across my face, messily and desperately erasing the evidence of weeping. Full of embarrassment, I nod my head and look back down at my now intriguingly melted frozen yogurt. Tears start swelling in my eyes again, but I try not to reveal it.
To my dismay, the strange boy takes a seat down next to me. That’s not what I wanted to happen. “Then, why are you crying?” he asks with concern overflowing in his voice. I keep my eyes locked on the assortment of floating toppings in my cup. Why am I crying? My only friends that I have and grew up with ditched me. They walked right out the door without closing it, filling the void in my heart with emptiness. I wasn’t good enough for them. I’m angry. I’m alone and have been for so long I don’t even know what it’s like to be surrounded anymore. I want to say all of these things. But not to a total stranger. I want to round up each and everyone one of them and scream in their faces about how much they had hurt me and how they screwed up my life. I want to shout in their ears that they are all that floats around in my mind aimlessly anymore when . . . I don’t want it to. I want to be done with all of this and move on. I want so badly to be okay again. But in the midst of my internal shrieking pain, I respond with, “My frozen yogurt is melted.”
The boy laughs and says, “Let me buy you a new one. Will that make you feel better?” I nod my head.
I walk into therapy class on Monday morning. It’s my first day in this class. My principle admitted me here since I’ve been going to my counselor for more than a few months now with no sign of improvement. While walking here, I swore I could feel kids boring holes in my back with their eyes. I didn’t like that attention. Walking into this classroom is like informing the whole school, “Hey! I’m a messed up child who has problems that she can’t deal with on her own!”
I take a seat in the back of the classroom. Everyone seems very comfortable here. They all are sprawled about the room talking amongst themselves.
“Alright, class. Listen up!” the teacher shouts as he makes his way up to the front of the room. “We have a new student. Her name is Elizabeth. Elizabeth, I’m Mr. Montgomery. We all look forward to having you in class with us.” He gives me a warm smile and starts his lesson. “So what we are going to do is start off the class by throwing around the ‘toss and talk’ ball.”
I look around. Everyone seems just as confused as I am. “Now, the ‘toss and talk’ ball has a bunch of questions written on it,” Mr. Montgomery starts to explain. “We will sit in a circle and toss it to each other randomly and whichever question is underneath your right thumb, will be the one you answer.”
So far, this class isn’t too bad. I try to calm down a bit more and keep an open mind. This is supposed to help you, Elizabeth, I attempt to convince myself. Just deal with it. The class gets into position, which is a slightly deformed circle. “State your name and the question you got,” the teacher points out. “Go.” He pitches it to a kid with dyed red hair.
The boy seems a little panicked that he had to go first and stammers, “Uh, um, m-my name’s Nate.” He looks at the question and the tension in his body diffuses. “I got, ‘What’s your hobby?’ I play guitar and write songs.”
The now-known-as-Nate boy throws the ball gently to the girl standing next to me. “Hi, I’m Lucy. ‘Give one thing that makes you happy.’ Umm . . .” Lucy thinks for a moment but then responds, “When people are kind towards others.”
This startles me a bit. I didn’t think someone would answer a question like that with such seriousness. About 4 more people took their turns before I was the one possessing the slightly deflated beachball marked up with smudged sharpie. I look under my thumb and read the question. “What is one thing that people do that annoys you?” I don’t answer the question immediately. There are many things that irritate me. But, are any of them worth saying out loud? Everybody else replied to their given commands thoughtfully. I can’t just say, “When my brother leaves the toilet seat up.”
“Uh,” I begin. I wish I could skip this one and pick another. But, with caution, I say, “When people put others down for standing out.” I hold the ball for a second and stare at it, until I finally toss the ball away from me. I breathe a sigh of relief. I feel a hand on my arm and look over to see that it was Lucy. She gives me an understanding smile.
After everyone has had a turn, we were instructed to head back to our seats. Mr. Montgomery stands in front of us. “Now, what we will do is give each other a piece of positive advice for the questions that they answered. Who wants to go first?”
No one dares to raise their hand. The room is filled with silence and eyes looking at each other, waiting to see who will make the sacrifice. Finally, after a couple minutes, a girl whose question was, “Why are you in this class?” slowly lifts her hand up. “Yes, thank you, Adriana,” the teacher says gratefully. “What does the class have to say about her answer?” He turns his attention to the students sitting before him.
“I think,” says the boy sitting in front of me, “she could try talking to her mom about how she feels when they argue.” Adriana looks at him. She smiles a little bit. A few more people comment and then it’s somebody else’s turn. It’s either now or never. I raise my hand in the air, trying to plant little seeds of confidence in my mind. “I would like to go.”
Everyone is quite. No one here seems to have an answer to my problem. Am I helpless? I start to lose hope of anything good coming out of this class, when Nate raises his hand. When he is called on, he turns to me. “You are your own worst enemy.”
I open my eyes. Everything is blurry. I start to panic and sit upright fast, which causes a sharp pain to pierce through my head. I feel hands on my shoulders, gently pushing me back down on the rock hard bed. My vision starts to clear up. A bland room filled with white everything is revealed to me. Why am I here? I thought I . . .
“Sweetie, you’re okay. You’re fine,” I hear a calming voice hush over me. I look to my left and see my dad standing with his soothing hands still resting on my shoulders. “You’re in the hospital. You . . .”
I don’t want him to say it out loud. “I know.”
His hands drop and he turns his head away from me. He can’t look me in the eye. I have a feeling he doesn’t want to. I don’t think things will be the same. And it’s my fault, I know that. But, I don’t want to be here. I didn’t want to stay. I can’t help but feel livid at him for not letting me leave. I can’t get away from it.
“You were talking in your sleep,” my father finally speaks. “You kept mumbling . . .”
“What was I saying?” I ask. I’m curious as to why he was bringing this up.
My dad was quiet for a small while. Then utters, “You said something about needing to leave because ‘it’ was surrounding you. I don’t know what you were so afraid of. But, you were freaking out about something not going away.”
I stiffen. Do I do this often? Is it really that bad that I can’t even escape from it in my sleep? I can feel it creeping up on me. My breath hitches and I tense up. I stare ahead of me. My father looks at me and worry consumes his face. “Sweetie, are you okay? What’s wrong? What are you looking at?” He tries to see what I see. But it’s not there. At least not in his eyes. But, I can. I’m the only one who can spot it. It follows me everywhere. “It’s here,” I mutter. I’m terrified. Why is it in my room? “Make it go away. Dad, please!” I start screaming. I try to get out of bed, but my dad holds me down. I’m sprawling around. I need to get out of here. “I can’t stay here! Please! It’s right there!”
“Nurse! Nurse, I need a nurse!” my dad shouts.
“No! I can’t stay here,” I repeat. I shriek as I feel it’s presence come closer to me. Before I know it, another pair of hands are restraining my arms and legs from moving. I keep screaming. My sight is growing faint and my throat hurts. I’m losing my energy. I slowly stop moving all at once and darkness fogs my vision.
“It has me, dad. . . . Help me. . .”
When I arrive back home, my dad is snoring on the couch with a couple of beer bottles knocked over on the floor next to him, and another on his bloated stomach. I sigh and grab them, throwing them in the recycling bin. I run up to my room and lock the door, figuring he won’t be the most pleasant person when he wakes up.
Ever since my mother’s death, my father hasn’t been . . . my father. Instead, stood in his place is a drunkard who looks like him. And in my mother’s place is me, cleaning up after him. Things shouldn’t have turned out like this. It wasn’t supposed to get this paralyzing. It seems like time has stopped, just like she did.
I stare at my phone screen where the same name I had ignored earlier still remains. I debate whether or not to call back. I secluded myself from everything and everyone. There’s too much going on right now. I don’t want to make others around me be dragged down to the same state of mind that I’m stuck in. I wouldn’t do that to someone. It would make me just as vile as my father.
But, will I ever be ready to face anyone again? I find myself pressing the call button without my mind’s permission. I listen to the rings repeat themselves over and over until they stop after the 4th one. It’s quiet on the other person’s end. Then, I hear her voice. It sounds deeper and raspier than I remember it to be. It doesn’t sound like her. “Hello?”
I take a deep breathe. “Hey.” More silence. I felt like bawling. I know i’ve been ignoring her. She knows i’ve been ignoring her. I bite my lip to keep from crying out uncontrollably. I feel that if I open my mouth, all that will come out is a wail of all the emotions i’ve been inundating in for the past 6 months.
We don’t speak for a while. And I didn’t care. It was just comforting to know that she was still there. Finally, I swallow the lump in my throat. “Erica?”
She doesn’t answer right away. But, as soon as she does, she snaps back, “What do you want? Why did you call me?”
Why did I call her? “Um . . .”
“You know, you have a lot of nerve to.”
Silence. I don’t know what to say. I should not have called. But, I couldn’t help myself.
“I guess I just wanted to tell you that my mom . . . She passed away a few months ago, so . . .”
No one talked. Then, I made the move. “I’m sorry . . . I know I don’t deserve your forgiveness. But you deserve an explanation.” I pause to see if she will say anything. She doesn’t. “She died three months after school started. That’s why I avoided you guys. I didn’t -”
“You can’t just do that,” she interrupts. “You can’t isolate yourself like that. Especially when something like this happens.”
“I know, I know. But, I couldn’t help it. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t want to make you guys just as miserable as me. It wouldn’t be fair and -”
“No, what wouldn’t be fair is not telling any of us what happened. We- I thought you just dropped off the edge of the earth. Like you decided that it was best to leave just like that. You know, being a friend is when their problems become your problems because you care about them. And you don’t want them to go through it alone. You shouldn’t have to do that. No one deserves to. I was your friend, Harley.”
I don’t know what else to say. Apologizing isn’t going to do anything. The simple words “I’m sorry” seem too pathetic to use. There was more absence of sound. Then, I hear Erica sigh slightly. “How are you holding up?”
To be completely honest, I’m using scotch tape to try to keep little pieces of me from falling out of place. I was just about to say, “I’m doing fine,” but that would be a complete and utter lie that is so unbelievable that Erica would probably get angry at me all over again. I decide against that rotten idea and instead reply with, “My dad is drinking.” I had to tell her eventually.
All is quiet until she suggests, “Do you want to stay at my house for a while?”
I thought about it. If I did, would I tell my dad or not? If I would inform him about this, then he either would forbid me to or not. If he did grant me permission and I go, then that will put not only me, but Erica and her family in danger. And if I don’t tell him, then I feel like I wouldn’t be able to live with that. He’s still my father in some odd way . . .
“Thanks,” I say, coming to a conclusion. “But, I wouldn’t feel comfortable doing that. I don’t know how he would react if I told him or not. And I’m not about to get my . . . friend THAT involved.” I was cautious about throwing “friend” in there.
She sighs. I can tell Erica is irritated about this. But, I’m sticking with my decision. I’ll be fine. And I think we will be okay too.
I found out frozen-yogurt-boy’s name is Trevor. Trevor is nice. But I don’t want to get attached to anyone anymore. Not again. It’s hard to when all you have ever been stuck to like a leech just rips you out of their lives. I’m meeting him again, though. He wanted to make sure that I am okay now.
I am back at the same frozen yogurt shop, sitting on the same bench. I’m alone again. I don’t want to be. It’s like I’m afraid to be with people, but I’m also scared of getting stuck in the same quicksand that I am just climbing out of after months of slowly being swallowed up by it.
I see Trevor approaching our spot. He plops down next to me on the wobbly bench. We don’t talk until he asks, “How are you doing?”
I don’t know, Trevor. I’m frightened. I don’t know why. I don’t know what has been going on lately. I lost 3 friends. I gained one. Then I gained another one back. But you know what I lost that I probably won’t attain? My ability to trust again. And I don’t like it. This is not hide-and-seek. My friends and normal human capability can come out now. I give up. I can’t find them. So, I don’t know, Trevor.
I settle on just responding with a simple, “better.” Because that’s true. I feel better. But I need to know something. “Have you ever lost some people that you really care about?”
He looks at me with a bit of shock plastered on his face, as if he didn’t think I thought about this kind of stuff. Well, news flash, buddy. It’s all my mind wonders about. “How do you deal with it?”
He squints his eyes as he ponders my random question. “Well,” he begins. “How do you deal with it? If there is an official way, then I would love for someone to teach me. But, from what I know, there isn’t. You have to cope with things however you are able to.”
I take this in. “But . . . How do you move on?”
This time he takes longer to answer. “I don’t know, Erica. Like I said, there is no specific technique that you can use to avoid getting hurt. And no matter what you do, it’s going to affect you in some way. But, you can choose how you react. You can select whether or not you will grow from that situation.” He looks at me and sighs a little bit. It seems like he is trying to decipher the code that will tell him exactly what to say. “Listen, I don’t know what you had recently gone through. But, I can tell you that when you are ready to move on, you’ll know.”
When I was talking with Harley yesterday on the phone, I realized something. You know how you can tell who your real friends are? By searching to see which ones listen. Your friends problems are your problems, I told Harley. Trevor listened to me. Harley listened to me. I know who to stick with. I know who to move on from. I know now. I understand.
I’m not alone anymore.
“You are your own worst enemy.” That quote has been imprinted in my mind for weeks now. I remind myself this everyday. I even took a day to evaluate what it truly meant. And I have come to this conclusion: you are the only one who has a valid say about yourself. If you are the one who shot at yourself first, if you are the one who allowed others’ comments to affect you, then it is you who is against you. It’s a you vs. yourself problem. If you are self-conscious about what you look like that day or who you are or if you should say this-or-that, then that is your own fault because by doing that then you are already making yourself vulnerable to everything else that those ignorant slaves-to-society have to say.
It’s an ongoing battle with yourself. Everything leads back to you. But, it takes time. It takes time to build hope. You are the only one who can do that. And I’m still learning that.
You are your own worst enemy.
I wake up in a different room. Different sounds surround me. Different environments engulf me. I look out the small window on the door out to the hallway. It’s open just a crack. I see my dad and immediately feel the urge to run to him. I’m petrified. I don’t know where I am or why I’m here. I get up out of the bed and make my way to the door. When I hear him talking, I stop in my tracks.
“I don’t know why she burst out like that. It has never happened before. At least, not in front of me,” he declares.
“Has she experienced any strange visions under your watch? Has she ever stared off randomly?” questions an unfamiliar voice. Who is my father talking to?
“No, not that I know of. She sometimes would stare, though. But it was never like . . . this.”
“We are going to have to run some tests on her but I’m just predicting slight psychosis. She is going to have to stay in our institution for a while until we know exactly what is going on and . . .”
That’s all I heard. That’s all I could listen to. I wasn’t focusing on them anymore. My attention was drawn to the fact that they think I’m crazy. A psychopath. I don’t see things. I feel it’s presence. And it won’t leave me alone. It seems to be lurking in every corner. I suddenly can’t move. “It’s back,” I whisper. “It’s here.” I feel the overwhelmingly unwanted company of the monster that is controlling me. My life. I can’t function correctly.
All I can do is scream.
Sometimes you can’t be saved.
I want to apologize. I want to apologize to my mom and to my friends. I don’t know where most of my previous companions are right now. But, I hope they are doing alright. I hope they won’t make the same mistakes as me. I hope they realize that they cannot think that distancing yourself from people when you are dealing with strifes is one of the worst punishments you can give yourself and others. I hope my mom knew that I didn’t mean to be insolent when she was here. I hope she knew that I loved her, even if I didn’t show it. I hope.
But, I also would like to forgive my dad.
When I came home from school, his breath smelled of alcohol and hate. He looked at me with such disgust that I knew that if I did leave to stay with Erica without telling him, he wouldn’t care. He spat in my face and spilled out his slurred words, “You’re the reason you’re mother is dead.” I forgive him for saying that.
I might not ever feel the same after all of this. I may not be the same exact person. But, I hope that that’s alright. I hope.
Because it’s okay not to be okay.
Note: The whole point behind this story was to raise some sort of awareness of just some of the problems that young teenagers go through when in the process of growing up. Some even go unnoticed while dealing with said problems when now is the time that they need the most support. Teenagers tend to isolate themselves when experiencing difficult trials in their lives and that’s the pattern shown throughout this story. The reason why this group of friends had split was because they all did not see the need to inform anyone that they were having a hard time with something. Each of them had resulted in their own, personal ways. Another thing that I want to point out is what "it" is supposed to refer to when reading about Terry. "It" is supposed to resemble all sorts of mental illnesses that people today suffer from - depression, anxiety, etc. I wanted to make "it" seem like the every day challenges that we all face. Except in Terry's case, she was not able to handle it all and became terrified by it all - imagining that "it" was all a person that she could not get away from. Also, the last sentence of the story, “It’s okay not to be okay,” is what draws everything together and is sort of the main idea because that is also a point that people - not just teenagers - have to realize. Many individuals are influenced by society to have a perfect, happy life, when the reality of it all is that it is impossible. It is impossible to not go through a variety of tragedies when living in this world today. But it is only up to you to choose how you will react - will you accept it or let it take over you?