Bones and white powder
The sky was clouded with large, grey formations of cotton, but through gaps in the clouds, you could see pieces of black velvet, covered in gleaming diamonds, as if someone had scattered a stunning puzzle across the night sky.
My breath made the window foggy, as I leaned in closer. The first snow of the newborn year was falling heavily, and the ground was already covered in a thick layer of white powder.
Looks like cocaine, I thought to myself, incapable of holding back a laugh. People often told me I had a rather dark sense of humor; perhaps they were right. I wished the snow had actually been cocaine, wouldn’t have minded snorting some of it in that moment.
The music downstairs was loud enough for me to hear it even up here, the bass thundering through the floor. I closed my eyes and tried to focus on breathing. In and out. In and out. I wasn’t very fond of parties - too many people, too much noise, too much… well everything. Why had I agreed to host this party again? I had to get some more alcohol or even better: Drugs. Getting high or drunk always seemed to lessen the anxiety. Sometimes it even made me a rather social and talkative person.
I turned my back to the window, left my room and went downstairs to my party, slightly dizzy as I walked down the stairs.
Downstairs, everything was chaos. The polished wooden floors were covered in confetti and alcohol, people were shouting and running around and someone was lying face down on one of mom’s expen-sive carpets. She looked unconscious. I sighed - I would take her home, but it would have to wait until the morning - right now, I was desperate to get high. I would carry her up to my bed first though, so no one would do something… well unpleasant to her. I wouldn’t be using it anyway, I didn’t count on sleeping.
Teddy was sitting on dad’s beloved piano, holding an upside-down vodka bottle pressed to his lips, some girl sitting on his lap. He removed the bottle from his lips, made a funny face, which made the girl laugh, saw me across the room and shouted: “Hey, Matt, you need to get drunk or something dude, you’re so damn boring at parties, when you’re sober!”
I scoffed, smiling slightly as I walked toward him. “Why thank you” I said wryly, still smiling.
“Do you know if anyone has some LSD or coke? Anything to get me high really, I’ll pay if I have to.”
“Well, I think Amanda has some, but what do you have to offer?” Teddy said, winking. The girl laughed again.
I narrowed my eyes, trying to ignore the chaos of sounds and other impressions around me.
“Fucking money, Teddy” I answered, a little colder than I intended. I didn’t share Teddy’s love for cas-ual, drunk party-sex with random people.
“Relax dude” Teddy laughed, getting off the piano, apparently forgetting about the girl on his lap, who nearly fell. “December has some LSD left, I think.”
Of course December had some, she always had. She shouldn’t be here at all, I thought, the guilt gnawing in my chest. She’s only 14. I hadn’t even invited her, but someone had obviously taken the freedom of doing it for me, and I didn’t have the heart to kick her out now. She was probably high and besides, I wanted her drugs, which she would probably give me for free.
“I’ll just carry this girl upstairs” I said, pointing to the girl, still lying unconscious on the floor. “Then I’ll go find December and get high, so I can be a funnier host.”
“Always the gentleman,” Teddy said, grinning broadly as he punched my shoulder. I smiled back, nod-ding. Freddy played the role of a fuck-boy from time to time, but he was a good guy, and he would nev-er hurt anyone.
Groaning slightly, I lifted the girl. She was a lot lighter, than I had expected, and I nearly fell backward. Looking at her, I realized that she was very skinny. Her bones were way too visible beneath her pale, almost transparent skin, she had dark circles under her eyes, as if someone had punched her, and she was very cold. Worried, I held a finger to hear throat. Her heartbeat was a little fast and irregular, but it seemed okay and she was breathing well enough. She was quite pretty really, I noticed, with fine features and hair dyed pastel blue.
I started trembling with anxiety, as I carried her up the stairs, feeling the cold sweat on my back and forehead. I needed some drugs, and soon.
I placed her carefully in my bed, pulled a blanket over her and went downstairs again to find December.
She was outside, sitting in the snow, not moving.
I sat down beside her, but she didn’t even turn her head to look at me. I was unsure, as to whether she had even noticed me, until she spoke in a soft, distracted voice.
“Look at the snowflakes, Matt, aren’t they beautiful? Look at them dancing, around and around.”
The snowflakes weren’t dancing at all. December was high as a kite.
“December, you’ll catch a cold if you stay out here in the snow” I said, taking her by the shoulders and shaking her slightly.
“Oh no” she said, smiling, her eyes staring blankly into the night. “It’s very warm.”
I shook my head and pulled her to her legs, grabbing her as she swayed wildly.
“Come on, let’s go inside now, Teddy said you had some LSD left?”
She nodded, still smiling and followed me inside willingly.
I stared at the small LSD stamp December had given me for a moment, before swallowing. I tapped my foot impatiently on the floor, waiting for the drug to kick in. I was still trembling, it was getting worse by the minute, and I could feel a panic attack drawing nearer.
When the drug finally kicked in, everything started twisting and all the colors became extremely bright; hell, I could even see new colors. It was all like… a fairytale. I felt warm and confident, ecstatic really and I couldn’t help but laugh manically to myself. The anxiety was completely gone.
Everything was dark. I was calm and safe, buried deep in soft, black velvet. No sounds, no feelings, no people. But then something broke through the surface, a pounding pain, a high pinched sound, a harsh stench, ripping at my nose.
I tried to resist, desperate to stay safe and alone in the darkness, but the noise, the stench, the pain kept pulling me, up and out, until my head broke through the surface, and the world exploded in noise and stench and the pounding pain in the back of his head. My eyes burned as I opened them, and for a few minutes, the world was just a blur of washed out colors and shapes.
When everything finally came back into focus, I found myself lying face-down on the floor, which was covered in broken flasks and confetti. The horrible stench ripping at my nose, originated from the pool of vomit I was lying in. I assumed it was my own.
The world tilted sideways as got to my feet, and I had to wait for another couple minutes, before the pain in my head had lessened enough to allow me to walk.
Teddy was snoring loudly on the couch, and some guy was sleeping in dad’s favorite leather chair, shirtless.
“Hey Teddy, wake up!” I yelled, kicking him. He jumped in shock and hit the floor with a half groan half shriek.
“Dude!” he growled, rubbing his head and looking rather disorientated, as he got to his feet. His eyes were red and bloodshot, his pupils still dilated.
“What the hell did you take last night?” I asked, turning away from him and walking up the stairs, with quite a lot of difficulty.
“I don’t know” Teddy said, I could almost hear him shrugging, the way he always did, when someone asked him something he didn’t really give a shit about.
“Not as much as you did, obviously, you should see yourself Matt, you look like fucking hell!”
I ignored him, made my way up the last step and opened the door to my room.
The skinny girl from yesterday was either still unconscious or sleeping quite heavily. I sat down beside her, took her by the bony shoulders, once again shocked by how visible her bones were through her paper-like skin, and shook her gently. She opened her eyes a little, mumbled something I didn’t catch, and sank back into sleep.
Not unconscious then, I thought with relieved. I better find out where she lives, so I can take her home.
“Teddy!” I called over my shoulder.
“Yeah” he shouted from down the hall, his footsteps drawing nearer until he entered the room.
“Do you know who she is?” I asked, nodding to the girl.
“Sure” he said kneeling beside me, looking at the sleeping girl. “That’s Elsa Rivers, she just moved here.”
I opened my mouth to ask, how he knew her, but closed it again. Teddy knew all the girls.
“Do you know where she lives?” I asked, carefully pressing my palm to her forehead. She was so cold. So pale, so skinny. Something was wrong.
Teddy nodded. “She lives on my street, I’ll take you, you’re sure as hell not driving anywhere.”
Teddy was right. As he carried Elsa down to my car, I went to the bathroom to splash some water in my face. The creature staring back at me from the mirror looked more like a zombie than a human being. My otherwise bright, ocean blue eyes were even more red and bloodshot than Teddy’s and my pupils even bigger. I was pale as a ghost, had vomit around my mouth and in my tousled, night black hair, and my hands were shaking so badly, I could barely brush my teeth. It helped to get rid of the taste of vomit.
I yanked my sweater, which was also covered in vomit and something that smelled like vodka, over my head and just stood there, staring at my naked upper body for a while. My chest, arms and wrists were covered in more scars, bandages, cuts and burns, than anyone could count.
I turned my back to the scarred zombie in the mirror with disgust, put on a black hoodie and went downstairs to meet Teddy, who was waiting in the car.
We drove in silence. Or rather; I was silent, and Teddy was talking. Teddy was always talking, I some-times wondered if he was even capable of shutting up. Sometimes it was nice, because I could always hold a conversation with Teddy - he could always come up with something to say. But today, when my head was pounding, it was annoying as fuck.
When we pulled up to Elsa’s house, Teddy finally closed his mouth. He carried Elsa out of the car, and we walked up to the front door. I rang the bell, and in what felt like a matter of seconds, a woman opened the door.
Her eyes were all puffy and red, her hair a mess, and it was clear, that she had been crying and definitely not sleeping.
“Elsa!” She ran past me, as if she didn’t even notice I was there, and threw herself into Teddy’s arms, hugging both him and her daughter, sobbing softly with relief. Teddy stood frozen, a baffled expression on his face, which made him look so incredibly stupid, I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing. Teddy hardly ever looked even close to baffled, and I couldn’t help but enjoy the situation.
“Is she okay?” Elsa’s mom whispered, stroking her daughter’s pastel blue hair.
“She’ll be fine” I said. “She was passed out last night, but I let her sleep in my bed, um without me of course” I added hastily, “And she seems okay now, just sleeping heavily.”
“Thank God…” Mrs. Rivers whispered and suddenly lunching herself into my arms. My entire body trembled, as I put my arms carefully around her body, which was shaking with sobs, and I had to bite my tongue hard to keep from pushing her away. I wasn’t very fond of hugging, especially people I didn’t really know.
“Thank you!” she mumbled into my shoulder. “Thank you so much, you kind, kind boys.”
“That’s alright Mrs. Rivers” I said, taking a step back, still shaking all over, and biting my lip, trying to control the anxiety. The bitter, metallic taste of blood filled my mouth.
“Mrs. Rivers” I said slowly, hesitating. “Don’t get me wrong, but… Is there something wrong with your daughter? I mean, is she ill in some way?”
Mrs. Rivers nodded, tears welling up in her eyes once again. “Anorexic” she said, wiping the tears off her cheeks with her sleeves. “Oh we shouldn’t have let her go that party, I know we shouldn’t have, we just wanted her to get to know some people.”
“It’s not your fault” Teddy said, patting her shoulder kindly. Mrs. Rivers invited us inside for coffee, still crying a little, but we smiled politely and said it would have to be another day.
Teddy carried Elsa into the house, while I waited outside, trying to calm myself down.
Mrs. River’s reaction says a lot about, what usually happens to girls, who don’t come home, I thought to myself, as we walked back to the car.
The afternoon came with more headaches and therefore more aspirin. I spend the most of the day cleaning the house, which took forever, and smoking more cigarettes than I could count.
Around 4pm, I was to babysit this kid, Zachary, down the street. I figured I’d better take a shower first and try to freshen myself up a bit. His parents probably wouldn’t like it, if I showed up looking like a strung out raccoon.
As I stepped into the shower, the fresh cuts burned like hell, as the steaming hot water washed over me. The panic attack came suddenly, unprovoked. My chest and stomach felt as if they were filled with ice water, and the anxiety got a hold of my throat, like a bony, clammy skeleton-hand, as if Death himself was trying to strangle me.
I chocked on my own lungs, gasping for air, my entire body shaking uncontrollably. My trembling legs gave in underneath me, as I collapsed, back against the cold wall. One arm wrapped tightly around my chest, I fumbled for the razorblade. My hand closed around it, the sharp edges cutting into my palm.
I closed my eyes, feeling the blade sinking deeply into my lower arm, digging into flesh and veins.
I buried myself in the pain, and the anxiety loosened its grip, the cold left my chest, for a complete, silent emptiness.
When I showed up at Zachary’s house, I looked at lot more, well… normal. I had combed my hair and put on a clean, blue shirt, jeans and some concealer, to hide the shadows beneath my eyes.
Zach’s dad was just leaving, and Zach; a 6-year-old, blond kid with large, deep blue eyes, greeted me in the doorway with a hug. I chuckled happily - being around kids always brightened my mood.
They were so happy, so innocent; still allowed in the magical kingdom of childhood.
As the sun set behind the treetops in the horizon, painting the slowly darkening sky in all shades of gold, flaming orange and pink, we sat on the swings in Zach’s backyard; swinging slowly back and forth, back and forth, while eating the candy I had brought.
“I know what those are,” Zach said suddenly, as he reached out, gently running his fingertips over the scars on my wrist. I hadn’t realized my sleeve had crawled up my arm.
“You have them because you’re an angel.”
“Oh yeah?” I said curiously, looking at him with my head tilted in confusion. “How do you figure that, Zach?”
The kid bit his lip, lowering his glance to the grass beneath his feet. “Well, my mom told me that people with marks like those are angels, who are homesick.”
I couldn’t help but smile. “Your mom must be wise,” I said softly.
Zach nodded, a proud smile curling his lips. “Yeah. She’s an angel too,” his smile faded.
“She’s home now though.” He looked up at me, his piercing blue eyes shining with tears.
“You’ll go home someday too, I know you will. But… won’t you please stay a little longer than she did?”
I pulled Zach into a tight hug, kissing his hair, as tears rolled down my cheeks. “Of course I will, Zach… I will, I promise.”
I ended up crying myself to sleep that night.
The demands of a sick mind
Mom and dad’s shining black Rolls Royce parked in the driveway Monday morning at exactly 07:45am, the gravel crackling beneath its tires. They had told me they’d be home at this hour, and my parents really liked to be punctual, almost more than they liked expensive things, vine, business trips and bragging about my grades.
I greeted them in the door way, hugging mom and nodding at dad with a forced smile. Mom was carry-ing a heavy-looking Luis Viton back, dad their two stuffed suitcases and a bag with presents, wrapped in shinning wrapping paper.
“Hi honey, did you have a nice weekend?” mom said in a twitter, as she walked past me into the living room, her high heels clacking rhythmically against the wooden floors.
“Didn’t throw any parties, did you Matthew?” dad said, chuckling. I forced a laugh, shaking my head. My parents would never expect something like that from their perfect little boy with his straight A’s.
“We brought presents,” mom said excitedly, looking at me, as if she halfway expected me to jump up and down, clapping my hands. I forced my lips to form a broad grin, trying my hardest to look excited.
Dad lowered his glance to my band t-shirt, frowning, his mouth twisting critically. I held back a heavy sigh, knowing the words, which were about to leave his mouth, by heart.
“Matthew for God’s sake, couldn’t you put on some decent clothe for once? Always this band t-shirt and leather jacket, you look like you want to be thrown out of school, son” he said disapprovingly.
“Now, now George,” mom broke him off with a soothing smile. “Leave the boy alone now, he’s gonna be late for school.
“But Helen-“dad said, then closed his eyes, too tired for an argument. I send my mom a grateful smile; threw my back over my shoulder and left the warm house in favor of the cold, frosty January morning outside.
The bus was as crowded as always, but Summer had saved me a seat. She always did.
“Hi, Matt” she said cheerfully, throwing her arms around my neck, a broad smile spread across her face. I smiled back, hugging her tight for a few seconds. Summer was by far the happiest person I knew. Granted, most of the people I knew were terribly sad. Summer was upbeat, kind, empathetic and had the most wonderful, childish laugh. Actually she was more or less a child in a teenager’s body, and I loved her for it.
Sadly, Summer was far from happy all the time. She could go from being the happiest person I knew, to being one of the saddest. The catch of being bipolar, I supposed. She was on a lot of medication, again just like almost everyone I knew, but there was only so much they could do for her. She was almost always optimistic though, and I admired her deeply for it.
Summer talked enthusiastically the entire way to school. I smiled and nodded, adding short comments here and there. It wasn’t that I wasn’t listening, but I had never been very good at conversations, even with my closest friends. Summer understood this and didn’t mind, she just talked. Another thing I loved her for.
According to my new schedule, school started with math. That was a relief. I was quite good at math, and it was a good distraction from the whirling thoughts in my head.
As usual, I stood outside the door 10 minutes before class started. Despite what a lot of people thought, when they first met me, I had only been late once in my entire left, and that had nearly left me in tears. Being late meant attention from the other students and the teacher, and I could not stand being the center of attention.
I had math with Teddy, but I knew that he would most likely be at least five minutes late. Contrary to me, Teddy loved being the center of attention.
Teddy was very skilled at math as well. Once again contrary to, what you’d think, when you first met him, Teddy got straight A’s. That was, when he decided to actually hand in his assignments.
When Teddy finally showed up, five minutes late as I had predicted, he sat down next to me, smiling.
“Jesus dude, I was so hung over yesterday, had to pretend I was sick,” he said, grinning broadly.
I rolled my eyes in disbelieve. “I cannot believe your parents keep believing you, Theodore.”
Teddy made a funny face. “Don’t fucking call me that, Matthew” he growled, and I laughed.
Math was over quickly - Teddy and I finished the assignment first as usual, and Mr. Morgan let us leave early. Teddy and I were his favorite students; particularly me, since I always handed in all of my as-signments.
As we walked down the hallway to the cafeteria, some guy, whose name I didn’t recall, punch me on the shoulder. “A little gay are you, Matt?” he said laughing.
“Shut the fuck up, Justin!” Teddy growled angrily. He looked like he wanted to punch the guy right in his stupid face.
“Forget it, Teddy” I mumbled, trying not to look at the guy.
“What was that about?” I asked when we had put a little distance between ourselves and Justin.
Teddy frowned. “Don’t worry too much about it, Matt” he said. “But apparently a lot of people have been calling you gay, because you let Elsa sleep in your bed without… you know, fucking her.”
I scoffed: “Well whatever, I would much rather be called gay than a rapist.”
Summer, Daniel and December joined us in the cafeteria for lunch break. To my surprise, Elsa was with them. She still looked sick; the bones way too visible beneath her pale skin, her eyes circled by dark shadows, but at least she looked at bit more alive, than she had at the party.
As we sat down at our usual table in the corner, I looked around at my friends and couldn’t help but smile. My hands trembled slightly, and I nearly dropped my apple. People were filling into the cafeteria; so many voices, so many feet upon the worn linoleum floor. So much noise.
I bit my lip, hard enough to taste blood and took a deep breath. Everything but my friends and the green apple in my hand slit out of focus. I had a tendency to do this, when the anxiety got bad; space out and just focus on the little details close to me, trying to describe them to myself. I had learned this exercise in therapy, and if I wasn’t having a full blown anxiety attack, it actually helped quite well.
Daniel was sitting across the table from me. He was a year younger than me and Teddy; a rather hand-some boy with fine features; pale, smooth skin; messy golden blonde hair and bright, green eyes. He was wearing a black sweater, skinny jeans and a green scarf, matching his eyes.
Summer was sitting next to him. She was in the same year; a short, curvy girl with long, strawberry blonde curls and large, amber eyes. Summer always looked as if she had been spending all day in the sun; her skin slightly brown and freckled. She also looked as if she should have been born in the 60’es, with her indie clothes and peace signs.
December was the youngest; frail of statue, with smooth, milky white skin and long, snow white hair braided down one side. She had large, icy blue eyes, which always had the looked of an animal on the run.
Elsa was in the same year as me and Teddy: Pretty much a walking skeleton, but with fine, almost frag-ile features; large, sapphire blue eyes and shining, pastel blue hair braided down one side like Decem-ber’s.
And then, last but not least, Teddy of course. He had been my best friend since kindergarten, and though we had never had all that much in common, we had been inseparable since then. Teddy was tall and fit, with smooth, tan skin; messy dark brown hair and large, chocolate brown eyes. His lips were always curled up into a crooked smile, and he constantly had this childish, playful look in his eyes.
We all had a long day school, but most of our group left early. When our last period finally arrived, Summer and I were the only ones left. I was there, because I didn’t dare to leave early, and Summer was there, because she was feeling really well.
We had Spanish together, and Summer was kind enough to meet up with me 10 minutes before class started. It was nice, not to be standing outside the door alone for once.
I really had to force myself to focus through Spanish class. The lesson itself was okay; our teacher Miss. Love was really nice and her classes were always interesting, but my mind was just about worn down by now, and the anxiety was making my head swim.
Summer’s soft voice, constantly talking to me through the group assignment, which we did together, helped soothe the anxiety a little. Her amazingly almost ecstatic happiness was rather contagious.
When I finally got home from school, I felt beyond drained. Unfortunately, I did not have time to rest; I had to do all of my homework and to make matters worse, I had to do them to an A+. Mom and Dad did not exactly help. As soon as I walked through the door, they showered me in questions about school, homework and worst of all: College.
Sleeping had been one of my biggest problems, for as long as I could remember. Before I was diagnosed with my anxiety disorder and insomnia, and my doctor prescribed my sleeping pills and anxiety medication, I would drink almost 2 full liters of coffee a day, just to stay awake.
When my days finally came to an end, I would often lie awake for hours, staring at the cracks in ceiling, my thoughts swirling out of control. I even had the occasional panic attack.
Today, I decided to take a combination of my anxiety meds and sleeping pills. Knocked me straight out.
Shadows in her eyes, voices in her head and blood on her wrists
They’re all staring at me. Piercing, ice blue eyes. Blood red lips. They’re all wearing white masks, drawing closer, closer.
I try to breathe, but the air gets stuck in my lungs. I choke, heart pumping, hands shaking. Anxiety tight-ens its grip around my throat.
“Just open up to us,” they say in unison, voices sweet as honey. “You’ll feel so much better, we promise.”
“Just show us, what’s inside.”
I tighten my grip around the blade in my hand, the sharp metal cutting into my palm. It’s worth a shot.
The blade cuts deep into my stomach, deeper, deeper. I pull down, can’t feel any pain. Entrails and blood spill out onto the floor with a splashing sound.
They scream, covering their faces and mouths. Some even vomit.
“But-“I whisper in confusion, as they turn around and run. “You told me to open up…”
Sunlight filtered through the darkness, creating patterns of shadows and light behind my eyelids.
I squinted, slightly disoriented. What day is it? Where am I? What time is it?
I opened my eyes, blinking as the sunlight spilling through the curtains blinded me momentarily.
Turning my attention to the digital alarm clock on the bed stand next to me, my blood suddenly felt more like ice water. 09:32am - Tuesday. Class had started more than an hour ago.
I sat as if frozen for a few minutes, the panic rising, my heart beating violently. My head felt completely empty.
When I finally got out of bed, I dressed faster than ever before, simply throwing on the first things I could find. I ran down the stairs, but had to run back up, as I forgot my school back. I threw in my lap-top and a few books, oddly enough not able to remember, which subjects I had on Tuesdays.
I left the house without breakfast, grabbed my mountain bike in the driveway and rode it as fast as possible, my entire body shaking with anxiety and adrenalin.
When I finally arrived at the school, sweaty and panting, the first class had already ended. I was on the verge of tears, as I walked to the cafeteria and joined the others, at our usual table.
Summer looked up, relief in her amber eyes. “Matt!” she exclaimed, smiling broadly. “We were so wor-ried about you; you never miss class without calling in sick.”
“Usually you show up even if you’re sick, dude, what happened?” Teddy added, a teasing smile curling his lips.
I sat down next to Elsa, still shaking slightly. “Overslept…” I mumbled.
Teddy patted my back; “It’s okay dude, the teachers know you never miss class on purpose.”
I nodded, trying to calm down and convince myself that Teddy was right.
“Hey, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, right?” Summer said, sending me an encouraging smile. I scoffed.
“No. What doesn’t kill you ruins your lungs, leaves scars and keeps you up till 4am wishing you were dead.” I wasn’t exactly in the mood for optimism.
I forgot about my own anxiety for a moment, when my eyes found December, who was sitting across from me, next to Summer. She looked downright sick: Pale as a ghost, her hands trembling, dark circles under her eyes, which were distant. Her lower lip was chapped and bloody.
I caught Summer’s eyes. She looked just as worried as I felt.
December often looked bad, but today somehow seemed worse. She jerked from time to time, fear in her icy blue eyes. I knew all too well what that meant: The voices and hallucinations were bad today.
My worry increased, and a cold fear began to fill my chest. Something bad was gonna happen, I could feel it.
English class was next. As I had not had time to go to the bathroom in the morning, I asked for a hall pass. Most of our teachers liked me, because I was quiet and got straight A’s, and our English teacher, who had the ironic name Gerald O’Hara, was no exception.
He granted me the hall pass; no questions asked.
I accidently entered the girl’s restroom, lost in my own head, and was about to leave, when I heard whispering.
“Shh, shh… please. Not enough room, not enough room…” Then singing in a low hoarse voice: “All the voices in my head will be quite when I’m dead,” over and over again.
“December?” I called, a bad feeling rising in my chest. I pulled the handle, but the door remained locked.
“December, open the door!” I said loudly, panic in my voice now. She didn’t answer.
I wasn’t sure how, but I managed to kick the door in. Maybe it was the adrenalin, caused by the fear.
I stopped dead, my heart skipping several beats. The white tiles on the floor were covered in blood, flowing in thick, red streams from deep cuts on the insides of both her elbows. Her eyes were blurred, halfway closed. She had already lost a lot of blood.
“December,” I whispered, my voice breaking, as I kneeled down in front of her.
“My head was meant for one, Matt” she whispered in a weak voice, opening her eyes slightly.
“Not fucking 10. I need to make the noise stop, I need it to be quite again and there’s only one way.”
I fumbled with my phone, pressing 911, my hands trembling.
“Hang on I whispered,” squeezing her limp hand, as the phone rang.
“It’s an emergency” I halfway shouted into the phone. “My friend has tried to kill herself; she has lost a lot of blood, please hurry!”
After telling them the address, I nearly dropped my phone, as December suddenly pressed her lips against mine. I froze for a moment, then pushed her away carefully, staring at her in utter confusion.
Her eyes were starting to roll back in her head. “Don’t you want me, Mat?” she mumbled in a slurred voice.
“I’m asexual, December, I told you that already,” I said softly. “Besides, you’re almost four years young-er than me.”
She nodded slowly, then lunched herself into my arms, shivering violently. I put my arms around her, as she sobbed in to my shoulder.
The bible says Adam and Eve
December was in the hospital for over a month, before they released her to out-patient treatment.
She didn’t come back to school though. It was odd, seeing her empty chair in the cafeteria. Even those, who didn’t really know her, kept staring at it.
My parents preferred to mention the whole thing as ‘the incident’ - in fact they preferred not to talk about it at all. In general, my parents didn’t really like talking about uncomfortable things.
Every day, I took the bus home from school, with this guy named Cody, who was in my year. He was a handsome, but rather shy boy, with large, dark almond eyes. Every day Cody and I took the bus togeth-er, and every day Cody ran from the bus to his house to make sure, his little sister December had not committed suicide.
We were not allowed to visit December in the hospital, and she was home for a week, before her par-ents let us visit her. When we finally did, I ended up wishing we hadn’t.
I had seen December high, drunk, psychotic. I had seen on her worst days. But nothing could have pre-pared me for what I saw, when I walked down the stairs to her room in the basement. She didn’t even look like a human being anymore. Her skin was milky white and wax like; she had lost a lot of weight and was almost as skinny as Elsa now; her snow white hair was falling out, and she smelled like she hadn’t showered in days. But the worst was her eyes. There was no life left in them. She saw right through us, didn’t answer when we talked to her, and jerked away, when Summer tried to hug her.
Even Teddy couldn’t force a smile on his face after a few minutes.
When we had been sitting awkwardly in her room for a little while, looking nervously at each other, Summer with tears in her eyes, December suddenly drew her knees to her chest and pressed her trembling hands hard against her temples. Her eyes, which had been dull and dead before, were sud-denly filled with raw terror. Summer made a move towards her, but suddenly, December let out a loud scream that made the hairs on my arms stand on edge. She curled up, punching holes in the air, screaming over and over again, her eyes wide with fear.
We all stood up, none of us knowing what to do. That was when her parents came running in and told us, it would probably be best if we went home. December’s mom showed us out, while her dad stayed with her and tried to calm her down.
The ‘incident’ had left its mark on December’s parents as well. Her mom looked like she had aged at least 10 years in the past month. Her eyes were bloodshot, marked by dark shadows; her hair was a mess and her smile was definitely false. Her hand trembled as she waved goodbye to us, leaning against the door frame, as if she didn’t trust her legs to carry her any longer. I wasn’t sure mine would be able to either.
I was sitting alone in my bed that night; scented candles filling the room with the scent of fresh apples, and trying to focus on reading How to kill a mocking bird, but a slideshow of pictures of December kept rolling in my mind, and I seemed to read the same sentence over and over again, without understanding its meaning.
I nearly fell out of bed, when my phone suddenly rang. It was Daniel, and he was crying so hard, I could barely understand what he was saying.
“I… I came out to my parents,” he sobbed. Daniel was gay, and our group had known for more than a year, but he hadn’t dared telling his parents, who were very faithful and rather old school Christians.
I bit my lip, hesitating. “I take it, it didn’t go too well?”
More sobs. “They threw me out, Matt” Daniel whispered, his voice breaking. My insides went cold, my head hot with furry. They had thrown their own, 16-year-old son out on the street, because he liked boys? What the hell kind of parents did that?
“Where are you?” I asked, unable to keep the anger out of my voice.
There was a pause. “Outside your house…” Daniel mumbled, sounding ashamed. I felt a sudden warmth in my chest. He had come to me for help, when he was in need.
“Alright, I’ll be right down.”
My parents had gone to bed, but I didn’t wanna risk waking them up, to I climbed out the window and slit down the pipe drain, as I had done so many times before.
Daniel was standing on the sidewalk, his arms wrapped tightly around his chest, shaking violently.
He had a large bag in his hand; apparently everything he had had time to pack.
“Daniel!” I called. He looked up; his eyes were red and bloodshot from crying, his lower lip still trem-bling. He stood still for a moment, then dropped the bag and ran towards me, throwing himself into my arms. I hugged him tightly, as he buried his head in my shoulder, sobbing hard.
When Daniel was more or less done crying, we sat down on the sidewalk together, underneath the pale light of the streetlamps.
“What am I gonna do, Matt?” he whispered, his voice shaking. “Where am I gonna live?”
I frowned and thought about that for a moment. An idea came to my mind. “At Summer’s.”
Summer’s parents were literally the nicest people I had ever met. They didn’t have a lot of money, and their house was small and a bit worn down, but they saw all of Summer’s friends as their own children, and I felt a hundred times more at home at their place, than I did at my own, fancy house.
Mrs. Collins opened the door, when we rang the doorbell. As I had expected, a warm, welcoming smile spread across her face, despite the late hour.
She was a small, plump woman with round, rosy cheeks; kind, amber eyes and flaming red hair.
When she caught Daniel’s red, bloodshot eyes, her smile faded and worry filled her eyes, somehow darkening their color.
“What’s wrong, love?” she said, obviously concerned.
Tears filled Daniel’s emerald green eyes once more, and his lower lip trembled.
“They threw me out, “he whispered in a choked voice. His entire body trembled violently for a while, before he broke down sobbing.
“He came out to his parents, and they threw him out,” I explained to the confused Mrs. Collins.
Sympathy filled her eyes, as she nodded.
“Come on in,” she said softly, padding Daniel kindly on the shoulder.
We sat down at their kitchen table, as Mrs. Collins made us tea. Summer had gone to bed, but Mr. Collins joined us. He was a tall, rather lanky man with balding blond hair and kind, pale blue eyes. He was very quiet, compared to his wife and daughter, but surely one of the kindest people I knew.
Daniel seemed to have gone into some sort of shock; his eyes were distant, his skin ash-like pale and his hands were trembling. He didn’t seem to be aware of, what was going on around him.
He sat frozen, staring into nothing, while I told Mr. and Mrs. Collins, what had happened.
Daniel and I sat in the small living room, while they talked the situation through.
When Mrs. Collins called us back to the kitchen, she asked us to sit down and took Daniel’s hand. He looked up, his green eyes filled with intense fear.
“Of course you can stay here, Daniel” she said, an empathic smile pulling the corners of her lips up-wards. “We’ll figure something out.”
Daniel’s eyes widened with surprise; I, however smiled. This outcome didn’t surprise me at all.
Daniel sat still for a while, Mrs. Collins squeezed his hand gently; then he suddenly lunched himself into her arms, sobbing with relief.
I smiled. “I think he would like to say thank you.”
During the next days, Daniel was happier than I had ever seen him before, and our entire group seemed smitten by this sudden happiness, despite December’s situation. Though the outcome of last night’s events hadn’t surprised me, I couldn’t help but be taken aback by the Collins’ kindness.
They had taken Daniel in without question, despite their tight economy, and treated him like their own son. They even let him have his own room.
As Summer said: “Kindness truly does keep the world going round.”
Dancing with Ana
Pale, ghost-like moonlight filtered through the curtains, dancing upon the pages of my copy of ’Harry Potter and The Deathly Hallows.”
I blinked feverishly, struggling to keep my eyes open. It was past midnight, and I was extremely tired, but once again unable to sleep. As I yawned, my eyes filled with water.
I jumped and dropped the book, which hit the wooden floor with a loud thud, as my phone suddenly rang. I frowned in confusion; who on earth was calling me at this hour?
It was Summer, and it sounded as though she had been crying quite recently.
“It’s Elsa,” she said, gravel in her voice. “She had a heart attack!”
Something icy filled my chest. “What?” I whispered. “Is- is she okay?”
“She’ll be okay, but she’s been hospitalized and admitted to inpatient treatment.
Elsa was all covered in probes, her skin as white as the sheets of the hospital beds. She looked even smaller than usual.
“What happened?” I asked the doctor, staring at my unconscious friend in silent shock.
“Way too low BMI…” the doctor mumbled, flipping through her papers. “Her heart simply couldn’t take being that underfed anymore.”
Elsa recovered well enough from her heart attack, but they kept her in the hospital, tube feeding her.
We visited quite often - or rather what was left of “us”, meaning Summer, Daniel, Teddy and I.
When Elsa was awake, she wasn’t very responsive. She seemed to be more or less in shock after what happened, and her eyes had an unsettling, distant look. She spoke only in short sentences, and her voice was dead and low.
I sat with her alone one night; Summer had theater and Daniel was out with his new boyfriend, Ethan.
Her exhausted mother, whose eyes always seemed to be red from crying, had left to get some coffee, so for the first time ever, it was just me and her.
I was sitting in a rather uncomfortable plastic chair beside her bed, holding her frail, ice-cold hand, my eyes halfway closed. I was exhausted. Since Elsa’s hospitalization, I had been pelting back and forth between the hospital, school and home. I felt stretched to the point of breaking.
I opened my eyes, turning my head to the feeble voice. Elsa was halfway sitting up, her eyes rather blurry and unfocused.
“Hey Elsa” I said softly, a bit worried. “Are you okay?”
A weak smile curled her pale, chapped lips. “As okay as I can be, I suppose.” Her smile faded.
“My mom has been crying again, hasn’t she?”
I fell silent, didn’t know how to answer that. Elsa closed her eyes for a moment, taking a deep, shaky breath.
“You know, I met this girl once,” she said, seeming as though she was talking more to herself than me.
“Said she wished she had an eating disorder,” her voice was almost angry, then fell sad.
“You know, it’s sick; in our generation it’s like you’re not special, not interesting if you don’t have some sort of disorder or mental illness.” She opened her eyes, staring up at the white ceiling.
“Having a diagnosis has somehow become something glorious and interesting… but if you want one, you can sure as hell have mine.”
I looked at her in surprise; I had never heard such anger and pain in Elsa’s voice.
“But they should remember the low body temperature; I’m sick of freezing in two sweaters. They need to take the dizziness and the sore throat; I’ll be dancing and singing loudly in the shower. Take the pain I caused my loved ones; I never wanna watch my mom sobbing at the dinner table again. Oh and dear God don’t let them forget the fear foods; movie nights just aren’t the same without ice cream.”
Burry the shadows
Elsa’s heart attack on top of December’s suicide attempt almost seemed to be too much for my poor parents. They never took their eyes off me and kept looking at me, as if I could drop dead at any time.
I even caught my mom checking on me at 3am in the morning. Lucky I decided to sleep in a long sleeved shirt that night.
At breakfast Friday morning, my parents finally seemed to have calmed down a bit. Mom was even smiling and humming a little, as she made me and Dad oatmeal pancakes with fresh berries - my Mom was kinda big on the whole health-thing.
Unfortunately, the peace didn’t last long. Suddenly, as I reached for my usual morning apple, my mom gasped in shock and dropped the pan on the floor; pancakes everywhere.
My hand froze midair; both my dad and I staring at her in utter confusion. Then my insides turned to solid ice: My right sleeve had slit down my arm, exposing the fresh cuts and countless scars all over my skin.
My dad followed my mom’s glance and dropped his fork. We all stayed where we were, as if frozen, for which felt like hours. My head had gone completely empty.
Then Mom’s pale blue eyes filled with tears and she made a move forward. I got up so suddenly, the chair fell over behind me, grabbed my schoolbag and practically ran out the door. I had no idea of what to do or say when I got home, but I would just have to figure that out later. I couldn’t deal with this situation right now.
I spend my two first classes, which I of course didn’t have with any of my friends, feeling like I was having an internal panic attack. My forehead was shining with cold sweat, my hands trembling uncon-trollable and my breath seemed to be stuck in my lungs. I almost dropped a bottle of acid in physics.
I must have looked really bad during break, because Teddy cornered my in the boy’s restroom later.
“Okay Matt, you’re gonna tell me what’s going on, whether you like it or not,” he said, looking me straight in the eyes. I actually took a step back; I had never seen Teddy so… stern before. He must have been really worried.
My mind was completely blank; I couldn’t come up with any believable excuses. Maybe I should just tell him.
“I… My parents they… they saw my, eh scars this morning,” I mumbled, staring down as if I had sud-denly become very interested in my shoes.
“Your what now?” Teddy halfway shouted, his eyes widened with a mix of shock and confusion.
My hands trembling, I pulled up my sleeves.
Teddy gasped and took a step back: “Jesus dude, what have you done to yourself?!”
I blinked furiously as I felt my eyes fill with tears. Why did I have to be such a crybaby?
Teddy was pulling his own hair, looking thoroughly shocked. “When did you… how… I mean, I knew December did, well… that… but… you?!”
I didn’t know what to say or do, just stood there staring at my shoes. Then to my relief, I felt Teddy’s strong arms around me, as he pulled me in to a tight hug. I buried my face in his shoulder, sobbing with relief.
Teddy kept giving me the same looks my parents had been giving me for the past days, during English class. I was glad that he cared, but I couldn’t help but feel like a burden to him. I was already a burden to so many people as it was, and now my best friend and my parents new my deepest, darkest secret.
They say that opening up to people makes you feel better, but I just felt like throwing up.
Mr. O’Hara was talking about something, which I was pretty sure was important, but my head was swimming, and I couldn’t stop shaking. Sweat was dripping down my forehead, and the anxiety sud-denly tightened its grip around my throat. I was having a full-blown panic attack.
My legs feeling like jelly beneath me, I got up and halfway ran out of the class, not trusting my brain to come up with the words to ask for a hall pass.
I didn’t even make it to the restroom; my legs failed me as soon as I slammed the door shut behind me. I curled up, back against the door with my trembling arms drawn up to my chest. The fear was every-where, I couldn’t breathe, couldn’t think.
Somehow, I managed to get out of the way, as the door opened behind me. Mr. O’Hara knelt down in front of me, his dark eyes filled with worry.
“Matthew, are you gonna be alright, kid?” he asked, patting me gently on the shoulder. I forced my head to nod.
His eyes narrowed, didn’t really seem to believe me. “Listen, just go home, okay? You have my permis-sion.”
I stared at him in surprise: “But Sir… I’m not sick?”
Mr. O’Hara smiled. “If you had broken your leg, I wouldn’t ask you to just keep walking around on it now, would I? Your mind needs rest, Matthew - why is that any different?”
I smiled and somehow found myself hugging my English teacher, tears creating wet paths down my cheeks for the second time that day.
I used to catch the bus home with this guy named Cody, who always ran from the bus to his house to make sure his little sister hadn’t committed suicide. That day, he got up slowly and walked up to his front door, as if every step was causing him tremendous pain.
Life has no understudies
You will never read this letter, I know that. At least the sensible part of me does. I’m writing anyway, to let you know that you were wrong. You did mean something. They did notice. We all did.
You were not just a grain of sand; you might have been a star in a vast universe, but you kept us warm.
Now you’re the empty seat at our table, in every class room. You’re the empty bedroom in your parents’ house. I can feel your absence echoing through my brain like a scream, over and over again.
Summer calls you like three times a day. I call you every night, just to hear your voice when it goes straight to voice mail. Each time, I somehow expect you to answer. You never do. I guess you never will.
Cody showed up at my house last night, crying. He was covered in bruises - I didn’t ask why.
Your mom had found the stuffed animal you used to sleep with as a kid, when she tried to clean up your room. He was holding it, kept asking me, why he hadn’t stopped you. I didn’t have any answers for him; I’ve been asking myself the same thing lately.
You were a sold out show, December, and life has no understudies, no one to play your part. You have left a hole in this world, in so many people. You should not have reduced yourself to silence and ashes.
You were wrong.
I just really fucking miss you, okay?
Let the light through the cracks
The western sky had turned the color of a blood bruise upon golden skin, while the eastern part re-mained a deep, cobalt blue. In the horizon, the cherry golden sun sank into the ocean, the sunlight spilling over the stone blue water, reflecting in the waves.
I shifted my attention from the lovely sunset to Summer, who was passing me the bong. I took it with a rather vacant smile, inhaling the sweet smoke with my eyes closed.
As I passed on the bong to Teddy, giggling loudly for no reason, I looked around at my friends, circled around the crackling fire, and felt a sudden warmth in my chest. I was so proud of our little group.
Summer had plunged into the worst depressive period I had ever witnessed her go through after De-cember’s death, but she was finally back to her old, cheerful self. She was putting flowers in her hair again and wearing colorful clothes; she had even picked up her guitar again.
Teddy had defied his parents and taken a gap year instead of going straight to one of the Ivy League colleges that his parents had wanted him to apply for. So had I, to my parents despair and shock, and the two of us had traveled Europe together for almost year. It had been the best year of my life, no doubt.
Daniel was still living with Summer - that was when he was home from college, which he attended with his boyfriend Ethan.
Elsa was still rather skinny, but she had been discharged from her inpatient unit and was maintaining a more or less healthy weight. She still had bad days, but you could actually hold a conversation with her now, and her heart was doing better. She didn’t look so sick anymore.
I looked down at my own arms. My friends had been incredibly supportive, when they discovered my secret, and I wore short sleeves most of the time now.
My arms and chest were still covered in scars, and they always would be - I knew that and had accepted it a long time ago. But the scars had turned white. My body and mind were healing; as Zachery had said, with a huge smile on his face: “They’re all better now!”
In fact, we were all better now, healing.
Looking up at the sky, smiling with tears in my eyes, I whispered under my breath: “You were wrong, December; it does get better.”