In moments like these, you grasp at the only thing you can. "Shit. i screwed up. help." I text her. She's quick to respond even though I wonder later if I've woken her up. "What's up babe?" It's hard to text with only one hand. "589b." she's not quite as fast, but still the answer comes swiftly. "What?" I want to quit now but I'm desperate. "My room. please?" "589b? kk." She reiterates. Now that it's done I can't just sit there, but I can't move either. All I can bear to do is turn the music on my computer down.
It seems to take her forever to come down the hall and up the stairs but finally I hear the outside door creak (and for all the times I've told myself to get some WD-40 or call maintenance on it, this time I am glad for its noise) and my breath halts. I don't know what to do from here; I don't want her here anymore but she's already at the door and I don't know what to do! And suddenly her nails tap and she's through the door and I start crying as soon as I meet her eyes. "I can't make it stop." It's a fervent plea.
I have no idea what she was expecting – maybe just to talk or catch the tears – but I can guarantee you it was more than she'd bargained for. "What?" and all I can do is reutter my statement frantically. She looks down to see my right wrist covered with an orange towel soaking up blood, a blade broken from a stolen Bic razor staring at her from my desk.
I can't describe her face in that instant. There is knowledge and understanding, sadness and fear and apprehension and worry and panic and a sense of hopelessness all wrapped up together and I think that neither of us knows what to do but suddenly she spurts into action, closing the door behind her with her body as she grabs my wrist. "Put it up over your head," she says, doing so before I have a chance to react. "We have to get it above your heart."
My left hand is before my mouth but I don't know if the trembling is coming from it or my jaw. I can't quite look at her but I see parts of her in my peripheral vision. A few moments pass.
"Okay," she says, a bit of calm tinting her voice somehow. "I'm gonna look at it real quick, keep it up." and she opens the washcloth. She doesn't really gasp but she intakes her breath and then lets it out, not quite a sigh. "How long ago did you do this?"
I don't know how the words find my tongue as I try to gestimate. "About 15-20 minutes I guess." My voice isn't much softer than hers but there's an obvious tremor to it. I notice she's in her green hoodie and stripped fleece pajama pants.
"This is really deep, Taryn." She says, and somehow I'm surprised that she doesn't call me Brandy. This is Brandy's past. Brandy's scenario and I'm not sure how Taryn got here. But then again, Taryn's the one who brought her here, because Brandy never would've.
Then Angela's kneeling beside me, on the floor to my left. "You need to go to the hospital." My eyes widen and I clutch my wrist almost to my chest.
"No," but suddenly I'm crying again and I'm not sure I've actually spoken.
"Look, I'll stay with you," she insists "but if we can't get it to stop," she pauses here, changes her words. "You need stitches." I shake my head and in response she puts my arm back above my head and looks at it again. We're both momentarily quiet.
There's a desperation in her eyes now as she blinks, searching for what to do. I wonder now if she was praying, but I couldn't think anything then. There wasn't even pain or any sensation really, just a numbing fear.
"I just wanted to make it stop." The words tumble off my lips like an uncontrollable waterfall. "Last night was great; I slept fine. Then when I woke up it all just came crashing back and… I just wanted to make it go away."
"I know, I know," she soothes, running her fingers over my shoulder. "Taryn, we need to go to the hospital. I know what they'll say but,"
I try to catch her words and a shock runs through my veins. Oh God. Oh God. I hadn't even thought of that. My words spill faster. "If I'd wanted to I would've gone vertical not horizontal. I didn't mean, I didn't mean," I'm trying to explain myself, but isn't that why I'd texted her to begin with? Because I knew she'd understand and I wouldn't have to? She could help me. She would help me, I knew it, and she wouldn't ask why. She didn't, but I felt the need to try anyway.
"I know, I know. It's okay, it's okay," and I'm crying again. All those years, all those times, all those chances and the brokenness and I have never felt so low.
"I was doing so well," I murmer, my left hand still at my mouth, my gaze at my knees but not seeing anything. She's on my left side again now. I need to pay attention. My wrist is in my lap. I gently pull back the cloth. The redness of the wound and covering the towel glare at me, but unlike all the times before no new pool starts dripping down my arm. Angela's watching too.
"I think it's stopped." She says. I don't say anything. I don't even look at her. I don't know how I can. I feel ashamed, for bringing her back into this, for getting myself here at all. It was supposed to be simple. It was supposed to be quick. It was supposed to erase it all. It was supposed to be fine. I didn't realize so much could change in a year.
A year. Damn, I just screwed up my record. But I don't think that then.
I'm slightly woozy but I don't tell Angela that. I dare to glance at her. She's lost inside herself even though she's staring at my wrist, supporting her weight with her right hand on the back of my desk chair. "What are you thinking?" I whisper and she blinks, looking to me.
"I'm wondering what to do now." I think she's going to mention the hospital again but she doesn't. Somewhere, somehow, she has found some mercy for me.
"Okay," she says again, full of purpose now as she stands up and puts her fingers on either side of the gaping hole in my wrist. Her nails are so clear and pretty compared to mine.
(I'd sharpie my red bracelet the day before because a lot of the beads had gone white and I got some on my hands and nails so I'd gone ahead and sharpie my finger nails red too – I was wearing that green shirt with the tiny red cherries on it. Going from hers to mine I see that they aren't really red anymore. They're spotted white and mostly a weird shade of pink and it's stained my cuticles and otherwise just looks so tacky and childish.)
"I'm going to go get some band aids. I want you to hold the edges together like I have them now, okay?"
I don't want her to leave. I can't be alone right now but I can't ask her to stay because I've already put her through so much. She has to physically take my left hand and put it where she wants it. It's like I'm frozen or trying to move through sludge.
She's almost out the door before I catch sight of the blade winking at me. I don't trust myself. "Angela!" I half gasp, half hiss. She turns back swiftly. "Take that." I say flatly, motioning with my head, or my eyes, I don't know. She picks it and the piece of toilet paper with another one wrapped inside (that way I could put them inside the zippered pouch on the front of my journal without ruining it. I've had them there for about two weeks or so) without question and walks out.
I'm left in this void of nothingness, emptiness, suddenly hearing the faint sound of my music as I stare, wide-eyed and thoughtless at what I've done.
Before I know it she's back, and this time I didn't even hear the outside door creak at all. She pulls me out of the chair and into the bathroom. "We need to wash this out." I'm worried because I'd heard someone bang the doors earlier and I can't let anyone see me. I grab the towel again and wrap it over my wrist even though I hate how sticky it is now. She'd left the bandages on the left edge of my desk. It feels strange not to have the solid chair beneath me anymore.
"I have some hydrogen peroxide under the sink." I tell her, and she thinks about it before responding.
"No, I think soap and water will be just fine."
(She's good. I read the bottle later and it says not to use it for deep or puncture wounds.)
She takes me to the far sink, the one that the other girls use, before I can tell her not to. She washes her hands first, and then pulls mine into the basin. I'm stretched awkwardly, my body pressed against the edge of the counter.
She grasps my wrist in her left and dispenses the liquid soap into her right. "This might sting a bit," she tells me.
And I swear, I have no idea where it comes from, but I let off a little laugh. "Like that matters." I nearly hit myself in the head as soon as it enters the air between us. Thankfully she does not respond to it. The soap actually doesn't hurt that much. It aches and stings more later. I hold the now useless washcloth in my hand because I don't know what else to do with it.
Angela brings me back into my room and starts opening up a band aid. My left hand's at my mouth again and I just stare at the gash. She gets two band aids on before she realizes it's not working, then tells me she needs to go get different ones and before I can answer I'm alone again.
I hadn't planned this. Whatever anybody tries to say later, I hadn't planned it. Never did. I never wanted anything like this to happen and now that it is I am woefully unprepared. The music is still playing, somehow the song is on repeat. "Beautiful" by Bethany Dillon. I wonder what it means; if I'd wanted it to mean anything or if it's just coincidence, happenstance.
Then she's beside me again, and the new band aids don't work either. "It won't stay," I state simply, watching her tug gently at the separate sides of my skin, trying to piece me together, a hopeless feat. Doesn't she know?
"Taryn," she sighs and I search for her eyes, pleading for her to be able to make this work. She is all I have. "The only thing left I can think of is duct tape. That'll hold it together, depending on how Redneck you want to be." Is that the hint of a joke?
"Well I am from the south," I try to play along, but no one's laughing.
"Okay," and she disappears again.
I think I've managed to get used to these moments by now. I take my phone off the desk and take a picture, sending it to my e-mail and then deleting it before she makes it back.
There's a mess of band aids and trash on my desk already. Now she's adding duct tape. White duck tape. "So you just happen to have all these band aids and white duct tape lying around?" I try to make my tone light but she is concentration on closing me up.
"I got the band aids from the front desk." Oh. Oh, of course. A shiver runs through me. "And I just happen to prefer the white to the spaceman silver." The white is nice.
She sits back on the floor. "Okay, we'll let that sit for a little bit and then I'll do it better."
I have a sudden need to fill up the silence again, back in my stance of left hand at the mouth – finger running delicately over my lips – and staring at the now white duct tape on my wrist as it blinds me. "My shoulders never bleed that much. But everyone's seen those so they would've known… I couldn't see. I don't know how it got so deep. I didn't mean to… I just wanted to make it stop," the uncontrollable tremor again.
"I know, I know. It's okay." She says, her favorite phrase this morning.
She's rubbing my left shoulder gently this time. I look at her, but only briefly. "It was supposed to be over. So how do you go around and tell someone that it's not? That nothing's better?" and I'm crying again, those damn tears; the worst yet.
She kneels and puts her arm around my right shoulder, pulls me towards her body and I give in, falling into her chest as the tears roll down my cheeks and my breathing hitches, my right limb still and useless upon my lap. "I was doing so well," and it's all I can get out over all the tears.
"Ssshhh, it's okay. I know, I know, just breathe." But it's still shallow, nearly hiccupping. "It's okay."
I'm not sure how long we stayed like that. Maybe a minute, maybe two but doubtful. Finally I sit back up. The tears slow.
"What are you going to do now?" she says. Well, isn't that the million-dollar question.
I look at her and shrug. "I was just going to put my watch back on and go to lunch." I state matter-of-factly.
She balks. "Well you're certainly not going to do that!" But it's like, now after all she's done, she can't think of anything else to do.
"Here, lemme see it." This time we both move towards the other. She pulls the tiny white strips off and then, as if she is satisfied with the results, begins replacing them with new ones that she has ripped up.
"I have scissors," I say but she declines calmly, biting at it and using her nails.
"I've got strength."
"At least one of us does," I mutter. She pauses.
"You've got strength too." And leaves it at that.
She's more careful with these strips, but I can't handle it. "They're too long," One of them is all the way to the bottom of my hand. "How am I supposed to cover it up?" and with everything, this is the only time she sounds angry.
"Well, maybe a long-sleeve shirt," (which I am already wearing) "or a bracelet or something."
I don't know what to say. I should be grateful for all she has just sacrificed for me, for all that I've just put her through. "I'm sorry, for bringing you into this," and before I can say any more she stops me.
"No, it's okay. I'm glad you did." But is she really? I'm sure she would've been perfectly fine without having this experience to stain her memories.
"You said you have scissors?" She asks, and I reach into my drawer to give them to her. She cuts the ends down a bit, shortening them for me carefully, making sure they'll still stay. She's being so understanding, so caring and I just don't get it. I don't deserve this. She's being too good to me when she shouldn't.
She starts cleaning up, crumpling the band aid remains into her fist. I recall something I'd meant to ask her earlier. "What did you tell them you needed all those band aids for?" She doesn't pretend not to hear me or understand.
"I didn't." Simple as that.
She starts gathering the white duct tape to add to the pile already in the trash. "That's a lot of duct tape," I comment, for lack of anything better to say.
"Not really," she replies. I clarify.
"Okay, then it's lots of little strips of duct tape," I think I almost get a smile out of that one.
"Yep. Just lots of little strips."
When she's finished she sits on the floor again. I'm still in my stance, my breath still hesitant. A good minute or two passes by. At one point I run my finger delicately over her handiwork, realize now – like never before – this is a two person art form. Hers over mine, like a reused canvas.
Finally, after watching me for a bit, she reaches up and flips my hand over. "It's okay now," she says. "You're going to be okay. You can stop looking at it now."
Another silence. I want desperately to know what is going on inside her head but I can't read through her eyes now. I'm afraid I've done that, put something between us. I guess that's what I get, with all that I've done after all.
"So what are you going to do?" She says then, breaking through the stillness. All I have though is that previous answer. "You need a plan. What are you going to do right now? In a few hours? Tomorrow?"
But I hadn't thought that far. I'd just wanted to survive now. I didn't have a chance to worry about anything else. Suddenly I feel very restricted, very control-less.
"I'm tired of sitting in this chair." I jerk up suddenly.
"Okay," Angela jumps up too as I push the chair in. But that's as far as I get because I end up leaning against it. I'm holding my arm before me awkwardly, silently.
"It's okay," She tells me yet again.
I keep my head down and mumble, "You say that, but is it really?"
Immediately - without even the tiniest hint of hesitation or time for thought processing - she wraps her hand around my chin lightly and tugs it upward gently until our eyes meet. "This," she touches my wrist with a fingertip without breaking her gaze "is okay now. You are going to be okay."
Afraid of what I might find behind her eyes, I twist away slowly; she lets me. I bit my lip in an attempt to ward off more tears and try my absolutely hardest to believe her. I want to. I really do. But I'm not sure I do.
She's standing in front of me, close, too close. I move to the side, pull down my sleeve – having already put my watch back on right before I stood up – and slip a thick bracelet over my hand. She watches me from a distance, at a loss. "Taryn, I don't know what to do here."
Join the club, I think, but can't make my mouth work.
"I don't have a problem with it until something like this happens." You could've died. She doesn't say it, but I can see that in her eyes clear as day and it scares me. I don't know how I got here. I don't know what I'm supposed to do now, what's supposed to happen. "And I hate to say this but next time," It's a definitive phrase, no if's attached. "just pick somewhere else. Some place that's not so dangerous."
Nothing I say could make this better. She breathes in deep. "Okay. I need to go to my room and change clothes and then we'll go to lunch." She's out the door before she notices I'm not following so she motions me with her eyes and hurriedly I cross in front of her. I'm not sure who doesn't want to let the other out of her sight.
We're like our own mini-parade down the stairs and into her room. Once again, the awkwardness settles in. Her roommate Jess is still sleeping even though it's been over an hour by now (nearly 12) and I sit in her chair and mess with my phone while she gets ready so I don't have to look at her. I play with the bracelet too until we exit.
On the way around the corner by the phone booths (which cell phones have made useless now) she says "I really think you should talk to someone, get this all figured out." But even if I knew how to respond to that I can't because we're walking by the front desk now.
Once we're outside, nearly off the bricks on our way to the café, something comes to me.
"Thanks, for all this." She squeezes me into a gentle side hug.
"Don't worry about it." But I know I will.
She disappears once we get our cards swiped in the café. I think I glimpse her going into the bathroom but resist following her because I figure she deserves a moment. It takes her forever though and I've already toasted a bagel and made my plate by the time she gets her tray. She says to grab a booth. I guess correctly that J will join us, and two friends (both named Matt) do as well.
J puts his tray down across from me, there before all the others. He looks at me and asks me how I am. "I'm great." I answer with a big smile. But it feels tense, strange. I wonder if he knows. If she's told him already. I realize then that I never asked her not to, and wonder where that leaves me.
She's quieter than usual throughout the meal whereas I overcompensate (which I think she instinctively knows) and then for some reason nearly fall asleep. I have no appetite. I barely manage a forth of my bagel and end up savoring a small bunch of grapes and rationing my glass of milk just so it seems like I'm eating.
We stay a long time. I keep wanting to leave on my own but never do. I discover a tiny stain on the front of my shirt, utter a curse that no one else can hear.
When we all do leave, Angela and I go separate ways. I figure it's better that way. When I get back to the dorm I change shirts, treat the stain and then take the washcloth to my sink to wash it out. The water rinses a tinted yellow. Somehow it all comes out, eventually. I wish everything were that simple.
I do not see or hear from her until after my shower, when I have to text her asking to borrow more tape. I worry about a slight confrontation but she's not in her room so she just tells me where it is and nobody sees me enter or exit. It takes all my will-power not to search for the tools I had her take away. My wrist throbs. I regret it, and yet remain enamored by it.
I fall into a restless sleep, my thoughts consuming me. The duct tape doesn't stay anymore. It's closed up a bit but just oozes an unknown substance. It's not infected. It's too early for that and I've kept it clean anyway. I skip breakfast even though I left the room at my usual time, not because I'm not hungry but because I know that I won't have an appetite to get anything past my lips. My phone goes off during theory – luckily I'd had it on vibrate. It's Angela.
I can't answer, obviously, but wonder what's on her mind. Not in general, because that's also obvious, but specifically. She leaves a voicemail – which I also can't check – so I text her. "In class until 9:50. Whatcha need love?"
It takes her six minutes to respond. "I want you to talk to Pastor Sam today. I didn't feel comfortable with the situation so I talked with him. He's available at 11 this morning."
And there it is. My stomach drops to the floor. I should've anticipated this. I understand completely where she's coming from and I have no anger or negativity towards her. I blame myself. I never asked her not to say anything. Even if I had I doubt she would've. I think, subconsciously, that's why I didn't.
I try to come up with something to say but all I remember is her saying that she'd go with me to the hospital. "Where will you be?"
"In the office." I can't ask for anything more. I don't know if seeing her will make it better or worse.
"I don't know what to tell him." I can't sit here in class paying attention and deal with what's going on beneath my fingers.
"Just come talk with him" She insists.
But it's not that simple. "I don't know if I can. I just wanted it to be over. I talked to him on Fri and couldn't mention any of that stuff."
She's unrelenting, which I guess she has to be. "Well things have changed since Friday. Do you want to talk to somebody else in the counseling centre?"
And I can't handle this little conversation anymore. I need to delve into theory, find an escape route. "No. I tried them when I came in as a freshman. I'll come."
Her answer is quick this time. "Ok." And that's it, but nothing's over.
I could just not show up, but I owe that to her. I hadn't planned any of this. I hadn't planned anything. I don't know what I'd wanted out of this. Surely not this. But isn't this what I've been going for all these years, underneath all the façade? For someone to take me seriously and not let me get away with it? Except I did it to make it all go away…
I don't know what I'm doing.
I don't know where this is going.
I feel sick to my stomach and very very cold.
Even so, I do go, of course, only for Angela though and I'm not afraid to admit that. I plan it so I show up not really early but technically still before 11am. Kyle, J and Angela are all on the couch. Go figure, I catch Angela's eyes first. It's a strained smile and as I return it I find myself searching her face for tiredness and dark circles. I worry she stayed up late thinking about it all like I did; I wonder how early she got up just to talk with Pastor Sam.
I'm laughing with Kyle, trying to pretend I am anywhere but here and Pastor Sam sees me. "Taryn, my friend, come. I want to talk to you." He opens his door and ushers me inside. I feel like the room is swallowing me whole, and when he shuts the door it is like someone else has just sealed my fate but neglected to tell me what that is exactly.
I take extra time getting my bags from my shoulders and good-naturally almost chastise him for how cold the room is – even though I'm in one of my long-sleeved thumb-hole undershirts with a tank on top and a jacket too – before I sit down, going slightly into small talk about the weather before he delves into the real topic at hand.
When he starts I cannot help but stare at my lap. I spend nearly the entire time picking at my thumbnails. I remember suddenly how Angela will chew on her cuticles and nails. "So Angela talked to me," he says, surprising me. I figured he'd open with one of those open-ended false casual double-meaning phrases like "So what's been going on lately?" I wait for him to continue.
He says that Angela tried her hardest not to give me away and keep the person anonymous, but by the end when she started talking about the texts and me spending the two nights in her room he put the pieces together since we'd already talked about some of that stuff on Friday. I try to smile, knowing how careful she must've been, how much she was trying not to damage the friendship further.
Then he tells me how worried she was that I'd be angry at her for talking and when he says that I feel absolutely horrible for having put her through any of this. I know she's older than me and that she at least somewhat understands but I still feel protective of her. I've always protected (or tried to protect) people from this part of myself.
In truth, I don't blame her or hold any ill feelings toward her at all, of which I assure him. I complete understand why she did it. If I was in her place I think, no, I know, I would've done it too. I think I'm actually more scared of what this has done to her and our friendship than of what it means for (and could've done to) me.
I want to know what she told him. I want to understand what she's thinking. When I texted her, I was being selfish. I didn't think of how it would affect her and I am so sorry for that, but I can't take it back now, nor do I know how to get her to explain it to me.
I try to stop thinking about it then because I realize Pastor Sam is still talking to me. He starts with saying he has a moral obligation to help me – because he wants to, because he cares – but then admits that he also, as a Pastor, has a legal obligation to do some things. He wants me to go down to the counseling center and talk to the new female director, Minerva. I try to refuse, saying I'd seen the guy, Craig, last year but it didn't do anything and honestly I'd just hate to go back there again. It feels like failure. Epic fail, to quote Ariane.
But he's persistent and I know he doesn't have a choice. I half-heartedly agree before he tells me he doesn't want to have to hold my hand and take me down there by force, but he sets up the appointment; texts me the time (5pm) later.
He asks me if it needs medical attention and (while subconsciously tugging on the thumb-hole of my long-sleeve down in fear he will ask to see it) I mutter, "Not anymore," Before giving a little chuckle. "Duct tape really does hold the world together."
He crinkles up his face. "Duct tape?"
I shrug. "That was her idea." I motion to the door, knowing he knows who I mean. "It worked."
Then he explains – a couple times over – how we are far out of his realm of expertise. But I know that already. I've understood for years that I'm too much for people to handle. Nobody ever knows what to do with me.
He asks me why I did it. I can't really answer him. "The point is not to remember, you know?" I say it to sound casual, not because I think he actually does. "It was just… stuff. I'd put it away before but it'd come back. I just needed to make it go away again."
There's a few moments of silence, both of us deep in thought. He gets up and grabs something from his desk, hands it to me. "Here. Squeeze this." He says. "I'd like for you to have some nails when you leave."
It's one of those stress ball things, only in the shape of a large nerf dart kind of thing. I wonder if it was his little boy, Micah's. It's mostly yellow, but orange on the edges. I hold it awkwardly. "I don't want to mess it up."
"Oh, it's already broken," he retorts, and I see that one of the three feather-like things is missing. At the end, when I try to give it back, he makes me keep it even though I don't want it.
"So," he starts again. "What came back?" and my heart stops. The room gets cold again but inside I am so hot I feel like I am suffocating.
"Just, stuff, from when I was a kid that shouldn't matter anymore." And I can't remember anymore what he said after that besides trying to make me search deeper for the memory I'd tried to hide away.
But I can't tell him. I can't tell anyone.
"Did you know the person?" I'm looking away from him as I shake my head almost imperceptively. "So it was a stranger who hurt you?" Slowly, hesitantly, I nod, picking at the thing instead of my nails.
We move on, I just don't remember where we went. My mind is too clouded with memories from years ago combining with yesterday's.
He says we form a triangle now: him, Angela and me. Even though I know the logistics, I'm still not sure how that happened. It's like I'm missing this piece to my puzzle that everyone else can see except me. He says we're a support system and that together we can work it out. I don't understand how suddenly my problem became everyone's problem, especially since he wants to bring in Minerva too.
I try to explain that most of the time I am okay, that I can handle most things. I tell him that I wish I could be the person he saw on Friday instead of who I was Sunday, and who he is partially seeing now. He asks me what I don't like about her.
"She's weak." I say spitefully – almost spitting it out – yet still quiet. "She can't handle things. She can't always be what people want and need her to be."
He goes on to explain how he thinks the real Taryn is a mixture of both. But what I don't tell him is that Taryn has to be the things that Brandy is not. That if it weren't for Taryn I never would've been brave enough to involve Angela at all, even though that courage was motivated by fear.
We talk about more things. Eventually he prays with me, and stands up to leave. But I'm not ready to go yet. There's something else that needs to be done. I ask him if Angela's still out there. "I can hear her." He says, and then corrects himself. "Well, I can hear J, so I know she hasn't gone anywhere."
"True that." I chuckle, then give him a pleading look. "Could you send her in here?"
He smiles, agreeing immediately as he disappears outside the room. I stand to face her as she closes the door and turns around. Her eyes meet mine instantly, searching and unblinking but I can see her worry and her discomfort, the anxiety of what's about to come. She needn't be, though. "I'm not mad at you," I state simply, honestly and suddenly we're less than a breath apart.
Her arms are wrapped around my waist and her hands are pressed against my upper back. I can feel the solid, stable weight of her head on my right shoulder – hers under my chin – and the warmth of her body connecting to my skin. The world freezes and it is just us together in this tiny space. This is the moment I remember most, about any of this whole mess. I remember how it felt there inside her hug: I felt safe, accepted. Held completely secure.
We stay like that for at least a full minute I'm sure. I think we almost aren't breathing. I'm not sure if one of us pulls apart but suddenly we're sitting so close together on the couch that our whole sides are practically touching. She runs her fingers through mine as if to reassure me that she is still there, even after everything.
"I didn't know what else to do," She says.
"No, I understand. It's okay, really. I would've done the same thing." And it's true. I know she believes me and that in and of itself is memorable.
"How is it? Is it okay?" She asks, and for the second time that day I worry I will have to reveal it, and then remember who's asking and nearly laugh to myself at the irony.
"It's okay." I tell her shakily. "The duct tape doesn't really hold anymore,"
"But does it stay together still?"
I nod, then get quiet. "I didn't mean for it to be so bad."
"I know," she assures me again.
"I'm sorry for bringing you into it," she tries to stop me but I continue first. "I was just…" I swallow; my voices drops below a whisper in my shame to admit it. "I was so scared."
Tears press against my lids so I place my head in my hands as she puts her arm (left) around me and leans in closer. It's not her but immediately, just like that, my stomach churns and I think I'm going to throw up. But it's the surprise kind. Not the face flush/bile in the back of the throat actual sickness thing or even just being upset and getting worked up enough to feel sick, it's the one second fine, next second run to the trashcan thing – which I nearly do.
"Uh, I feel sick." I shudder, squeezing my fingers against my eyes.
She sits up a little bit and puts her hand around my knee. "I'm sorry," She says sincerely, and I worry it's a double meaning phrase but focus on making myself breathe. A few moments pass and I slowly feel a little better, though still very queasy and a bit faint.
While we are sitting there in the silence with our fingers entwined, something pops out of my mouth that I hadn't planned to say. "What did you do with them?"
"With what?" She's confused and I struggle for the correct words.
"With the, uh," I end up motioning somehow, and she understands, pipes up quickly.
"Oh, I threw them away." Simple as that. But not anywhere near the specifics I desire to know.
Where?! How? Why? When exactly? Where is the most important one and I can't quite explain why so I do not ask her anything more. Our hands aren't touching anymore but I have no idea who let go first. "I didn't trust myself,"
"I know," she whispers back, not blaming me for anything, still trying to support me. I'm not sure why.
"I'm going to be late for class," I stutter, getting up, my legs weak beneath me.
"Okay." She replies, doing the same. We hug again, briefly, with a lot less to convey.
I gather my things. "Don't worry about me, okay?"
She laughs, and it is so beautiful and pure and honest. "Oh yeah right!" We share a smile.
Wind Ensemble is hard after that. I still feel queasy and all those long, suspended notes just exaggerate it. I practice piano in between my next two classes just to keep my brain from thinking, spinning out of control. I purposely strike up a conversation that I care nothing about after my last class so I can time going downstairs not a minute before five.
I really don't want to do it, but I'm certainly not going to have Pastor Sam drag me so again I do it for Angela as I've long since finished trying to do it for myself. I do not go into the waiting area and after introductions and paper signing she gets down to business. I pay special attention to make sure I don't play around with my nails or let any other nervous tic show itself. She asks me how I'm feeling. "Okay," I say, trying to look at her instead of the floor.
However, I don't trust her. She asks all the right questions I've read about in the books but I know that she is still ill-equipped to deal with this, with me. Ske keeps saying "year and a half" when I have always said "Year and two months" and her missing that distinction is somehow monumental.
She wants to get Angela in there to give her side of everything – which I think is really great! – but I hesitate to tell her Angela's name because I feel like I've put her through enough already. She says it's important to forgive myself and ask for help, but I tell her that's one of the things that really bothers me about this: I had people to call, I just, didn't. Didn't think about it, didn't bother, didn't want to, I don't know, just didn't. What does that mean?
She asks if I would rather talk to Craig again but I only shake my head because I'm too timid to say no. I tell her coming there didn't really help before, that most – if not all – of the changes I've made on my own anyway. But I desperately want to talk to someone. I just can't figure out who.
"Can I see it?" She asks this twice. The first time I get out of it – just like I avoided having to explain why – but not the second. I take my watch off as slowly as possible and thank God (and Angela) for the duct tape. It is really the only reason I let her manipulate me into this, because I know she can't see anything through the tape anyway. It's just… too many people have seen it already and I just wanted to hide it; keep it mine. She pulls my hand toward her to inspect it but does not say anything.
She wants to know what I want out of this. I don't want anything out of this. I don't want to be here. I don't tell her that though. I shrug.
"Do you still feel like hurting yourself?"
"No." I answer honestly. I'm not sure I ever did.
"Do you remember your first time?" I laugh, it sounds like a sex question.
"Yes." Absolutely. I explain I discovered it by stepping on a pair of nail clippers. The memory leaves me with a tilted smile.
She says we should meet about once a week for a little while, just for thirty minutes or so to touch base and sets up an appointment. I can't get out of the room fast enough, but I'm still slow enough that I catch Craig's eyes in between the doors and I am instantly filled with so much shame. I offer him a weak smile as I disappear.
Too much. A day is not meant to hold so much. The short amount of hours has been too much.
I go back to my room and force the tears behind my eyes. I miss supper; cancel my bassoon lesson, practically sleep through watching Heroes. Don't sleep that night.
The next day I meet with Pastor Sam again because he wants to know how things went with Minerva. My spirits are a bit more uplifted. I have a tiny spring in my step again. He is late, of course, even though I'd struggled to rearrange my schedule and rushed to get there on time. Angela, Beverly, Jonathan and Emily are all "working" in the office (mostly just Angie and Bev) so at least I have company and we laugh a lot (especially while trying to explain Bev's riddle to Jonathan).
I make more eye contact and don't play with my nails or crack my knuckles; anything to convey the fact that I am doing better (whether that is the truth or not, something I can't touch). I ask him what Angela told him. He says just that a friend of hers had cut herself badly and she didn't know what to do about it. I suddenly realize there is a lot she has left out of this story, like herself, but maybe she wanted it that way.
"Oh, yeah, well…" I stumble over myself. "I, got scared and texted her. She, she pretty much saw… everything. It was worse than I thought. If she hadn't come up with the duct tape, we would've been in trouble." But that's not right. "I, I would've been in trouble."
He asks if it is okay, not wanting it to get infected or something and mess up my bassoon playing. I assure him it's alright, resisting the urge to fiddle with my watch.
"You know, Taryn," he says at one point. "When you came to me Friday, I had no idea, but that was you asking for help, wasn't it?" I can only look at him searchingly and swallow. "And I take full responsibility for that,"
"It wasn't your fault!" I jump in, desperate to take it all back to myself where it belongs but he cuts me off and reiterates himself, so I try to calm down. "I wanted to tell you, but I couldn't find the words to say," I speak quietly, honestly.
"Well, maybe you didn't trust me yet," he says, but I don't think that was it. I didn't trust myself. Still don't. Never have.
I ask him if he thinks Angela's mad at me, for everything. He seems shocked that I would even suggest that. "Angela was very – now I hate to say this because it makes it seem not so serious but she was very concerned about you. Worried. She cares a lot about your safety and your well-being and the friendship."
And I still feel bad, but no longer so miserable just wondering about her reaction. He suggests I talk to her because I tell him "I didn't plan it, but it changed the boundaries of our friendship and I'm not sure where those lines are anymore. I still love hanging out with her and we have a lot of fun, but I don't want to seem clingy."
"You don't want her to be in 'Save Taryn mode' all the time."
"Exactly!" I sigh.
But there's only so much to be said during the short amount of time he has, even though he assures me he is always available and makes sure I have his phone number (which I know I will never use because he is so busy taking care of other things and other people and what right do I have to take that away from them?). He prays with me at the end again, and then I go throughout the rest of the week just focusing on the now and planning for the weekend, pretending none of that happened.
Except my wrist smarts and stings and never lets me forget or deny its existence.
I hide it anyway.
The feelings wane but never fully disappear, rising back to the forefront without warning. It hits especially hard when I am out sitting on my car at night looking at the stars. I don't know what I'm doing. I feel like crying. I feel like cutting. I can't do either. I don't want to just sit here and let me head fill up with thoughts but I don't have the energy to get up and walk around somewhere, much less try to talk to someone. I feel very alone. No one understands me. I don't even understand me. Sometimes I just feel like giving up, throwing in the towel. I mean who cares anyway, right? But that's a lie and I know it. I just can't help believing it anyway. I don't want to do this anymore. There's too much of me. Too much…
Suddenly I'm up, one foot in front of the other and then I'm gone. Behind the old psychology building and the Chapel and out onto roads I've never seen before. It's dark but cars are still out and most of the street lights work. I walk for nearly an hour and a half, aimlessly, pointlessly, stupidly. But I think nothing.
I keep my thumbs in the front of my jean capri's, my brown corduroy jacket buttoned over my top, my head held high as my brown leather flats pit patter against the ground.
I do not look at the few people I pass, not even the small group of Hispanic men on my right in the very beginning, one of which asks "Do you need a ride?" to me, I think, although I'd already passed by and nearly reached the end of his street.
I do not pay any really attention to where I am. I only know that I have been going up and left (away from school and towards Two Bit respectively) so I know how to figure out how to get back eventually.
I run into a local elementary school covered in stuff dedicated to Red Ribbon week. I linger, studying each intricate poster and feel an intense, overwhelming sadness just knowing most of the kids won't even remember this when it counts, much less realize they've broken a promise.
When I get to the church side of my journey I pass one guy two times on two different roads but he is talking on a cell phone so I don't worry about him or the fat man on the balcony or the old man at the screen door. But there is a man walking semi-close behind me after I pass this one house and I try to look back without letting him know I'm catching glances at him, convince myself it's nothing.
I take random turns and once I cross the main street to get back to the school and he's still there – closer – I get worried, resist the urge to quicken my pace. I go back the way I came, staying to the light as much as possible. I do not hide my looks back anymore; I want him to see my short stares, catch my eye and know I've seen him. He keeps closing the distance between us even onto campus until an Asian student walks past me. I rotate my head and find the other man turning and nearly running away. I keep going until I'm around the corner and then I freeze, grasping the concrete edging, immobile, unbreathing, panicked.
I think I will keep walking.
I go to a rave the next weekend, dressed as I normally go, but do things that I do not consider normal, at least not for me. I am the girl who has kissed merely two boys in her entire nineteen years, and never anything further than a little peck or two. I am the girl who freaks out when a boy accidentally touches my hip as he passes, the girl who nearly sobs just imagining anything else. But that night I not only dance more sensually then I ever have or knew that I could, I purposely dance with boys in a way that I shouldn't, our bodies close and grinding to the music. I nearly make-out with at least three. I wear one boy's hat all night and merely laugh when he suggests we go to a hotel room, pull him closer to me so that I can breathe that rave smell right from his mouth. I let him touch the top of my corset, grab my ass, pinch it, smack it. I return every advance, can tell that he likes it, is turned on by it. When I have my back to his chest and he slides his fingers to the inside of my thighs, I do not stop him. To prevent the panic I have always felt, I will myself to become desensitized to it, convince myself that none of this matters, that I am in control of it, that it will go away if I just get it over with, that this has nothing to do with the thing that I've tried so hard to push away. The wound has ever so slowly become a giant, angry red scar that I pointedly ignore thanks to my watch. I become a girl I do not recognize, a girl that I have never been, a girl that I am not. So I lie to myself, the only thing I've ever been good at.