I am pacing.
My parents watch me with disgust and disappointment—I have just brought home my first "B". Between us, in the quiet white space of our tiny dining room, my report card has been flung upon the table, open, spilling its secrets uselessly.
I watch them watching me, their faces ugly with shame, and then I stare at the report card, willing it away. Then, my reprieve—
My brother comes home from work, passes us without looking, and slumps into an armchair in the next room, where he asks for ice water, relaxing himself. Soon he will be fired for sharing private company blueprints.
They look on at him and smile.
I have just been nominated for an English award, beating out classmates from two other grade levels. I am pleased, and my mother is quiet.
She stands behind me, fastening a gold necklace I am only allowed to wear on occasions. Inside my stomach, butterflies are making their nest.
We drive to the school in silence, and I sit upon the wooden stage in silence too, waiting to hear my name. When the sweaty bald man finally calls it, I realize that I have lost. Still, I think, being a runner-up is impressive in itself.
They still send me home with a certificate, which I hand to my mother, smiling. She takes it and hesitates, and settles for a quick goodbye.
When I come home from school that day, it is still silent.
I am purple, and freezing.
My change in health is spontaneous, but all the same I feel very sick (something serious?), and my bones seem tender, so my mother waits until the weekend to take me for an x-ray. The doctors spot a dark gray blemish on my chest x-ray, and call it asthma.
I go to an allergist for an inhaler, and I'm gifted a battery of tests (160 needles in my back) to determine why I'm still purple. He finds no answer, and sends me to his friend, the cardiologist, who tells me I have a heart defect.
"Just to be safe," the old-man doctor tells me, "See a neurologist."
So with big medical words in my mind, and a mother who still won't speak, we drive to see one.
The neurologist I see is a frail-looking Indian woman who steals my blood like a vampire.
"Three vials," the little-lady doctor tells me, "just to be safe."
A week later my blood results arrive in the mail: I have a rare disease, and my lifespan is likely shortened.
That night, my parents discuss the prognosis inside our shallow living room, the TV on and the lights shut off. I listen to them and hear shame. I feel like the worst daughter in the world—a disappointment, if you will.
It is still not enough.
I experience a day of complete normalcy, and, out of curiosity, have my first taste of liquor. It is bitter, and burns my throat. When my mother finds me throwing up, she purses her lips and says nothing.
A few months later, I decide that I am fat. I drink some more, and throw up enough to lose 40 hungry pounds. No one notices.
When they finally catch me purging myself, I blame it on an old peanut allergy, exempting of course, that I haven't eaten peanut products in over a year.
Somehow, it doesn't surprise me when they believe it anyway.