They took her out when the ambulance came... had her lie down on a stretcher and carried her out, still bleeding alarmingly. It was like those TV shows, ER or something... but this was real life. This was a girl who did not want- nor did I really think she needed- medical attention- this was a girl who though she bled, felt no pain, who knew the blood would stop in a day or so... but no one else realized this. The others watched as she was taken away, the excitement evident in their faces, the way they moved. WE had never before seen such excitment in our little town, and they reveled in it.

Even as they were taking Mercedes out of the building, preparing to load her into the ambulance, she was still saying in her soft, complacent voice that she was okay, none of this was necessary, that they didn't understand... and she was right. They didn't understand at all...

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Mercedes never came back. After the disasterous incident in the classroom, I never saw her again. I never knew what happened with her in the hospital, or in general for that matter- I never even found out if she had moved away for certain.

Of course, there was no shortage of rumors on the matter- it seemed everybody, even those who had not been present, had something to say about it, something that in all appearances, they seemed to genuinely believe. I heard people say in all seriousness that Mercedes had started to stab herself manically with a knife while screaming for Satan, then when Mr. Lewis tried to stop her, she had turned the knife on him, threatening to kill us all. I heard people say she had been so high on LSD she began scratching her arms, thinking they were ants, until they bled. Someone even said she stabbed herself with a pencil in both arms. People seemed to believe anything, no matter how crazy, as long as it gave them an explanation, as long as it made her out to be unbalanced and dangerous. I had yet to hear a single person say she could be right... not a single person breathed a word about stigmata, or anything close to it.

And because no one seemed to know what had really happened, I didn't believe what they said about what happened to her after the hospital. I figured they were full of it about that too. People had all kinds of stories about that- some said she was still in the hospital, nearly 2 months later, in a vegetative state. Others said she was recluse, still living with her parents in her house. This I doubt, because the two guys who live on her street claim they never see her car anymore, although no one had seen her move out or leave. I heard people say she had run away, slipped off one night to make it on her own. Some even said she had died... but the most common belief was that she was in some mental health facility- a psycho ward, in other words.

As for what I thought- I didn't know. My mind was completely blank. Mercedes had done that to me, taken away everything firm and comfortable I had believe in and given me only elusive hints at what I should replace them with.

After a few weeks, the renewed frenzy of gossip died down, and it wasn't long before they began to forget Mercedes, before she was nothing more than a dim memory in their heads, like all the other kids who had moved away. She was no longer preying on their minds... except mine.

Sometimes, I wonder if I'm as crazy, as strange, as Mercedes seemed to be... for now I sometimes find myself looking around, listening for something I know no one else will hear... I sometimes sneak into churches during the week, kneel down so I am hidden in a back pew, and wait... for what, I am not sure. Sometimes I even find myself talking aloud- but I am addressing not myself, but God, a God I do not even know that i believe in. And one time, I felt this- this presence, as if someone were there with me... and I could have sworn I heard someone, something, speaking back.

I wonder if I am crazy- but that would mean Mercedes was as well. I remember her eyes, the calmness and peace, the sanity, the love, that shone out of them, and then I look at myself deep into my eyes, in the mirror, and I wonder if slowly, slowly, my eyes are beginning to look like hers...