I constantly felt like I was just waking up. I’d turn around, and be surprised to be at work. I didn’t remember going to work. I’d lift my head again, and be in chess club, with Mr Almedia at his desk, eating his lunch. I’d rise to my feet and find I had been kneeling before the cross at church, someplace I no longer felt safe. I couldn’t find safety any place that it used to live.
Time shifted around me, like a swampy pond, muddy, covering its secrets in swirling thickness. I was adrift.
Things happened, but I couldn’t recall them like I normally would have done. Looking back, I have slivers, fragments, but few reliable experiences. The days were stitched together with butterfly bandages, neosporin oozing out of new wounds. I worked on saying goodbye.
I made a project for my sister that I never gave to her. It was a songbook, with a mix CD of the songs, and a collage of us through the years. Allison and I had become friends through the years without Alex, and it was the only bright side from that whole situation. Allison has always been opposite me in several ways, but she is strong. She balls up inside herself and presents a stone exterior to the world. I thought, as long as she didn’t have to find the body, she would do fine without me. If anything, it might give her more independence and freedom, not being a kid sister anymore.
My mother was my enemy at this time. She swung between extremes of friendship and easy laughter, and shouting matches. She thought I was a snotty teenager, and I thought she was a lousy mother. Jack had left a couple years before, taking his dog, his truck, and moving to the desert. We had the house, but all the money went to my brother’s program. Our money, Aunt Janet’s money, and my grandparents money all went to the program. Stephie paid my dance bill that year, because I was trying to save for the flight to New Orleans. I worked at a sandwich shop and as a housekeeper.
The day I left California, I know my mother, brother and sister were all at the airport. Alex had come home a couple days before I graduated high school. I was moving to Louisiana, and my family was moving south, to Orange County. The program instructed families to try and move away from negative influences that tripped up their kids in the first place. Alex would get a fresh start, and Allison would get a new school. I felt like death was all the more fitting for me, considering I didn’t have a home to go back to, even if I’d wanted to go back.
I remember landing, and finding Pa-Pa to pick me up alone. Ma-Ma was in a delivery room, holding the hand of a friend giving birth. I have snippets from that first month or two. I am smiling for my new Louisiana driver’s license photo. I am putting up pictures of Stephanie and Stuart in my dorm room. I am walking to class, my backpack softly thudding against my side.
My life started to become a movie, someone’s else’s life that I was able to watch unfold. Sometimes, I didn’t recognize the scenes that were playing out at all. I saw blood dripping on my polished toes. I was laughing with people I didn’t know in the laundry room of the dorms. I was kissing a man I didn’t recognize. I was walking alone at night by the lake, alone at night around campus, alone at night in a parking lot. I picked up rocks and dug them into my skin, trying to find myself with scrapes instead of cuts.
I made friends, although it was not my goal. I couldn’t stop talking to people, especially as talking to myself proved to be a worse and worse idea. A girl who lived in the dorms named Kelly offered to dye my hair red for me. I was sitting in the stiff metal chair in her room, hair color making me dizzy and uninhibited. I started talking.
“Killing yourself is the most selfish way that someone can die.” I said. Kelly pulled my hair.
“You’re lucky I don’t ruin all of this for that comment. I know people who have killed themselves, and they were not selfish. Take it back.” I took it back. I didn’t change my opinion.
Things sped up, like the viewer of my life hit fast forward. The gaps between logic grew, and I found myself missing whole days. I’d go to class, but it was Tuesday instead of Monday. I’d missed all my Monday classes. I couldn’t remember where I’d been, or why I hadn’t been at class. I’d go to my English comp class, only to discover a paper was due. I didn’t even know we’d been assigned a paper. I missed plans with other people. I tried to avoid my family as best I could, but my Louisiana family was happy to have me nearby. Things got confusing, and then dark, and then went blank.
Stuart showed up at my school. He’d surprised me, knowing I wasn’t doing well, because I’d stopped contacting him. I did call Stephanie, spending hours walking around at night, crying and telling her I didn’t understand, I didn’t know what was wrong with me, that I was going crazy. She was facing her own horrors, as her mother stepped up to marry a man who’d abused Steph as a girl. Our mothers seemed fucking insane. It was genetic, I figured. I knew I was nuts.
Our Student Center on campus had low-cost guest rooms that could be rented out for visitors. Stuart did this when he flew into New Orleans. I have splinters of a conversation in his room that are still lodged in my brain. We were standing in the bathroom, and I took off my shirt. Red, angry, slashes screamed across my breasts, showing from under my bra. I’d started to lose control, even in my years of discipline with injury, and was starting to cut up my chest, onto my shoulders, and anywhere I could find an offending inch. His eyes widened involuntarily, and he looked at me like he saw what I really was: deserving of this treatment. I don’t remember when/how Stuart left town.
My Aunt Janet flew into town. Katie Shay had walked into our bathroom and found me with my blade, and she took action. She gathered our friends, removed all my weapons, arranged to have me with someone constantly, and called my Aunt Janet. No one tried to call my mother.
There were police, a couple of times. I’d wander off if I could get away from my guardians, and the police brought me home. I was by the lake, tears streaming silently, when I was found by two officers searching for a dangerous girl. That was me.
My aunt took Katie and Chris, a boy I’d been having sex with (real, genuine, on-purpose and with intention, sex), to dinner as a thank you for not letting me off myself. I remember smiling, listening to my aunt go on how she couldn’t understand why they would pick Deanie’s Seafood over Outback Steakhouse.
I was taken to California. I wasn’t an adult anymore, and I wasn’t consulted about anything. I didn’t have enough presence to have an opinion anyway. Aunt Janet took all the knives out of her kitchen. She kept telling me how we would get help. We went to a few places, but I didn’t talk to anyone. I was in my aunt’s kitchen on the night of Halloween, 2004, talking to some dorm friends about their costumes. The next day I was checked in to an inpatient service at South Coast Medical Center.