A Drowning Sort of Death

26 of December

Jazz music hummed and we sat at the granite table, quietly playing cards into infinity. Chris Kander’s cards that he let me pick out from his pile of worn out decks. I felt indecisive; unable to focus in such a skitterish way that it even unnerved me to a degree. I plaited my long blonde hair to the bottom of my ribcage, straightened my back, and read paragraph from the book laying innocently, legs spread wide, on the bed of the table. Methodically, I loosened the thick strands of hair so the fibers fell across my chest. “What do you want to do?” Mum prodded me sweetly- but cynical me- I retorted that I know she’s just asking what I want to do because I cried today.

I woke up on a mission, emphatically aware that something was bubbling up inside of me, and the only way to hold it down was to get out of the house. I read in bed, the sheets tangled about my knees, before stifling a yawn and stripping down for a shower. Lately, I’ve been running the hot tap like a solo marathon, and it gave me goosebumps as I inched under the spouting stream of evaporating water. The mirror fogged up candidly, and I shaved with precision, my razor a martyr. I kissed the droplets and crinkled my eyes in the flames of water.

The walk downstairs was like the plague, rushing out into the oncoming traffic. Everything seems much simpler in my head, but when I have to work it all out, the reality is that I have trouble. I moseyed into the kitchen and braced myself to ask Mum if I could go to the mall with my friend Maria. I leaned against the grimy, tile countertops as she regarded me with a skeptically sarcastic smile as I broached the subject. My eyes stooped into a half mast anger as the lightness in them ran away. The only time I have a hard time talking to Mum is when it comes to my friends. For me, asking my mum to hang out with someone is like asking a jailor if I can have his keys. I can’t explain quite why I make a mountain out of the molehill asking to go out with people should be, but there’s something about Mum, or maybe my relationship with her, that makes me calculate every word, every movement of my hands when I ask her. Which isn’t often. There’s so many relationships I could foster if I just had the courage to ask. Instead, I mope and wallow in self-pity like a bird with clipped wings. One thing I hate most about myself is that I already understand the whys and hows of things. It’s easier to spare myself the humiliation of talking to Mum about it when can grasp the product of the conversation before it happens. Suddenly, part way through the typical interrogation of “who’s going”, “where will you be?”, “what will you be doing?”; I told Mum it would be Maria and I at the mall together. She turned to me and asked who else I was seeing and soon after that I burst. I just let the tears flow, even as my younger siblings laughed and laughed and I was again reminded that I’m not really their big sister. Not in their eyes. They don’t revere me, I think they might even pity me, if they care enough for that.

Did I ever mention I feel as if I’m not supposed to be fourteen?

I wait.

And wait.

And wait.

What is it that I’m holding off for? I’m not the one holding off, I’m the one waiting for my age to catch up with my mind. And I swear, if it doesn’t happen soon, I’ll fly off my rocker. I’m often mistaken for an adult, for Mum, or a teenager nearing adulthood. Sometimes I count the different expressions of surprise people phase through when I tell them I’m fourteen, and I replay them in my head like the way I replay the moments that the various arms of people from contrasting backgrounds and different circumstances once held me. But it doesn’t change the fact that those arms encircled my waist in the past, and they won’t hold me again. My mind wanders back to the movie of disbelieving expressions. Age is weird.

I tick off my fingers the names of places and people and I wish I had the freedom to determine where I go, what I do each day. Papa said that would make me an adult if I could do that. I raise my eyebrows, thin my lips, and stiffen my shoulders into my neck in an expression of “Weeeell, that’s what I’m waiting for Pops.” To grow up and start my independent life, because everything I’m doing now is constricted by my young age. I’m working and waiting and screwing around until I make it to the years when I no longer am lying to tell a stranger that sure, I’m nineteen. If I was nineteen I could drive to the Oxxo and buy Justin a powerade when he’s sick. I’d leave it on his doorstep and ring the bell and drive away, like how he used to do for a girl he once loved. Then again, if I was nineteen, I wouldn’t be here now, and I wouldn’t know Justin or Maria and I never would’ve scoffed at Orlando, and Alma never would have failed me. If I was at the age of infinite freedom, I’d already be successful and worried with men who are seven or eight or ten years my senior, except that would put them in their thirties, instead of twenties, like now. I’d be shedding my paint clothes in the back of a private jet for name brands like Gucci while I ride to parties in New York with name brands like Tim Shepard and Paul McCartney and- why not?- Meg Ryan. (That one’s for Mum.) I’d spend the time arguing about food and vaccines and corrupt governments and I’d even share the stories of the people I came to know and love from my hitchhiking adventures through Europe. Then, in the brooding rays of dawn, I’d climb back into the airplane that brought me to the event, and I’d change back into my painting clothes, get dropped off in some obscure location, and learn to live with the people there until I’m no longer a foreigner to that place, and I’ve befriended the population. I’d make art on the side, in the night, as if I was making love to someone I actually care about. Except there would be no one sitting on the other side of the table as I draw. Because if there was, it would be the person I actually cared about, and I wouldn’t be free anymore to roam the world as I please.

I was half scared that the lying words that filled me up would spill out at any moment, as Mum and I argued, words that were never meant to be spoken; words of things I’ve done that maybe I do not regret because otherwise I wouldn’t be who I am today. But I guess the real internal struggle is whether or not I like who I am now. A plethora of words clawed up my throat and foamed at my lips but I swallowed them whole and they escaped me in the form of tears. Rollicking ocean tears that taste like salt and the things I’ve kissed, but I don’t mind too much. It’s just soccer balls I’ve touched my lips to, gritty with dried mud after a damp practice; sickly trees and bluebird noses and  most of all, I taste the rain in my tears. The rain that pounds on my window as I lay, sleepless, dauntless, and haunts me with the steady tattoo of the names of people who have left me enveloped in cold arms and merciless eyes. But I don’t pay the sky’s tantrums much attention anymore- I’m too engrossed with keeping my own screams at bay. I feel like the eye of a storm must feel, bumping dully along in the surrounding hullaballoo and vaguely pondering where the storm will end. And if it’ll take me to the right place.

Removed- that’s the word- is the best way to describe my habits lately. In a removed fashion, I tuned out the directions to Gin Rummy Mum was reminding us of the night we played cards. In a visibly removed manner, I adjourned to my room and that was where I stayed until I was forced out. I hadn’t realized how much time I’d been alone- just me and those white walls and my thoughts. My mind was removed this morning as I ran along the beach, my pores bristling as the salty, lapping tide licked my toes and my calves burned. Part of me wonders when I’ll be home again, returned from a vacation of… isolation.

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