By Emily H.
I’m different now. I guess everyone is. No more barbie dolls, or pig tails. No more ‘fart’ as the F word, no more ‘cooties’ jokes. No more hide and go seek on the tot lot that we outgrew. Like our clothes we outgrew, like ourselves. We were all snakes, clawing to get out of our skins, just waiting until we could shed the cloak that masked us. But like snakes we were liars and deceitful and when we shed our skins we hid, hid in the tall grass, disguised by camouflage. We shed the shield that protected us and with it opened our hearts up and we were vulnerable. As open as a wound we were vulnerable, so we wore bandages as an accessory to hide ourselves, to camouflage in the grass.
I guess it was how we all grew up. Leaving the teddy bears in a box on the top shelf and trading in for the make up at the drugstore, but no matter how hard I try I will have a scar. My scar. One that hides under my skin. One you cannot patch up with makeup. One you cannot ignore as the presence labels you like a sharpie. One marked on my heart from years of abuse. From the man who screamed words of hate into an empty room, and cursed through a mouth of alcohol. His tobacco breath was a robust poison, contaminating my life like the plague. He’s gone now, only a fraction of a memory associated with violence. A biological father who up and left on impulse, and only god knows where mom went.
We were alone, my brother and I. So I turned away from the truth and back towards the Teddy Bear in the closet. From foster home to foster home, I clung to the stuffing like a lifeline, too afraid of letting go. The fur smells like cigarettes to this day, just like my tousled hair, framing my face like a lion’s mane. Regardless of the showers and perfumes the bitter smoke has been imprinted on me. I am a scar.
But I move forward. One foot in front of the other. Trudging along through the woods of lost, and as I grew I wandered farther. I seek the truth in tree bark, I search for happiness in the grass. With bare hands I claw at the dirt to dig for gold. That’s why I walk. Wandering aimlessly through the brush. But in a meadow I lie. With my average eyes I stare at the sky and I see the extraordinary stars and wonder why that couldn’t be me. Why I couldn’t be so extraordinary that everyone wanted to look, wanted to stare. All I wanted was love and beauty and intellect and wit and wisdom. I wanted to be a star. The kind that made everyone look. I wished to dance in the moonlight with a silhouette of perfection. I wanted my shadow to put others to shame. But I have always been a web of lies, weaved by the devil himself, so foul a fly wouldn’t fall for my trap. I catch the dew, and the rain, and the tears from the clouds as they weep for my existence. I am alone.
And as I move from one foster parent to another, I remember how detached from reality I truly am, how lost, but without a map I keep pacing, stuttering steps. I keep letting the rain cleanse me of my sins, and of the smoke. I wonder what a saint would think of me.
When I first bought concealer I caked it on like a purifier. It was thick enough to smudge on your hand. I looked like a ghost. A soul, the soul I didn’t have. Mascara was next and with it came the lashes, my lashes grew to be longer than my life time and that’s when I fell in love with the beauty of a mask. And as I put on blush, I had a soul. The one I’d never had. I had the smokey eyes the girls envied from the dirt I used to claw at, except this time it was called earth and in a eyeshadow rather than from my forest, my woods. I didn’t have the body but I had the face, and I worked around the cigarette smoke by bathing in perfume. It was a facade. It was my camouflage. I finally could hide within the prairie grass. I was wanted and as I was wanted, I wanted less and less of my woods. I wanted what they wanted. And as my brother pursued college, I pursued popularity, and with it came those decisions, the regretful decisions. The questions I should have refused.
I don’t know how I got here. I genuinely do not remember the last forty-eight hours. It’s common after a high. I start with what I know. I am Beth. 18 years old. Popular. I am sitting in a sea foam green bathroom with a toilet gone brown from rust. It smells strongly of vomit and marihuana. There’s a cracked mirror reflecting a stuttering light that swings like a dead branch in a storm. The dying white door looks as though it has been kicked in more than once and the paint covering the entire room is crumbling like sand, fading faster than a computer screen. Shards from the mirror lie at my feet. I am in a one 8-inch heel, the other one miraculously not on my foot. A small pool of blood has gathered around my ankle where shards of glass have broken the skin. My barrier. I glance at the wrinkled skin on my hands and turn away disgusted. There is a cloud of smoke, and my eyes fade in and out of focus. Beer has flooded the apartment and glass dot it like icebergs in the sea. I hear footsteps, loud ones too. I struggle to stand and then I hear a knock. Ignoring it I peer cautiously into the mirror and step back in shock. From within the glass a monster claws at me. Her skin is wrinkled like tinfoil and flaking off like dried paint. It is as white as paper and she looks like a ghost. Her frail frame gives the impression of weakness, as though a breeze would be catastrophic and she would topple over faster than dominos. Her lips look dry as a drought and her hair, an untamed birds nest sticking out in all directions, but those eyes. The once average eyes that craved to look like stars are reduced to disgust. They are shrivelled up black holes with nothing left in them. With loneliness echoing inside a cavity of a heart and a headache so strong it would put pain to shame. That’s when the knocking continues. I curse.
And that’s when they break in the door. They are the cops and they have come for me. My shriek is deafening and as I slam the bathroom door it takes very little to deduce the results of the situation. The door is weak and as I lock it they begin to pound. I leap for the shower and pull the shower curtain across as if to hide. Hide in the prairie grass. The tears from my eyes are like rain from the clouds and then the door is broken in. And then I wrap myself more in the shower curtain. I cry more. I scream louder than a freight train and the cops back away and that’s when I seem to disappear and I remember. I am a four year old again. My father is walking through the front door with a beer bottle and debt. I haven’t eaten since breakfast but he refuses to listen to my plea for nourishment. I scream so loud it hurts my own ears. And then he slaps me. ‘If you make that noise again, if you complain one more time, if you even disturb me, I will make you hurt so much that pain is no longer a inconsistent incident, but rather a constant.’ he spat at my feet and my eyes stung with tears more than my face stung from pain. The cops ask me to remain calm but I vibrate and kick and restrain them. Writhing and fighting for my life. But that does not avert their mission. They place the handcuffs on my wrist and we march, but as I am dragged, kicking and screaming out of that room I glance in the mirror. I do not recognize the creature staring back at me. With a body of the dead and eyes of the bewitched, with a soul so wrung out there’s nothing left. I see the makeup and the bags underneath my eyes, I see a knot in my hair more twisted than my life. I don’t even recognize the beast. But then I know. I know that it is me. I know because of my scar.