They call me The Conductor.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Bed Time Stories

                Rachel had become accustomed to sleeping in Millie’s bed. For the first few weeks following the murder of her mother, she would sulk to her own room and pace back and forth, back and forth in a panicked kind of hurry. When she changed direction, she jerked to the left instead of allowing for a gentle arc. And when the blood pounding in her ears deafened her and she was scared of screaming, she would squeeze her eyes, swallow hard, and jog in place. Then she would, as calmly as her jittery body allowed, crawl into bed with Millie. But after a while, she dropped the act. Millie loved her and never protested, but Millie was becoming more uncomfortable with each passing sleepless night. Rachel wasn’t really sleeping at all it seemed.
Rachel had announced one night, lying next to Millie, that she would tell bedtime stories every night. Millie thought it was a cool idea—she sang, and maybe Rachel could be a storyteller. It was so easy to forget Rachel was 13 because she was so small, but her bedtime stories were the stories of someone who was finally able to see what had been broken in her life—what was keeping her broken now. For the first time, she understood how weird her life had been. Now that she was living the life of a “normal family,” she was surprised to find that even those things which she thought were commonplace in Mother’s home were not found in Aunt Tracy’s home. Mother was a sick fuck, she thought as she tried to adapt. This family showered her with love. They hugged her when she came home. They talked to her when she misbehaved. They helped her with homework. Somehow, however, Rachel felt uneasy. Maybe she just didn’t know how to respond to their light touch. Or maybe she was still grieving her mother. Her bewildered family had a hard time pinning down her quite palpable unrest. But more likely, Rachel was feeling guilty. Guilt accompanied each hand on the shoulder, each kiss on the forehead, each “I love you…”
When you are loved, you are expected to love back. You are expected to be honest when others have been honest with you. But lying was all she knew. And so she told these broken tales—horror stories from a reality she somehow wanted to preserve—because they were some backwards way of sharing truth, and because a large part of her wasn’t ready to be fixed. If normal people fuck up, then they’re just fuck-ups, but when broken people fuck up, it’s expected, she would tell herself every time she considered honesty. It was so easy for her to validate her dishonesty: self-defense.
                Millie had taken to recording these dark stories during her study hall as nearly as she could remember them. This was partly because they were disturbing and she was considering showing someone, but mostly, she had a sickening suspicion that these characters and their lives were quite true. She reread the stories constantly, hoping Rachel would mess up. She could resurrect a character, much like a soap opera in that this slip up would make it cheesy and unrealistic. She could have told a fantastic twist that would have stripped the legitimacy from all the others… but Rachel never messed up. And although the names and even genders changed, Millie thought she could guess most of the characters.
                They all began the same. “Once upon a time, there was this lady. She lived in a small town.” And the stories kept coming and coming and coming. Every night there was a new one, each more disconcerting than the last until they took a turn towards indisputably sickening. Every night there was a new one until they stopped. “Once upon a time, there was this la—“
                “—STOP!” Millie had had enough. She loved Rachel, but this was getting out of hand. Neither of them was getting sleep. Millie couldn’t sleep after what she heard, and Rachel was far too restless to sleep. Millie told her she needed to sleep in her own room. And Rachel almost threatened to tell on Millie for being a lesbian or having tattoos or for being a liberal. But she didn’t. Because deep down Rachel knew she’d crossed a line. These stories were a fucked way of telling Millie what it had really been like to live with Mother. She wanted to just tell her what she’d been through without all the bullshit, but she was so scared that if she started talking, she would never stop, and then everyone would know everything—then everyone would know she was a killer.
                But this fear is so good. I feel alive for the first time. It’s like I woke up when I killed Mother and never went back to sleep. And she was thinking this as she apologized while trying to hide her brimming tears from Millie. She thought of all of that because she couldn’t slow down her thoughts. She just. Kept. Thinking. And her heart was starting to pound in her chest. She quickly left so Millie wouldn’t see her cry. And Millie laid her head on her pillow, alone for the first night in many, and considered what she should do for Rachel. She prayed to God for an answer. She asked that He may free Rachel of her demons. Through only a few inches of plaster, Rachel lay in her bed opposite Millie, their heads together. She was thinking thinking thinking thinking about Mother, about the paint on the ceiling, about whether or not she wanted to have children, about her paper due next week. Her thoughts moved rapidly and almost painfully. These thoughts sped, turned, and wrecked in their flight to gain ahead long enough for her to consider it. But things were moving so fast in there, that she hadn’t enough time to be considered. She didn’t believe in God.

Friday, May 18, 2012

No Music In Mother's House

A lot of people went to Mother's funeral. Most came out of curiosity rather than concern, but there were a precious few that worried for Rachel and wanted to pay their respects to a life ended so soon. The death of a young person is tragic. But truthfully, very few people knew Mother. They knew Tracy and they had heard of Rachel. Rachel took piano from Miss Lisa, a popular woman in town. She played church organ for the Presbyterians. Miss Lisa talked Rachel up to her women's circle at church. Many people wanted to meet the famous Rachel and had been presented with no other opportunity.

 Rachel played at the funeral. She played her favorite song--it was one Mother hated. She had played it at a recital when she was 11, and Mother left in the middle of the performance and waited in the car. She said it was conflicted- and cruel-sounding. Rachel smiled as she played. The "mourners" assumed Rachel was remembering good times with her mother. Perhaps it was "their song." But Miss Lisa wondered. She would never forget the day Mother walked out of the concert hall. She had been so offended and was angry for Rachel's sake.

Millie sang at the funeral because Rachel had asked her to. She sang Music In My Mother's House--another her mother had loathed. The preacher of the church in which Mother was baptized wasn't sure what to say about her. The night before, he had slept little trying to think of general statements about the woman. But he didn't believe a woman who had taken her life would be welcomed in heaven. And he didn't believe that she had accepted Jesus as her Lord and Savior. She never came a day to church. What generic statements are appropriate, then? He called Tracy and she didn't have much. He asked to speak to Rachel, and she reluctantly agreed. "Mother was in to photography," she said grimly. He had heard about the horrible pictures--

The preacher stuck to a short (short, short) message about how much she'd be missed and the church wish they could have known her better. There was absolutely nothing else. No one really knew her. Rachel had to have known her best...

After the burial, the Tracy steered Rachel back towards their car. Miss Lisa  asked if she could speak with Rachel first. Tracy looked at Rachel, who nodded and said, "I'll meet you guys in a bit." She then turned back to Miss Lisa's worried face. Rachel could tell Miss Lisa was questioning her decision to have this conversation.
"I know this is a hard day for you. But... I have to know. Did your mom beat you? Were you were abused. It doesn't matter now. You can't be in trouble for telling me."
"She never had to lay a hand on me until the day she died." Rachel said this rather pointedly, making deliberate eye contact with Miss Lisa. Miss Lisa knew exactly what those words meant. She was a smart woman, and Rachel was aware of this.
"I understand. But I'd like for you to clarify, which will take some guts. So I'll say the words, and I want you to nod or shake your head. Then we'll hug each other and you can go to the car with your family. Okay?" at this, Rachel nodded. "Your mom didn't hit you. You were too scared of her to do anything that would make her that upset. The day she... died, she was more out of control. Am I correct?" Rachel began to nod, then stopped herself.
"Almost." she said. "I was out of control that day. I wanted out." And then she sobbed. She couldn't stop. She didn't cry for the death of Mother. She was so much happier without her. She cried for the tears she had suppressed. For the hair she had pulled out. For the punishments she'd delivered to herself. For the fear she never expressed. It was reminiscent of the day she had snapped; but there was so much less to let go of now. It was a little easier.

And Miss Lisa was scared of the new information she'd gathered. She knew what that meant. But she would never tell anyone. Miss Lisa wanted her out too. Miss Lisa would continue to instruct Rachel free of charge. And they didn't speak of it again for a long, long time.

We're Just Not Set Up For It

Sarah was feeling kind of dizzy and warm. When she stood up, she felt an urge to lean on someone, and so she did. She leaned on the frat boy nearest her. He was a pledge, she could tell. He wasn't drinking, and there were only two reasons for that. She hoped to God it was her pledge theory.
"You a pledge?" she asked, trying to stand on her own.
"Yeah," he said, trying to help her.
"Good, good," she said. "You got a big bro?" she asked.
"Take me to 'im pretty please." The pledge put his hand respectfully around her waist to support her. She buried her face in his shoulder. He smelled like Axe and sweat--but not quite body odor. Just a good smell. She told him so. She smiled a small smile at no one in particular, and he looked at her with raised eyebrows. "What year are you?" he asked, purely conversationally. "Sophomore," she said. That's only a year older than me, he thought. He had thought she seemed very mature. She had one of those faces--it looked smart.

"Here he is, ma'am," he said, aiming for silly, but presenting formal.
"Hey boy. Wuss your name?" she was nearly incomprehensible now.
"Uh, Tyler." he said hesitantly. And he braced himself for the kiss that he had seen coming. He kissed her for a moment, but when her hands made her intentions clear, he gently pulled her off. "You're too drunk. I can have my lil bro drive you home.
Her feelings were hurt and she was embarrassed. She started to walk away, and Lil Bro followed her. He didn't know if she had a ride, and she knew he would follow her. She had planned this out. She wanted it to happen in the house, but she knew a pledge wouldn't live there. She wasn't giving up.

He held her around her waist again, trying to be the boy his mama had raised; the man his fraternity expected him to be. They didn't take advantage of girls. She was just too drunk. But she is hot. They marched on towards the car. They both knew where that night would end, although Lil Bro was still trying to talk himself out of it, deep down he knew his mind was made up. In the car, he kept his eyes forward and started driving. "Where am I taking you?" he asked, aiming for formal, but presenting silly. "You're taking me to your room," she said. He smiled, trying not to laugh. He was so nervous.
"How do you know my hall doesn't have a guest policy?"
"Your parking pass. You live in McNary. That's coed floors. They don't give a shit. Besides. It's Friday night." Maybe she wasn't as drunk as he had thought. He already felt less guilty.
"Very observant, " he said. And he pulled into a spot that was remarkably close considering the time of night. Someone must have just left.

In his room she made him uncomfortable. She touched his things. She picked up his pictures. She was rough with him. She was not a small girl. He became unsure, but he was in too deep now. He couldn't make her leave, and she was still hot. He still wanted her...

And when they were finished she said, "Good thing I won't remember that tomorrow," she said. "What's your name again?" He answered her. Then she took the bed and made it clear his place was on the floor. Then she put her phone in her bra. She'd already set an alarm on vibrate for 9:00am, which was earlier than any college boy would wake up on a Saturday morning.

She woke up to a buzzing between her breasts. And almost intuitively she redressed herself. Found her purse, and in her red stilettos she stepped on Lil Bro's hand as she left his room. He looked up at her, awakened by the pain. His face was all confused sadness. Her's... was complicated.

Her brows were furrowed, and her smudged liner and mascara gave her the pathetic eyes worn on every Walk of Shame. But her eyes did not hold the anger that her brows attempted to shape. They held desperation. And her nose. Her nose wrinkled part in disgust and part in apology.  Her lips curled in on themselves, hiding their artfully sculpted, full body. Their absence made clear the intention behind the placement of her heel, but the downward arc of the crease spoke of regret.

And suddenly she dropped to the ground. She cried and cried. Unsure of what to do, Lil Bro watched until he finally willed himself towards her. He knew she'd stepped on his hand on purpose. She'd practically beat him the night before, had forgotten his name, and had sad cruel things... but he held her in his arms. He rocked her and was silent. She let him. She felt she had hurt him enough. She stopped crying, but put her head in his lap.

"You know what isn't fair?" she asked him.
"Tell me," he said.
"We're just not set up for it. Women can't rape men."

It was a Saturday morning in early October.

Give Yourself to Love--Part 3

It was about a year-and-a-half later. With the kids safely fed and in bed, the couple lay together, talking awkwardly about the day. Sarah had something she wanted to say, and He could tell she did. Sarah stopped mid-sentence when talking about Molly.--"I was raped. In high school." She said it quickly and haltingly. This was the first time she said rape. It would take several more years to say it without flinching.

He was so overwhelmed. He didn't know what was right to do or say, so He allowed himself to react. "Oh, my God, Sarah. Who? Who did it?" Now He couldn't say it.
"Who doesn't matter." she said firmly.
"Of course it does!" He said raising his voice too much. She gave him a look that quieted him immediately.
"It doesn't because he's a grown man with his own life that I've no intentions of ruining. He has children that don't need to know what their father did. And I'm convinced, now that I've had time to think about it, that he didn't mean it. I know that sounds crazy. But he was really messed up that night. Like drugged or something..."
"It was in that park?" He was kind of breathless. And to his surprise, she laughed.
"No! Silly! It was at a party--someone's house. Some football player, I think. Maybe Matt Ingred's? I don't know. Someone's. Funny how the details slip, isn't it? I just... I went to that park to mourn, I think. I never told anybody, and so I told the trees, I guess." And with those words she understood for the first time the role those trees had played--they had been her confidant. She held her wrist, with its tattoo--a simple hourglass--just two triangles. He softly took her wrist from her. He traced the line with his fingertip. He had never known what it meant, (or even that it was an hourglass) and had never thought to ask. It just seemed like one of those tattoos you get in college; just to get one.
"It's an hourglass," she said smiling. "That's probably another story for another day, but it all ties in. And all my scars... I suppose I was coping in one way or another. You never asked about them, and I probably would have lied if you did, but since I'm sharing secrets, I may as well give that one up, too..."
"Oh, Sarah," He was horrified, but tried to portray worried. He was doing a decent job.
"Don't 'oh, Sarah,' me." she said. "I'm so much better now. You kind of broke my hourglass metaphor. You made me feel like a person again. I had to trust myself, but when I finally did, you were naturally the next person to trust. You saw my face first. So I gave myself up to you. And you've never failed me."

There was silence... then,

"I love you." they both said at the same time, and laughed. And in the hysteria of this release of their repressed, emotional tension, they couldn't stop. They laughed for what seemed like hours. They fell asleep spooning, with smiles still on their faces.

Give Yourself to Love--Part 2

He knew a lot about nature. He'd been an Eagle Scout and a camp counselor for years. He loved being outdoors. He could make fires and tell when it was going to rain. He knew which plants were okay to touch, and which pebbles, when rubbed together, made clay paint for decorating little faces and bodies. Just has his wife had passed on a love of music to her children, He had shown them how to enjoy and respect nature. Their middle child, Molly, best understood this connection. He loved taking Molly on hikes with him and teaching her what he had so loved to be taught. They all enjoyed the outdoors to greater and lesser degrees, but Molly in particular, understood trees the way He did. She had her mother's nose--a funny, little button nose. But like her mother, He could tell she was going to be womanly in appearance. She was round, like six year-olds can be, but she had such a face. That was going to be an intelligent face, just like her mother's.

Molly headed the line with her father. He quizzed her over the different kinds of trees, and on special occasion, animal tracks. The eldest, Patrick, was in Boy Scouts, and although he was proficient enough, his true passion lay in reading. The seven year-old had read through both his parents' favorite series' as children. Now he was starting Harry Potter. He wanted to be sure he was reading everything correctly, so during the day at school, he would read three chapters, and then before bed  his mother read him those chapters again out of her copy, while he followed along. Sometimes he wrote his own stories, though he never told anyone about them, and he drew pictures from his favorite scenes in books. He kept these in a private journal and sketchbook. He was a sensitive boy.

They were a family of many talents. They were a family of love. He wouldn't have it any other way. He would not.

He carried Rose, who was feeling too tired to walk. Her three year-old legs were starting to hurt her. She tended to whine, but He often indulged her although his wife thought He spoiled her. "You have two capable legs, dear." she said to Rose. No one else seemed to care enough to try to convince him to put her down, though. So they marched on.

They stopped in a clearing to drink some water and rest. He needed to rest most as He'd carried Rose for most the hike. He laid on his back and looked up at the clouds. "They're like cotton balls glued with Elmer's onto a blue paper." said Patrick. He had laid down next to his father and snuggled up to his side. He ruffled Patrick's hair and said, "Just like that, buddy."

Molly was teaching Rose some schoolyard, hand-jive chant a little ways off, and his wife was... where has she gone to? This would be the second time this had happened. And leaving the car running? What's that? He listened to Patrick a little while longer while he described, in finite detail, his new favorite scene in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. (It changed weekly.) Then He put Molly to the task of entertaining the other two with *The Line Game, and left to find his wife.

And find her He did. She was a little ways off from the clearing, sitting on a stump. Her eyes were closed, but her body shook with the tears she did not shed. He did not run to her, but instead walked slowly, but deliberately so that she would hear his footsteps. He knelt beside her and pulled her head onto his chest. With his touch, she began to cry. Unsure of what to do, He said nothing, but supported her shaking frame.

"I was afraid this would happen," she cried. Her sobs broke His heart. She had not cried this way since Patrick had choked on a piece of fish bone two years ago.
"What, Sarah, what's happening?" He was desperate to make it stop. It was hurting him too. He loved her. But when she sensed that pain in someone else's voice, she held his face in a way her best friend often did to her growing up.
"I used to come here to cry, and when I'd start I couldn't stop. It seems not much has changed. I was just hoping it had." Her voice broke a little. He sat on the dirt and pulled her into his lap.
"It's so beautiful here, isn't it? But it's okay if we don't come back. I promise. I care more about you than this park. I just wish I knew what I could do to help." And with his words, she knew He was fishing. He wanted to know what was wrong, and she honestly believed it was with concerned, rather than curious, heart.
"Someday, someday I'll tell you everything. But for now I just want to get home. Will you drive?"
"Of course, darling." And they held hands and called their kids onward.

In the car, both she and the children fell asleep, and He was left driving alone. He played NPR for background noise, but He didn't really hear anything. His stomach was churning. He was a little scared that He wouldn't be able to handle whatever she wanted to tell him, and He would fail her somehow.

But He had built his family, with the help of his wife, on Love. And they both believed in Love. Really believed.

Love comes when you're ready
love comes when you're afraid.
It will be the greatest teacher,
the best friend you have made.

*Brain teaser that pissed me off for half a summer.

Give Yourself to Love--Part 1

He was going on a trip with his wife and children. In the car, the two oldest children--six and seven--were trying to hit one another over and around the car seat between them containing a three-year old child, whose laugh rang with maverick and the sound of bells. That little girl's voice always meant something to her father. He loved every time she spoke, even if the words were oppositional or rude, because her voice was perfection. And the two fighting siblings, a boy and girl, were beginning to banter above an interview their mother had found particularly interesting on NPR.

His wife, who was driving, pulled the car to the side of the road and turned off the radio. She was silent, but looked at her husband and smiled. She squeezed his hand. He loved her so, so much. She often did this when the children fought in the car. The silence would make them uncomfortable. They realized how childish their arguments were when they sensed they were silently being judged. They would quiet themselves and say, "sorry" with embarrassed and reluctant heart. He would look back at them and smile. "Thank you both," He would say. "I'm proud of you. What would you like to sing?"

This family always sang after an argument. In the time it took to sing a song or two, the pettiness was far behind them. If the fight was over serious matters, they would discuss it. But more often than not, the argument was over the color of Spongebob's house or who had said, "MY COOL CAR!" first. On this day, the older boy spoke first. "Can we sing What Wondrous Love Is This?" The six year-old girl nodded vigorously. Then all eyes moved to the baby of the family. "Whatever. I don't care," she said. Her mother rolled her eyes at her, and began to sing. The mother never did complain that she didn't hear the end of that interview. Later her husband remembered that she'd missed the interview she had been so enjoying, and He asked her about it. "What is the value of the words of an intelligent stranger beside the value of harmony in my VW?" And He couldn't answer the rhetorical question, so He smiled at her and kissed her forehead. "You're a good mama," He said.

He was a decent singer. He was not the singer his wife was. She sang in college and competed as a soloist all over the state. He could carry a tune, which was more than some men could say, really. He sang the melody, and the kids followed him, and when the mother felt they were secure, she would sing a soaring harmony above and below them, weaving in and out of the melody effortlessly. The youngest, that little girl, was already beginning to pick up on these harmonies, which her mother kept consistent for this purpose. The other two were content to join their father; but that little girl had a voice that, accompanied by her soon-to-be-discovered perfect pitch, would eventually surpass her mother's skill. And her mother could not be prouder of her--she had given her daughter every opportunity her parents had not. And the result was phenomenal.

He thought that was probably why He loved his little girl so much. It was like falling in love with his wife's voice all over again. It was magic.

The mother put the car back in drive and got back on the highway. What wondrous love is this? Oh, my soul. Oh, my soul. The six year-old girl picked the next song, and then the mother, and then the youngest, and finally He got his chance. "Give Yourself to Love." He said almost apologetically. He was a predictable man. It was the first song He'd ever heard his wife sing. She was at a coffee house with her guitar and her floral dress. Her hair was braided by her roommate at the time, and He was struck by her face. It was so intelligent-looking. She cared about the words she sang, and she meant every sound of every syllable of every word of every line. And the first time He heard her He cried. It would not be the first time his wife's voice made him cry.

Give yourself to love,
if love is what you're after.
Open your heart to the
tears and laughter and
Give yourself to love.
Give yourself to love.

His family laughed, but they obliged. It was a family favorite, after all. They sang all the way to the park in the mother's hometown. It was a woodsy park with trails, and gravel crunched under their wheels as they pulled in. They'd never come here before. Their usual family, nature trips were taken to a park nearly an hour and a half away, while all along this one was a half-hour drive (even with His wife's very, very slow driving). He was a little chagrined the He had not been informed of the existence of this quaint, beautiful park so nearby. And now that He saw it, He was particularly bitter. It was beautiful. But He watched his wife step outside the car, cross her arms and close her eyes. He wanted to go to her and touch her. But someone had to get the kids out of the car and the water bottles out of the back... and the keys out of the ignition.

But once He'd done those things, He sat the kids at a picnic table and took Mommy away for a "super-secret, completely boring grown-up conversation."

"Honey, are you okay?"
"Yeah, I'm fine."
"I don't believe you." He looked her right in the eye. But then her countenance turned from one of solemn remembrance to one of relief. What did I say that was so great? He thought. She kissed him on the cheek. "We can talk about it later, Love. But for now, I want to go on a walk with our precious babies."

And so they did.

*The picture is a woman holding a flower behind her back with a tattoo of an hourglass on her wrist. This is the mother.

Part 2 of Gutes Tun

It was the Sunday after The Friday Night. Sarah went to church with her parents like she always did. But Millie wasn't there. She had texted her the night before, but she hadn't answered her yet. Sarah didn't sleep Saturday night. She felt so lonely, and couldn't submit to her loneliness by committing what she thought to be the ultimate act of solidarity: falling asleep alone. She wanted to tell someone about what had happened. She struggled with the word r--...ape. Not even in her head did she form the sounds of that dirty word.

In church the pastor said something about the "report." And she felt nauseous. Any word with both an "r" and a "p," would make her sick to her stomach for the next few years. After that word, formed of unfortunate consonants, had been spoken so innocently, she ran to the bathroom. Her parents looked at her meanly as she rushed out of the chapel into the parish hall. They were embarrassed.

In the bathroom she dry-heaved, over and over. She dry-heaved for the breakfast, lunch, dinner, and breakfast again, that she had skipped. But she did not cry. Tears welled in her eyes, but she squeezed them shut and waited for the droplets to absorb back into her aching eyes. And when the cold sweat all over her body had dried, and she felt secure enough to stand, she walked to the sink. She looked at herself, and her immediate thought was aw, before her fuzzy reality cleared up. Then she became very still. She walked to her reflection slowly with no swing in her arms or hips. She looked at the foreign face before her. This was not the face that had entered the party Friday Night. This was a very hard face.

Sarah had a round, round face. She was a chubby girl growing up, and had eventually developed a womanly figure from that baby fat. She had a body Millie would forever envy, and a body she would forever be at war with. That moment she hated her fat face and her double chin and her bingo arms and her thick legs and her cankles love handles ghetto booty belly pooch double Ds ALL OF IT. She hated her body, and she just wanted to start over with a new one. She wanted OUT.

This was a body that made her sexy enough to fuck, but not pretty enough to love. This was a body that oozed sex appeal in sweatpants and a Tshirt. This was a body that had no face--there was no face worth looking at on top of a perfect hourglass. Men just watched the sand pour from the top curve to the bottom. But she was smart, and she was a little awkward. She didn't party. She didn't even cuss. She was a church-girl. So men stopped looking at all--at least she thought they did.

Chris had to be so drunk he knew he'd forget it to even consider me. And I initiated it. He probably didn't want me at all. 

In a terrifying and private rage she tore off her cardigan and threw it to the floor with more force than required, which hurt her shoulder. She grabbed the fat on her upper arm and squeezed, stomping her foot to keep from screaming. She stopped only when the squeezing hand cramped suddenly. She leaned on the stall and slid until she was sitting again. She knew she needed to calm down before she saw her parents again, but she wasn't done yet. She punched the floor with her left hand, and immediately knew it was too hard. She had broken her hand. She'd gone too far, and now she was panicked. But even alone she would not allow her face to reflect this. She needed to practice. She walked over to the sink and splashed her face with water, maintaining a fixed countenance. She cleaned the blood from her knuckles, only wincing when the soap burned her.

With her cardigan back on and her arms firmly crossed to privately cradle her throbbing hand. The service was almost over. So she waited in the lobby for her parents to exit.

"You're okay?" Her mother always asked questions as challenges. The contracted "are" was placed strategically after the "you," as opposed to before. With this Sarah had two possible responses. Yes. or No. She went with yes. At home her dad sat in his recliner with a beer in his hand and the rest of the six pack on the ground beside him. He watched Spike TV and didn't mutter a comprehensible word until he said goodbye as Sarah left the house to go to the park. With her new-found release, she wanted privacy to perform. She pinched fat, elbowed trees, kicked huge, moss-covered rocks... and she was in so much pain, but she had screamed! She had yelped with that pain. She had for a small while been out of her body, or perhaps she had just opened it up enough, both physically and metaphorically to let goodness back inside of her. It was nearly five o'clock before she ceased her endless cycle of self-abuse and moments of rest... and it was only because her phone was ringing.

It wasn't a call.

Hey girl. I'm sorry I missed your text this morning. I was still asleep. Is everything okay? Are you okay?

And Sarah didn't respond. She wasn't happy. She wasn't making a difference in someone's life. She wasn't as smart as Millie. She wasn't as brave as Millie. And she wasn't falling for someone. She was just falling.

Yeah. I'm fine. I'll ttyl, love.

She knew Millie would find it suspicious. There was no face. All her texts were littered with :) and :/ and :( and :'( and :*) and ;) and :D and... and she was always afraid her texts would be misinterpreted without them. But her texts had taken on a certain personality with those faces... her faceAnd without those faces, it was just a body of text. And Millie saw Sarah's face. She saw Sarah's face when others watched the sand. But Sarah was hiding her face. She was about to accept what she believed to be fact: her face was unimportant. Her sand... that mattered. She kind of hoped Millie would tell her she was crazy, and that her face mattered to plenty of people--to the people that mattered. She knew the faceless body would catch her attention and then she could save her. She was waiting for Millie to force the truth from her...

And then Millie made a horrible mistake.

Okay best friend. See you tomorrow.

All for a few more minutes to fall.

Rachel. Gutes Tun. 
Sarah. Nicht Tun.
Kylie. Gutes Tun.
But who shall do
or fail to do
for you