Kirsi Marcus

It's not just that I am prettier than all of the other girls in third grade, or that my dresses are so short they show almost all of my legs, and show my panties when I reach for something. Or sometimes, if I lean really far forward they fall all the way up and over my back, and cover my face until all I am is just a headless mountain-shaped dress of a girl with my butt on display for the world to see. It's not these small things that make me the most perfect, prettiest, nicest and best girl in all of third grade. And I don't think being pretty makes me special (although it does,) because Lincoln Elementary is full of pretty girls, and I know that being the prettiest of all of the girls means next to nothing, when compared with the fact that I exude and radiate, shimmy and shine and shake perfection from every non-existent pore on my flawless face. It's more than that; I am the prettiest girl in third grade because of the way I talk and speak and make everyone around me pee from laughing so hard—I am that funny. I am the star of the class talent shows, and school plays, the soloist in every choir, the girl carried on the shoulders of all of the other girls and boys at Lincoln Elementary, and let's face it, probably the whole world. I am so perfectly blessed in life that anyone who meets me has to stop and take a moment to look as I skip by, wind blowing my hair, feet kicking my butt as I run like I am a free seagull, like they've never seen anything like me, like I'm It.
     I don't presume to say that a girl like me has to learn to be 'a girl like me;' some of us are just born with it. But if I did learn to be the way I am, it was probably from watching old movies with women so dementedly lovely that even my dumbest brother stops playing with his action figures (or my Barbie dolls) and comes to watch. My brother Mickey is by far my dumbest brother. You might look at him and wonder how and why and if we are even related, and actually, I'm not even sure that we are. Everyone in my family looks the same, all blond and lifeless and their eyes and ears and noses blend together like their faces are missing, and they look nothing like me, with my dark eyes and dark hair, which means I must be adopted. And I think I must be the long lost princess Anastasia, or some other princess that went missing and no one knows where she is, and when I told this to Miss Kale she asked me, "Anna, why don't you want to be a part of your family?" which is the dumbest question anyone could ask, because anyone who isn't a psycho would look at my family and instantly know why I don't want to be associated with someone like my dumbest brother Mickey, who runs around talking gibberish and has an imaginary girlfriend named Jane Jane Cocodot, who is a famous tap dancing celebrity. Here is how our conversations go:
     [Mickey] "Want to see Jane Jane dance the million?"
     [Me, Anna] "No."
     [Mickey] "The five?  Want to see Jane Jane dance the five?"
     [Me] "No. Leave me alone."
     [Mickey] "Can you shlupffffmsssssistushipofrmuphm slut?"
     [Me] "Slut? Did you say slut? You're the slut, slutting around with your imaginary slut girl friend, imaginary doing it!"
     Mickey is three years older than me, even though he acts like he's three years old period, and is a giant tattle, and always tells my dad things like Anna used the word slut, and what is a slut, dad, what is a slut? And then my dad gives me lectures like We don't use words like that in this house, Anna, don't you know we don't call people names because it's unkind, and shouldn't you of all people know, Anna, how unkind life and the world really is Anna. And I wouldn't go around making things harder for people by calling them, Anna, names, Anna, because everyone has their own problems and burdens to bear in life. Anna.
And how completely stupid is it that my dad gets mad at me for using the word slut, when everyone knows that a slut is just a person who's doing it, and shouldn't doing it be the real crime? Shouldn't I not even know what doing it is? Shouldn't my dad care that Mickey told me about doing it almost two years ago, and showed me what he thought doing it looked like by drawing me a picture, and when I said I didn't get it, he laid out all of my dolls on the floor and had a giant doing-it-party and said, Do you get it now, what about now, are you getting this, do you get it now, what about now?  Huh, huh, huh, HUH?
     In first grade only moments after I blew out the candles on my birthday cake, and after my brother said that his gift to me was the gift of knowledge and he finally told me what came after the f in the f-word, and told me what fuck was, and I dared Elizabeth to fuck the couch after my friends left, and she said, What's fuck? and I said, Doing it, and she said, What's that?, I had the great privilege of being the first one to tell her all about that heinous baby-making crime.  And I drew her the same picture that Mickey drew me, which was mostly just a pile of stick figures, all tangled arms and legs, and I told her how doing it gets you knocked-up, and that was how my brother Neil and his wife got their Asian baby Fredrick, who I think is also adopted because he looks nothing like his parents either, which completely explains why Fredrick likes me more than anyone else in the family. And I told Elizabeth that her parents must not have done it right when they made Lindsey, her embarrassingly retarded and fat twin.
     And when my mom found the two of us sitting in the corner and ignoring all of the other guests at the party and told us to have better manners, I said, Fuck off, which is how and why I spent the anniversary of my sixth year of life running through the backyards of my neighborhood while my dad chased after me. That was in October, and even though I was always getting into trouble and my brother Mickey was a monster and my mom and dad were always fighting, that was the last best year of my life.

On August third of the seventh year of my life, a mere month before Elizabeth and I would enter into the third grade, and a mere two months before I would turn eight (which seemed unimaginably old to me, so old in fact I wondered if I'd even make it to my eighth birthday or if perhaps, I'd get my head chopped off by a falling tree branch before it could happened,) Elizabeth had a tea-party birthday party. That was summer that I refused to take off my swim suit because I looked so incredibly hot. I told my dad it was a slip and slide party so he would buy me a new pair of sun glasses, which looked fantastic, but what's the point of looking fantastic if the only people who see you are your best friend, her retard of a sister and a few other girls?
     The party started at two but I told my dad it started at three so that I could make a dramatic entrance. And when we pulled up to the party my mom said, Wear sun screen, and I said, Eww yuck, and she said, You don't want to end up like me, and I said, I'm not old yet, and she said, It's never too soon to protect what you have. And they wouldn't let me leave until my mom climbed into the back and smeared lotion on me between sneaking kisses on my shoulders and down my spine which I tried to smear away along with the white, goopy lotion. Then I grabbed Elizabeth's present and ran for the house, yelling behind me, See you dad, mom. See you later, don't come in, see you soon! until I was out of sight.
     And when the party was over and my dad came to pick me up, and Elizabeth was handing out the party favors, and Lindsey was hugging everyone goodbye, and I was still lying by their pool (because I forgot to say that Elizabeth's family is really rich because her dad is a pilot) not talking to anyone in real life, but in my head I was talking to my brother who was played by Orlando Bloom and was inviting me to move to Hollywood and date a royal prince, and Mr. and Mrs. Neilson were boxing up pasta salad and cake to send with the parents, my dad took one look at me and I knew he was going to murder me.
     I looked like a supermodel-rock-star-sex-god-vixen-tween-beauty-queen-hottie-hottie-hottie and everyone else looked like little girls in their puffed-sleeved party dresses, and I tried to tell him I shouldn't have to apologize for my hotness or hide my hotness under clothes just because I am hotter than all my friends, but all I could get out was, Uh, dad, I'm sorry dad, so sorry, I'm sorry that I'm always wrong and your always right, I'm sorry I don't listen, I know I don't listen to you, but maybe I will, maybe I'll try, I mean I can't make any promises but I could try, and I'm sorry I could try harder, except actually I didn't say any of that, I just opened my mouth a couple of times and no sound came out.
     "Anna," he said. "You said it was a slip and slide party, and you dragged your mother to the mall for sun glasses."
     "She wanted to come," was what I did say.
     "But she was so tired afterwards," he said.
     And then he dragged me by the arm and took me out to the car.
     "No one else is wearing a bathing suit, Anna," he said, "Don't you have any modesty?"
     "DON'T YOU?" I yelled as hard as I could.

Then summer was over and school started and I made Elizabeth promise to sit next to me every day, and walk to recess with me every day, and never leave my side or make any other friends that she liked more than me, and I made her swear it in blood.
Elizabeth has been my best friend since we were two, and I don't just like her because she is nice and she is the second prettiest—or maybe third prettiest girl in third grade, but also because people tell her things. Like on that first day of school Raphael told Maddy who told Cameron who told Sheila who told Elizabeth who told me that Raphael has a crush on me. And I said, Eww, gross, but what I really meant was Yay, which is a word that everyone in class uses, and I made it up last year.
     Raphael was the new kid and could completely have had a retarded twin and not told us, which is why I could never like him in a million trillion years, except that I do. And Sam is the cutest boy in the third grade, and also my public and pretend crush, and maybe my boyfriend if he ever asks me, because we are made for each other which means that Raphael and I can never be together even though I really like him. And the ONLY person I told this to was Miss Kale who I went to see every Monday morning because I had this totally embarrassing thing happen to me earlier in the year.
     It happened in Poetry class. Actually it was Languages Arts class, but we were writing poetry, and I wrote about a giant squid coming to school and crushing all of my friends with his extreme fatness and spitting in their faces and taking a giant poop in the town square. I thought the poem was ironic. I thought that's what the word was when you don't really mean what you say. Or maybe you just mean a part of it, and just a part of you really wishes that a giant poop really would fall on all of the buildings in the town and bury the school so it was cancelled for weeks and eventually closed and all of the students were sent someplace like Hogwarts or maybe boarding school for singers and dancers, because I am both.
     But it doesn't matter that no one noticed that I am destined to be a star like Marilyn Manson. I bet even Marilyn Manson wasn't noticed when she was little, even though I bet she was still sexy then, even though she was just a kid and people think kids can't be sexy, even though my mom is always saying "Kids these days…" and she means that we are getting old so young. Like how I was elected "hottest ass in class," on the school bus one day, which I decided qualified me to run for class president.
     Class president is the most important role in all the third grade, mainly because the class president is in charge of organizing the Fall Talent Showcase, of which I am the star every year. And every year the Fall Talent Showcase has a totally retarded theme, like in the first grade it was The Mud and The Muck, and we all had to dress up like bugs and beetles for the dance party afterwards, which was a totally lame and juvenile idea. And the next year the theme was The Magic School Bus and Aliens from Outer Space and Deep Space because we couldn't decide on one, and I tried to ask Ricky Herskovits what the difference was between Aliens from Outer Space and Deep Space and why it couldn't just have been Aliens from Outer Space and he went into a really long explanation and finally I plugged my ears and said Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Na NAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA, just to shut him up.
     And when it came time to pick candidates and vote, it came down to me and Mark Campbell who tried to run against me until I got the whole class to say things to him like, "You can't run against Anna, it's all she has," which totally isn't true, but still. And the first thing I did after becoming class president was decide the theme for this year's Fall Talent Showcase would be a Hollywood Beach Party, even though Elizabeth hated that idea because she doesn't feel comfortable in a swim suit because of the scars across her stomach and legs from when she got dropped in a pot of cooking pasta as a baby. She even had her mother call my dad at the hospital and suggest to him that the theme be Fly Me To The Moon, which my dad thought was an awesome idea, and my mom said we could decorate the gym like the galaxy, and wouldn't that be romantic, and all the kids could be aliens, or astronauts, or Neil Armstrong.
     And later when we had left the hospital and my dad was still bugging me about the party theme, I said, "Fine, I'll be a sexy space girl and wear a leotard and you can make me a headdress with eyes and tentacles coming out of it. Happy?"
     And my dad said, "Why don't you be sexy under your astronauts costume made out of PVC pipe and tin foil."
     And I said, "Because that's the dumbest thing I've ever heard."
     And he said, "Why don't you think about how dumb that is in your bedroom for the rest of the night."
     But what he really meant was, why don't you go up to the strange bed you sleep in now with your brother because I am never around to take care of you anymore, and think about my ass-stupid idea. And I did go up to the strange bed that I share with my brother now that we live with Nana, but I didn't spend a second thinking about what he told me to because I had more important things to think about, obviously. Like how Nana doesn't buy me anything.
     And when my dad decided to stop being a total jerk-off and come and tuck me into bed, I tried to ask him if the reason I couldn't have any nice clothes was because we were poor, and he said, "We'll never be poor as long as we have each other."
     "All of us?"
     And he said, "Yes. Wait, what do you mean?" Because he always thinks I am trying to trick him into agreeing to things, and most of the time he is right. But this time I really wasn't, I just wanted to know if I could have a dress I saw in the JC Penny catalogue, especially because I didn't get any new clothes for school this year, and every other year we all went to JC Penny as a family and bought me a brand new first day back-to-school outfit. But Nana had already told me I couldn't have the dress until I got a part-time job to help cover the cost of the television programs I like to watch.
     And I said, "Where am I supposed to work?"
     And she said, "Well kiddo, you can't until you are older."
     And I said, "Why don't you take some of the money we spend feeding Mickey and put it into my dress fund?" And it made a lot of sense to me because Mickey inhales everything in sight. Like every time we go to the cafeteria my dad lets Mickey get two hamburgers, and I don't know why he needs two hamburgers when I only need one, and my dad only needs one, and Nana only needs a small cup of cottage cheese, and I don't know why Mickey's physical hunger is ranked ahead of my emotional and spiritual hunger to have beauty in my life.

That fall Mickey and I spent every Saturday and Sunday at the hospital which made Saturday and Sunday, which were previously the best days of the week because I could play with Elizabeth and go to the community indoor pool, now officially the worst days of the week, because by Monday my hair smelled like dead people. Mickey invented a game where we had to run past every mirror and painting, and hold our breath when we saw someone really tall. The rules were: we ran past every painting and mirror because we were running away from the Great Lord Flatso who hides behind flat objects and uses his really long arms to tickle children. And we held our breath near really tall people because the Great Lord Fatso hates tall people because he is so short and fat, and if we breathe too loudly he might get annoyed and take his hatred out on us. But neither of these monsters even half compare to the Great Great Lord ZZZZZZZZZZQ who is the most feared of all, because if he even makes eye contact with you, it means you have only moments to live. I had never seen the Great Great Lord ZZZZZZZZZZQ, but Mickey says he has, and we know whenever the Great Great Lord ZZZZZZZZZZQ has been someplace because we see the nurses roll his victims' out of the room covered in sheets, or we hear over the intercom: Paging Doctor Dandruff to floor eight immediately, or Paging Doctor Bagina Bagina Asshole, Doctor Bagina Bagina Asshole you are wanted urgently.

My mother looks so ugly you wouldn't believe it. Her eyes are red, not like bloodshot, but like maroon, like someone punched her in the face, and sometimes she says it feels like they have. My mom hasn't had any hair for two years, and I think she is really jealous of mine, because all she wants to do is touch it. She wears scarves mostly, except if she's having her head washed or if she gets too hot, and then she looks like a bald alien. I thought the way it shined was the worst. I thought how it looked when the nurses or my father sponged her head and the drops stuck to her scalp and reflected and sparkled on her head, which is a place that SHOULD NOT sparkle unless you're in a toothpaste commercial, or you have glitter on your cheeks specifically for that reason, but I was wrong. The worst is when the hair is starting to come back in, and it's just a funny, uneven fuzz before my father or the nurses shaves her bald again. That is the worst. She looks like a baby. Like how my back looked when I was born. Like a stupid monkey. That is the worst times a million.
     My mom looks so bad not even my dad wants to do it with her anymore. I don't even know if she can do it anymore, or if she has time to do it anymore with all of the people coming and going from her room. They used to do it all of the time. That's how I knew they were happy. They never came down on Sundays before noon, but I heard them whispering and laughing. And I'd lie awake in bed and listen to the sound of my father's voice; even his whispers are deep. And I'd hear the bed squeak and my mom giggle and sometimes I'd hear "Ouch," from my dad, because when my mom is playful she punches him, and he pretends it hurts.
     But they aren't happy anymore, and they don't do it, maybe because she is so weak. She can't go to the bathroom on her own. She has to press a buzzer. And Mickey and I sit on the couch in the lounge outside her room while she buzzes and buzzes and I hum and pretend I can't hear so I won't have to touch her hand. I think my dad looks at her and wonders how he ever did it with her. It's like she has grown in the wrong direction and has ended up where she started. Or maybe she just skipped over everything in the middle and is as old as Nana, who is so old she is missing teeth and has a mustache that we aren't allowed to tell her about.

After the Holidays, Mickey stopped playing the Flatso/Fatso game because he had started hanging out with a girl named Effie, and I really hated her at first. I hated her so much I would only glare and refuse to speak when she was around, and one day while Mickey and I were sitting in the surgical waiting room, she came up to me and said, "What's rocking little stocking?" And it was the first time Effie ever spoke to me.
     "I don't know," I said. "I mean nothings rocking."
     And she said, "Well you're no fun." and sat in the chair beside me.
     And I said, "You mean am. I am so fun." And then I resorted to my all time best come back, which is to turn my head and pretend I didn't hear anything, and flip my hair in her face. And Effie said, "You've got sass. I like that." And we've been friends ever since.
     Effie and I have a lot more in common than Elizabeth and I, even though Effie is fourteen and I am eight but almost nine. Effie is also prettier than Elizabeth, and has red hair that I thought she probably dyed because it looked a little too bright, and she wore makeup that was always smudged under her eyes because she rubbed them and cried a lot. And Effie and I just got each other, and her brother was dying too, and Elizabeth hadn't even been to the hospital to see me once, and besides, Effie knew all about doing it, and she had seen people doing it on the internet, and she cleared up a few questions I had about the stick figure drawings.
     Effie sometimes went into the nurses' storage closet with Mickey and let him put his fingers in her vagina and then she told me about it when he wasn't around, and once when he was.
     She said, "Anna, does your vagina make mucus, like mine?"
     I said, "Shut up, Effie." And my face probably turned as bright as my brother's face that looked like a boiled red lobster taking a shit.
     "Your silence is answer enough." And I was stupid enough to think she'd let it go, but Effie never lets anything go.
     "Anna, is your vagina mucus thick, chunky, creamy, or brown like poop?"
     And I said, "I don't have mucus anywhere because I am a perfect."
     And she said, "So you never fart?"
     And I said, "No."
     And she said, "So you never poop?"
     And I said, "Just the regular amount. Nothing weird."
     And then she said, "Well my vagina mucus is sticky and occasionally chunky and once a month it's brown like poop and your brother has been sampling it." And then she ran away laughing and let us sit in silence and think about her vagina mucus which was probably what she had in mind all along.
     Nana doesn't like Effie at all because Effie doesn't act like she's a normal, good-girl in front of grownups, which is what even the boldest bad-girls at Lincoln Elementary do. And when I said this to her Effie said, "That's because I'm IT."
     And I said, "What's IT?"
     And she said, "IT people don't bullshit, they don't even know how. IT is a frequency. IT people aren't happy, they know too much to be happy. IT people just get each other."
     And I said, "Am I IT?"
     And she said, "Yes."
     And I said, "Is Mickey?"
     And she said, "No."
     After Effie initiated me into the club of the ITs and after my mother went into hospice, and Mickey got caught with a bottle of gin and everything that was anything in my once-normal and perfect but now upside down yet somehow still glorious in every way life, Effie and I became inseparable. And we learned to read each other's looks and signals and finish each other's sentences and generally speak in code with code names and code words. Effie told me all of her secrets and all the ones she made up, like the time a man walked into the ER with a trench coat wrapped around him, and when he opened it up there was a dead cat hanging off his penis. I asked Effie, "Wouldn't that hurt? Wouldn't the cat bite him?"
     And Effie said she that the penis and the cat weren't connected on the mouth-end.
     And I said "What do you mean?"
     And she rolled over on the couch and pointed at her asshole, and I screamed with laughter, and said, "No way."
     And she just said, "People do that, you know."
     And I said, "No they don't."
     And she said, "I bet your parents do that."
     And I said, "I bet your brother does."
     And she said, "I bet I can get your brother to."
     And I called her the H-word, and she said I couldn't use words on her that she had taught me, and I said, "Fair enough."
Then Nana came into the waiting room and yelled at us for being too loud and she said, "Don't you know that people are dying here?"
     And I said, "No, duh." And she grabbed me by the hand and made me spend the rest of the time sitting in my mom's room, whose voice was really scratchy because of a tube she used to have in her throat. Her skin was yellow and flaky and I wanted to say, "Get off me ZOMBIE!" but I didn't because I'm a good person, and also my dad says we have to be nice and all get along, which is maybe the least IT thing in the world. I sat on the couch in a sulk, until my Nana said, "Go cuddle with your mom. She wants you."
     And I said, "I don't know how to cuddle."
     And she said, "Sure you do, just wrap your arms around each other like it's a lying-down-hug."
     And I said, "But what will I do with my feet?"
     And she said, "Whatever you want." And then she spanked my butt as I walked past her, and I climbed in bed with my mom and made sure to keep a sheet between us so I wouldn't have to touch her pickled skin, and I kept my legs kicked back like my body was making the shape of a seahorse, or the letter S, so our toes wouldn't touch, and she whispered things like, "I never loved you hard enough," and "Be a better mom to your girls." Capitol EWW gross mom!
     I stayed as still as I could hoping she would fall asleep and I could run off with Effie, but guess what? It didn't work, instead they thought I was asleep and they started talking grown-up. My mom said to my dad, "You'll show her all of the things she needs to know when the time comes. And you'll tell her about sex. And you won't be awkward, because she takes her cues from you. She only has brothers. She needs an older sister, so you'll be that to her. You'll be her sister and her mother. And when she gets married tell her that Pastor Hersey married us, and she should be married in the same church that we were because it is good luck. We would have worked. Our marriage would have lasted if. We would have made. Tell her not to hurry, because it hurts when things end…" and then her voice got so quiet that I couldn't hear her anymore, and when she was asleep and my dad went to the cafeteria to get some food I tip-toed out into the lobby to look for Effie who wasn't there. I looked in her brother's room, but her brother wasn't there either, so I asked a nurse about it and she said that her brother was in surgery, and Effie was probably on the surgical floor, which is the fourth floor, and they have the good vending machines. So I took a twenty dollar bill out of my father's coat jacket and went to look for her, and when I got there she wiped her face like she hadn't been crying, but at this point I know what crying looks like, since everyone around me does it all the time and it's so irritating. At least Effie can get it together when people are watching her, which is why I like her. And then Effie told me about how when babies are born they snip open the asshole so the vagina (which has a v on the front of it and not a b, as in bagina, in case you were wondering) become one big hole. Effie called it a unihole.
     "Why do they do that?" I asked.
     And she said, "It makes it easier for the baby to come out."
     "So everyone who's had a baby has a unihole?" I asked.
     And she said, "Yeah."
     And I said, "How do you know?"
     And she said, "I know a lot of things that you don't know."
     And then she went to bed, and I went to bed next to her, and I woke up to my Nana screaming at me that I had gotten everyone worried and I can't just run around the hospital like it's a play ground.
     Effie said, "Geez woman can't you see we just woke up?"
     And I said, "Geez Nana, it's unbecoming to yell."
     And my Nana grabbed me by the hand (like she always does) and dragged me all the way to the elevators. And then when we were riding down to the second floor she said, "There is nothing 'becoming' about being in a hospital."
     And I can't argue when she has a point.
     She put me in time-out for an hour, which consisted of helping her with a photo album project, and when the hour was over I asked if I could get up now, and she said, yes, but please be better behaved, and I said I would but I meant that I wouldn't because Effie and I had a plan to interview patients in recovery about their operations.
     So when the nurses weren't watching and the doctors weren't rounding, Effie and I slipped into a room with only one patient whose foot was elevated and wrapped and we asked her 100 questions that started with:
     What happened to your foot?
     Does it hurt?
     Where did they cut it open?
     Did they take anything out?
     Did they replace it with metal bones?
     Did you get a foot transplant?
     Did you want a nicer foot?
     Was it elective surgery?
     Will your insurance cover it?
     Did your foot belong to a black person?
     Did you want a famous foot?
     Then we ran away howling until we thought we were being chased and we rode the elevators, and dashed through the children's ward, and toppled a cart, and went past a hospital personnel only sign, and through a door, and into a closet. We held our sides from laughing so hard, and held each others' sides when we couldn't hold our own, and pushed and shoved each other, and pinched each other, and then nuzzled faces for a while.
     Effie didn't cry. When she's quiet she cries but this time, lying in my arms she kept it together, and I said, "He probably won't die."
     And she was quiet. We were quiet for a long time, and Effie's never quiet, and I hate the quiet because I don't know why it shouldn't be filled with the sound of my voice. But I could tell that Effie wanted silence and I gave her some. Like maybe thirty seconds. And then I said, "Effie, you want to get drunk?"
     She shook her head.
     "Effie, you want to sneak some pills. You want to pants Mickey? Do you want to steal an ambulance, or climb to the helipad? Should we try to steal an organ? Do you want to perform a surgery? Switch our brains? Become hospital bandits? Do you want to know what chemo feels like? Should we break each others' bones so we can be the patients and they can take care of us? Are you hungry? Are you sad? Will you kiss me?"

Nana took us back to her house to take a nap, but my brother said he'd rather go off with some friends, and when I said "Yeah, I think I'll catch a movie, see you later Nan's," Nana slammed the door in my face to prevent me from leaving. Then she pointed to the bedroom, and I climbed in bed and pulled the covers over my head and listened to the clock on the wall which sounded like an army of tin soldiers on pogo sticks with pins on the bottom clashing into symbols with every tick tick tick, and tick tick tick which got to be all I could hear. All of my thoughts were ticking in my head, along with my heart beats, and breath that was tick ticking too. It was making me dizzy. I tried to miss a few of the ticks and slow my breath, and I tried to breath-in tick, breath-out tick, but that wasn't the way it worked and it made me panic so I breath-ticked, breath-ticked, breath-ticked along with the beat of the clock. And then I thought about all the ticks that had happened, and all the ticks I'd have to live through, and tick this, and tick that, and how many ticks there were in an hour, and how many ticks in a day, or a year, how many ticks had my mother had, and it got to be so many I couldn't take it anymore.
     I screamed at the top of my lungs for no reason, I screamed just to see if I could, just to see if Nana would come in and tell me to shut my trap, or if she would wrap her arms around me like my mom used to do when I was a baby and say I've got you, I've got you my girl, my baby, I've got you and I'm never letting go, you belong in this family, you belong in this world, you're mine my baby girl, you're mine. AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA AAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH HHHHHHHHHHHHHHH HHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH
     I screamed for Nana to know where I was, I screamed to matter again, I screamed because if no one in this house could hear me then maybe someone else in the world might. I kept screaming and screaming and I thought, I'll stop when something changes, I'll stop when she dies, I'll stop when it's over, I'll stop when I die, I'll stop when they come to find me, I'll scream until the world explodes or I get some sign that something will change and something will happen. And then I couldn't scream anymore so I took a secret break to rest my voice and make my head stop spinning. I listened for a sound from down stairs and thought, Where the fuck is she?
     And it felt like I didn't have a body, I was just a mouth, a mouth big enough to eat up the entire room, and I screamed until I stopped being a person, and all I was, was sound and noise, and my mom wasn't dying and nothing mattered anymore because everything had disappeared. And I screamed until it hit me. No one was coming.






Elizabeth Wurtzel has been a huge inspiration in my life and writing. Bitch: In Praise of Difficult Women, and Prozac Nation are very important books in their exploration of mental illness. I hope one day sit down to a cocktail with her (as should we all!) but until then I can online-stalk her articles and publication and encourage you to do the same.

This story was inspired after encountering the incredible work of Jenny Zhang, particularly her story [The Empty, The Empty, The Empty], also published in DIAGRAM. Jenny has been my mentor, friend and source of inspiration and you should all read her work wherever and whenever you can.