Long time no write…I’ve felt that familiar itch again recently. I don’t know if this will be the one thing I write this year, or if it will become a regular thing again. I’m just going to go with the flow and see what happens. The following is a short story I wrote recently. I hope you enjoy!
Here’s my contribution to the prompt Memory:
She’d woken up in a place she didn’t recognise again. Beside her was a person that she didn’t recognise. Their bodies were entangled and messy. He looked comfortable next to her but she felt nothing more than revulsion.
After the last time she had told herself that it wouldn’t happen again. She wouldn’t find herself in this situation one more time. Things were going to be different she told herself. They were just empty words, she knew that now.
The man beside her sighed and rolled towards her. She froze. Did she allow him to touch her? She could feel bile rising up in her throat. If she didn’t get out now she was going to be sick all over the bed.
She carefully extricated herself from the bed, careful not to disturb the slumbering man. She needed to find the bathroom and look at herself in the mirror. Looking at her reflection always gave her the grounding that she so desperately needed.
The bathroom was down the hall from the bedroom. She pushed open the door slowly, just in case there was someone else in there already. To her relief, the room was empty. She stared at herself in the mirror above the sink.
Her face usually brought her back to reality but today it seemed wrong. The angles and the curves weren’t as she remembered them. There were wrinkles there that she didn’t remember having. Her eyes seemed more dulled than she recalled. Who was this person staring back at her? Tears began to fall as her beloved routine failed her.
She felt a hand on her shoulder and looked into the mirror. Standing behind her was the man from the bedroom. The man that she didn’t recognise. He had a warm smile on his face, like he knew her.
“It’s me Aggy,” the man said. “Your husband. Come back to bed”.
Her memory was getting worse. She felt alone in this world as the people who seemed to know her were strangers in her mind.
*The following post contains descriptions of self harm. Please ensure you are in a safe place before reading*BANG! BANG! BANG!
“Hands where I can see them inmate.”
She woke with a start, disorientated in the bright fluorescent lights that lined the inside of her cell. She looked towards the small window in her door and saw the sneering face of the guard who had woken her.
“I said hands where I can see them or you’ll be in the padded cell for the night”.
She didn’t like being in the padded cell at night. It always felt colder at night, especially when you were forced to sleep on the floor. She rolled onto her back and placed her hands by her sides, then looked back at the door until the guard walked away. She shivered in the cold.
It was early August. She was sleeping in a concrete prison cell and the temperature dipped into single digits every night. The warden had seen her self harming behaviour as an act of defiance that needed to be punished. She was informed that the warden had given the guards instructions to remove her blankets.
The prison uniform in the secure unit consisted of a short sleeved, knee length gown. Even in winter. Her sheets were removed and she was forced to sleep on the cold plastic mattress that was issued to all of the prisoners. She wanted to curl in a ball to keep herself warm but every time she did the banging on the window would start again. She was not to be trusted.
Her self harm made her feel ashamed. She felt like an animal, ripping chunks of flesh out of her hands. Everything else was blunt, round edged and safe. The nurses chastised her, warning of infections that could kill. She didn’t care. She just wanted it to stop.
Some of the guards understood, many didn’t. Some of them wanted to learn, they asked questions and treated her like a person. Others refused to listen, refused to see her as more than an inmate number to record in a book. Inmate self harmed today. Inmate placed in seclusion. Inmate continues to be defiant. Inmate is not responding to punishment.
If they took the time to listen. If they took the time to hear their own words. Then they would already know that they were punishing someone who was punishing herself. She already thought she was worthless.
The preceding story isn’t fiction. It’s a mash up of my experiences while I was in prison. It tells the story of how the prison dealt with self harming behaviour when I was an inmate. I don’t know if it has gotten better, I doubt that it has. Other women were also punished for engaging in self harming behaviour. They were segregated and had privileges taken away because obviously what a mentally ill person needs is more time alone to think.
She lay in her bed feeling all of her bumps and lumps. She checked each side, counting off the differences. Maybe one day she could count the similarities. Would she sleep more soundly then? Would her dreams be calm, instead of filled with things that made her scream in her sleep?Her mother assured her that her differences were what made her special. Everyone went through a stage of not liking what they were. Even her mother, with her porcelain skin and jet black hair. Sally didn’t believe her. No one as beautiful as her mother could have ever looked like this.
While she was in this stage, this in between place, she hid from the world. They wouldn’t understand her differences. No one would understand why her two halves didn’t match like them. She had tried hard to hide it in the beginning, fighting the change. It was no use, she could feel their stares, the double takes and the hushed words spoken. She knew that the giggles were meant for her. Sally envied their ability to be carefree, to be so confident in their place in this world.
Sally hoped that the change wouldn’t take long. She had been working at being perfect, practicing until her bones ached. Still, it wasn’t enough. It was never enough. The differences still glared at her, taunting her in her dreams. Her mind was a swirl of colours, angry red and midnight blues.
In the beginning her friends had sought her out. They sat at her door, trying to coax her to come out. There were phone calls and emails, text messages and facebook updates. All of them went ignored. Eventually they gave up. Sally knew that they would, she knew she didn’t deserve to be around them, to be happy. Once the transformation was complete it would be better, she knew that.
She rolled onto her side, the perfect side. It was the side that she liked, she knew that if she just waited, worked harder, the other side would be perfect too. There would be no more mess, no more curved lines. Her mother measured everyday. She wouldn’t let Sally see the numbers but she knew they were getting closer to perfect. Sally couldn’t understand why her mother wasn’t happy for her. Didn’t she want her daughter to be perfect too?
Sally’s mother had removed the mirror from her cupboard after she caught Sally sobbing in front of it. Her mother didn’t understand what it was like to not be perfect. How could she? Sally had seen the pictures of her when she was younger. She was born with two perfect sides, two sides that matched.
12 months later…
Sally had never reached her perfect ideal. Her quest consumed her until she was nothing more than an empty skeleton. She saw things in herself that weren’t there and became obsessed with them. Her fight to become perfect in her own mind had destroyed everything that was good, and eventually took her life.
If you suspect someone you know is suffering from an Eating Disorder please urge them to seek help. If you think that your own quest for perfection has become dangerous, please reach out to someone. For more information check out The Butterfly Foundation.
This cafe was her sanctuary, she felt safe here. The staff knew who she was but they didn’t care. They didn’t make a fuss, she was another customer to them. To them she was skinny latte in a mug. It was perfect.
As she sipped her coffee she flipped through her diary, sighing at all of the things that she had to do for the day. There were meetings, interviews and being in the public eye. It was exhausting. She often wondered what it would be like to spend the rest of her days drinking coffee in this sanctuary. Would she become part of the furniture, part of the quirk of the place? Would people know her as the woman who never leaves, some kind of legend to make tales about?
Her life was already about people making stories of her life, regardless of how much truth there was to them. These stories were rarely heroic or romantic. They didn’t make her part of the history. At least that is what she tried to tell herself when she was swamped by clicking cameras and people shouting questions.
She was still surprised that she had managed to keep this cafe a secret for so long. Every morning she dreaded the moment that they found out and followed her here too. They could usually anticipate her every move, sometimes even before she could. Their hands grabbing for her as she tried to break away.
From her handbag, her mobile started to chime. It was time to face the music and get back to reality. It was now or never. She had to give up her hot coffee and designer threads. It was worth it though, for her new bosses where hard task masters but they were cute. It was fun to play dress ups, to reminisce about the life she once lived, of front page news, but she knew being a stay at home mum was what she really wanted.