The waves brush against my sides; pulling and pushing me sideways, forwards, backwards, and under. I feel the strength of the current, hungering for something more. Never being one for open water, I run, the water parting as though it was softened butter. After what feels like an eternity, I emerge. My tiny feet leave light footprints in the gritty sand. My ankles become exposed to the chilly air as I distance myself and the shoreline. Feeling something slimy grazing my feet, I reach down to take it off and my eyes glance downwards by habit, though I can’t see anything. Probably seaweed. I feel nothing but skin. Weird. I should leave it alone, but I can’t shake the feeling something’s off.
It’s probably nothing, I’ve just never liked seaweed. It reminds me of my mom’s second husband, Mr. Sweed. My mom married him when I was a toddler, and he never liked being called dad. He forced me to call him Mr. Sweed, but it was hard for me to pronounce so the first time I tried I said, Mr. Seh-weed. Only one extra syllable, but it wasn’t good enough. I promptly received two slaps to my cheeks.
“Learn how to speak properly.”
Tears started forming in my eyes,
“She’s a retard child. No more of my money is going to buy her toys. Time to grow up.”
My mother lost her spark that night. The brightness faded from her eyes, the lustre from her hair, the mintiness from her breath, the softness from her voice, the plumpness from her skin. She became dull, and hard, and shrill.
“You heard the man. Speak properly, Lucy.” Her taut shrill voice still echoes in my head. Most people can’t remember their third birthday, but I’ve never forgotten- not because of my memory, which is sub-par at best but because I’ve kept a diary alive through the years. Mr. Sweed left two months later.
I shake the bad memory out of my head, it’s a beautiful day today, no room for sadness. I keep walking and feel a little nibble on my heel, leaning backwards and brushing my fingers along the edge of my feet, I feel nothing. How odd. Heels remind me of Mr. Wright, James Wright, my mom’s third husband. He was obsessed with Greek myths and Gods. When I was seven, I received my first D on a report card, it was for gym and I had undiagnosed asthma. He said gym was my Achilles heel but he wouldn’t pay for a check-up when my teacher mentioned my breathing difficulty,
“Everyone has an Achilles heel, her’s is just physical activity. She’s going to be faaaaaaaat.”
“No daughter of mine will be fat. James, looks like you’re going to be saving money on food. And you, sleep in late because you’re not eating til Lunch.”
And I didn’t eat breakfast for exactly 47 days after that, according to my records. Her pointing finger squished my nose, though not in a loving way, and her taut shrill voice ping-ponged through my head, rattling in my brain.
I return to reality and keep walking. Keep moving forward, gotta keep moving forward.
That’s what my mom’s fourth husband said when he left my mom.
“We were drunk. In Vegas. It didn’t mean anything.”
“No, please, you can’t leave.”
“Listen here now, I stayed for a few months, providing for you and Lucy. I ain’t owing you anything. Just move on.”
“Please, please! I’ll kick her out, it can be just you and me.”
He left in his car and my mom left the house. She returned far after the streetlights came on. My hand was bleeding, I had cut it trying to open a can of food.
“Mom! Mom! Finally, you’re back. My hand hurts, what do I do?”
“Do I loooook likeee I knowww?” She slurred her words with a taut, shrill voice and stank of booze. I was eight. It was that night I stopped calling her mom. Maroon stains covered my diary entry that day. I remember how much it hurt to write, but I couldn’t stop writing, even for one day. I couldn’t stop writing.
A sharp bite on my calf brings me back to the present. I fall in the sand. It scratches the grooves in my dry elbow. I press my palms into my leg, trying to soothe the pain, but my fingers can’t seem to find an imprint anywhere. How peculiar.
I get up and keep walking, though to where I do not know. I got kicked out of my apartment earlier today. My roommate Nelly had invited some friends over for her birthday celebration. When I saw her blowing out the numbered candles,
I shouted and cried. I stormed into my room and Nelly rushed after me, exasperated.
“What’s gotten into you?” She demanded.
I was shaking in a ball in the corner. I tried to reason with her, to explain that I don’t like birthdays but I never managed to get the words out.
“Whatever, she’s such a weirdo anyway.” Everyone murmured, thinking I couldn’t hear. But I learned long ago how to blend in with the shadows.
“That’s it. That’s the final straw. You’re out. I’m going out with my friends and I don’t want to see you or your stupid books when I get back.”
“They’re not books, they’re diaries. And you can’t do that, I signed a lease.”
“They’re diaries.” She mimicked with a taut, shrill voice, a haughty look cast on her face.
“So now, the creep can talk. Ok, creep, I’m going to talk in a language you understand, if I see your books again, I will burn them.”
I left, I couldn’t risk it.
I feel a sharp pain in my stomach and I fall to the ground, this time unable to pick myself up. I hear paper rustle through the air and a half-soaked page falls next to me.
I write to you today as a goodbye. This will be my last entry. I have decided to live my life and in the words of my mom’s fourth husband, “Move on.”
Every word is like a dagger to my heart. No matter what I do, where I throw it, it will always follow me. I can never be free because just like a page, when I am stained, it lasts forever.
I feel a tugging at my legs. Light at first, but eventually forceful. My shirt rolls up and the sand scrapes my bare skin. I move closer and closer to the ocean. It pulls me in, hearing my call for cleansing, but I know it will never succeed. The waves roll over me, pulling me farther and farther into the sea. As a last meal, my eyes are afforded the taste of the sky. Brilliant white lights shining from distances farther away than I can ever comprehend, and yet, I can feel their heat. As the current slaps me silly, throwing me around like a rag doll, the ocean seems to produce a taut shrill voice.