I've always been jealous of other people's fingernails.
Mine never seem to look right. The skin below the nail is always dry and rough. The nail itself has white patches on them. My cuticles are constantly covering my nail no matter how much I maintain them.
In school, I used to look at my classmates' fingernails. I expected someone to have ones like mine. But they never did. Even the boys who hardly ever thought about their nails had better-looking ones. I was distraught. What was I supposed to do?
I look at my nails. My middle fingernail is okay—my best one, in fact. The cuticles are maintained, and there are no white marks. Take note, other nails; this is who you should be! I look closer at my middle nail. I look so long I begin to see scabs on the top of the finger. When did that get there? I tilt my head closer to it.
"Huh," I mutter.
I make my eyes go back to the nail; that's what we're talking about, after all. That's where I see the scratch. It's small, but it's there. It looks like a bitter ant keyed my nail—stupid ant. I didn't mean to destroy your house. Or kill your neighbor. Or your Sister. Or your stepmother.
I go back to my nails. I go back to my prize-winning middle fingernail. Right hand, in case you were wondering. It still looks okay, despite that angry ant's hate crime. I could have sworn he told me I was a fairy when I stepped on his Aunt.
I stare at that nail; I stare hard. Suddenly I can't break eye contact with it, then I know. I grasp I will stare until my favorite nail becomes my worst nail. Every second that passes by, I will discover a new fault, a new scratch, a new overgrown cuticle scab. This happens often; to most people, too, I assume.
It's like being in a hot tub where the water is 104 degrees. But every minute, the temperature cools down one degree. Ten minutes later, the water is now just slightly hot. Still comfortable, sure, but it's not the same. Then five minutes later, I need to get out. Six minutes later, I really need to get out. But the towels are so far away. Seven minutes later, your teeth start to chatter, but your body still tells you it's warm. That's usually when everyone gets out. Or maybe you stay; what're another 15 minutes? Eventually, if you wait long enough, you'll die. But who the hell would stay in there and let that happen?
My eyes break away from my nail when the first tear comes. I almost laugh, how predictable I am. How much I crave that droplet on my cheek; it's the only thing telling me I am still alive.
"Dramatic," I tell myself.
"Necessary," I responded.
"Whatever," I say.
"Homos," the ant yells.
"Fuck off!" we respond.
There are plenty of reasons why I stand here. At least that's what I'll tell the police when they finally arrive. It should be any minute. The alarm's been off for ten minutes now. I had hoped it'd be quicker, I must say. I counted on the drama, the bright lights, and hopefully, the hot men in uniform coming to tackle me.
Just my luck, I'd end up getting ole Herbert, two days away from his retirement. Or what about a policewoman? I'd be too busy snapping my fingers and shouting, "equality, sis," while she handcuffs me and shoves me into the cruiser. Would that be sexist? Shouting 'equality' at someone while they're just doing their job?
I'd make it work.
I should call the police myself. This is unacceptable. I type a note on my phone to send a scathing letter later. Someone's got to hold them accountable.
For now, though, I wait. I watch the trees flow and shake in the night; I hear the occasional car driving by the main road nearby. I feel more at peace than I have been in a while. This despite the fact my right hand is bleeding and full of glass.
I could explain why I did what I did, but I don't think I will. Nothing against you; it's just I'm not sure I have an explanation.
The easy answer would be spending twenty-one years unable to get the attention of my family. Watching my father walk past me at home as if he were passing by a colleague from another department. Or maybe observing my mother running up the stairs the minute I walk into the house. Does she think I can't hear her?
I'm not bitter about their abandonment. But, frankly, I was never a fan of them either. No matter what I did, the attention they gave always seemed calculated. Like just the right amount so others can't see their neglect. I received everything I needed- clothes, food, a room. When I asked for something, I was almost always given it. Not out of kindness, but the hopes that granting me the request would get me out of their way sooner.
I suppose it's my fault for being born two months after my parents lost their four-year-old son. It was my mom's pregnancy that forced my dad to drive Marcus to school that day. I was a pain in the ass, and my mom was throwing up everything inside her except me.
My dad has never been great with directions. So when he found himself in front of a detour sign, he ignored it and went ahead anyway.
I imagine living now with the guilt of existing is far less horrific than having driven a car into a lake with your son strapped into his seat.
The relief of swimming up for air, but then remembering why you were in the lake, to begin with.
So I stand here now, in the warm but breezy night, in front of a Foot Locker, with a hand full of blood and broken glass.
I picked the Foot Locker subconsciously, I think. It's not terribly convenient, about a 30-minute walk from my apartment. My parents bought it for me once I turned eighteen. My classmate told me how lucky I was, but I knew why I held those keys in my hand.
It was the morning of my eighteenth birthday; I had awoken, feeling hopeful. A few days prior, I told my parents I'd be commuting from a nearby college. They had helped me with the search, working their connections to any school at least eight states away.
But as the Spring went by, my parents and I had begun a new kind of relationship. I would wake up and have coffee with my dad. Other times I tried this, he had made an excuse to go to work early. Even on weekends.
My mom would tell me about her favorite parts of a book she'd just read. We bonded over our favorite characters. Occasionally she'd laugh at my critiques of the author. Laughing may be too strong of a descriptor, maybe just a light chuckle. Still, it made my insides light up. Finally, my mom is laughing with me. She smiled a little.
Before this, I would get a close look at the book she was reading each week. Then, I'd head to the book store or the library and pick up the same title. Then, after I obtained it, I would read it in one night, and I could hardly sleep because I couldn't wait to talk to her about it. She was going to be so proud!
But every time I tried to discuss it with her, she nodded and smiled politely, the same way she responds to an overtalkative sales clerk.
After a while, I noticed she had started taking the dust jackets of her books before she read them.
But not now. Now they sometimes ask me questions.
"What are your plans tonight?"
"How's the college search coming along?"
They lost interest almost as soon as they asked the question, but I didn't care. I was making progress. I uncovered ways to get to their heart and get myself their forgiveness. I couldn't go away now. So I didn't. I withdrew my applications and sent my deposit to the school twenty minutes away from home.
They didn't say anything, but their faces were drained of the little hope they had.
A swimmer in the ocean is trying to get away from a Great White. He is so close to the shore, to be free, to be out. But he lets his guard down as he got closer to the beach. He swims more leisurely and even smiles at the thought of escaping a shark. The stories he'll tell! But as he put his foot on the ocean floor and begins walking, the corner of his eye saw a fin only a few feet away. The shark bursts out of the water and grabs hold of the man's legs, dragging him back to the water he had been so excited to depart.
My parents said nothing, but I heard everything.
I turned eighteen just a few days after my announcement, and I couldn't wait to go downstairs. It was the first birthday in years my parents hadn't accidentally booked a trip somewhere far away without me.
But there were no plans this year, I was going to have a birthday!
I opened my door and walked down the stairs and into the kitchen. I saw two keys and a note on the table near the percolator.
Happy birthday, Haris; we're off to Saugatuck for the rest of the week. For your birthday this month, Diane and I leased a lovely studio for you. Movers will arrive on Friday. No need to thank us.
It was the first note my parents had written me with my name on it. It was almost spelled right.
The apartment was still twenty minutes away from my new school, but now 40 minutes away from my parents.
I packed my things, knowing they expected me to be gone once they arrived home. I knew it would please them, and the thought of doing that made my stomach tingle.
Would I get in more trouble if I went inside the store with the broken window? I have no time to think about it because I see car headlights coming nearby. So here is my moment, I guess. To be grabbed, to be led somewhere, to be recorded.
It's not a breakdown; you must understand. It's merely a succession of a structure. A yearning for attention because I have yet to receive it from those expected to give it. So I am trapped, a cliche, a basketcase. I am lucky, a spoiled brat, a waste of empathy. I am familiar, a sad reality, a reflection of the worst.
But I am also aware, an emotional presence, a light-hearted creation. I want attention, but mostly love, and I'm okay with rebellion. I am deserving of a family. I am beautiful, caring, and far too sensitive. I am too much, too little, and rarely predictable.
For now, I am in front of what used to be a window, with a hand full of blood and glass. With dried-up fingernails and overgrown cuticles.
For now, I am with only the person in the car, driving up to the store. I watch it stop ten feet away from me. I watch the door open and figure walking in front of the headlights.
"Harris?" The man calls to me. He comes closer, his face concerned. He's wearing a black and white striped Footlocker T-shirt.
"Harris, it's me, Douglas, from high school?"
I attempt to speak and think and react. Nothing comes of me except tears. Why the hell am I crying?
I haven't seen Douglas since graduation. The only boy in school who smiled at me. Now he was here, with me.
"It's okay, Harris, it's okay" Douglas put's his hand on my neck and gently rubs it. I feel like a dog. And the thought of being Douglas's makes me feel better. Stop it, you fool; now isn't the time for sexual fantasies.
"We need to get you to a doctor, Harris, it's a lot of blood," he's so cute when he's concerned.
I nod my head because it's the only thing my body lets me do.
He slowly walks me towards his car, where I feel something.
I feel myself submitting to something. The darkness around me becomes a sort of warm blanket. I'm fainting, I realize.
I am complex, a confusion, a predictable disaster. I am too much when I am too little. I am kind, and I am vulnerable. But I am ready, and I've already begun.
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