‘At least I’ll have a nice view as I die’, that was my first thought as I stood here, three years ago to the day, looking up at the stars. I remember it was a warm August night, I had just moved here that day from Mexico, and I was to start my sophomore year at the local high school in a week’s time. Three years later and tomorrow I am to move to the east coast to start college in a week, the irony does not escape me.
I open the music app on my phone and click on the same song I had blasting at full volume I my headphones that night, so long ago.
“They left us alone
The kids in the dark
To burn out forever
Or light up a spark
We come together
State of the art
We'll never surrender
The kids in the dark
So, let the world sing
"What a shame
What a shame
On critical veins"
The music blasts in my ears and washes through my very soul. I can feel the sound drag me back into the past until I’m drowning, just like all those years ago. Each thump of the beat reminds me of the blows my body has endured, and the twang of each guitar string feels like a sharp blade upon my skin. But none of that matters. I love this song; I always have, and I always will. The painful memories burn bright with the start of the music, but by the second verse they have already started to fade, and I become lost in the harmony, in the feel of the song.
As the song ends, I hit repeat and this time the melancholy sets in. I always have to listen to the song at least three times; that way I can fully experience it. The pain, the anger, the sorrow, the hate that fades to sadness until, eventually, all that's left are the lyrics seared in my brain and a feeling of euphoria. Unconsciously my right-hand fingers go to my left forearm and trace over the scars they find there. I feel the big, bumpy lines, and I can make out the thin slits that are harder to notice, but still there. I hadn’t thought about them for a while, I try keep the memories of that part of my life out of my mind.
I was born in Idaho, I moved to Mexico as a little girl. Little, but not little enough. I was old enough to be homesick, to know and miss everything that I lost when I moved. My friends, my teachers, my family, they all stayed behind. My parents took me and my siblings and decided that they were tired of the U.S. My siblings were lucky enough to be too little to remember our old home and they forgot about their friends in mere months; I never really did. I know my friends must have forgotten about me, I mean they only had one friend move away, no big deal. But I, I lost everyone at once. And so, they remain, forever seared in my mind, never changing or aging, simply existing.
I was miserable in Mexico at first. In two years, I went to three schools; then I was to start middle school. For 7th grade I changed schools yet again. I was sent to a private school in the suburbs of a nearby coastal city that thrived on tourism. The school went from preschool to high school, so my siblings transferred there also. The only problem? We didn’t speak Spanish and we also happened to be the only foreigners that went there. So, when I started middle school, I was not only the “new kid”, I was also a foreigner that couldn’t speak the language. It was awful.
I’ve always been smart and resilient, I pride myself on my ability to not only adapt, but to thrive. And so, it was. I made friends and lost friends; life continued. Two years passed and 9th grade rolled around, I was abandoned by my friends, but I found new friends and a love. I remember every detail of him even now, his dark hair, his caramel eyes, his pale white skin, how he would kiss me on the forehead, and how I would wear his extra jersey at his soccer games. He really was my first love. We began dating the summer before 9th grade and about halfway through the school year I lost my virginity to him. We were only 15, and I was so damn foolish.
He promised me so many things, he whispered sweet daydreams in my ears and like the silly little girl I was I believed him. So, I gave him my virginity and I thought nothing of it, I did whatever he wanted, whatever was necessary to make him happy. He had me wrapped around his little pinky; then he got bored. I know for a fact that at some point in time he loved me, but I also know that at some point he stopped loving me. Maybe that was after he asked for the pictures, maybe before. I don’t know, all I know was that I sent them to him without hesitation.
Later, I found out that he had been cheating on me. The other girl was very promiscuous, we all knew that she got around. We also all knew that she had a thing for guys that were taken. My love had promised me he would never cheat, he said no one had anything on me, told me my beauty was tenfold the other girls. In the end, my beauty didn’t keep him from cheating; nor did my straight A’s or sporting accomplishments. In the end she was who he wanted and everything that we had done and said meant nothing to him.
I don’t know if she found my photos, or if he showed them to her; in the end she leaked them, and I was ruined. I had worked so hard, done so much to make a place for myself in that foreign country and with the click of a button the home I had built brick by brick came tumbling down. Facebook, Instagram, twitter, they were everywhere. I became known as a slut and a whore; people I had never met knew me. When the school eventually found out, I was not only sent to the psychologist, but they told my parents as well. Life became a living hell. Once more I lost my friends, my family, my teachers and on top of that, I lost my first love.
The school blamed me for taking such photos, but they did nothing to punish the girl that published them. She walked away with not a loss, but a gain; she got a boyfriend out of the whole ordeal. I got nothing and lost everything. That was when the cutting started. Funny how no one noticed, they never doubted my long sleeves, how I winced when I was dragged by the wrist. My teachers and friends never questioned my full face of makeup to cover the bruises left by my drunk parents. They said it was simply more proof that I was naught but a whore. No one bothered to look beyond my mask.
Like I said before, I am resilient, I survived. Yeah, I cut, but I kept myself in check, they were only ever deep enough to scar, to release the pressure in my veins. I took my beatings and I kept my head up; the tears were only ever allowed out at night; in the small hours of the morning I would cry myself to sleep. I managed until I didn’t anymore. It was a few days before I graduated 9th grade, second recess, under the big tree on the corner of the second soccer field. I was reading a H.P. Lovecraft book, I remember that book very well. The girl, the same girl who stole my boyfriend, the same girl who published the photos, the girl who ruined my life sat down next to me.
I remember her exact words. “Ever thought about killing yourself? I mean you would just do everyone a favor. Your parents wouldn’t have to bow their heads in shame, your friends wouldn’t have to make up awkward excuses not to talk to you, my boyfriend wouldn’t cross the street every time he sees you. It would just be better for everyone.” I was so thrown off, it was so cliché, yet awful at the same time; like something out of a bad movie.
“Seriously?” was all I responded.
“Haven’t you hit rock bottom?” she seemed genuinely interested, so I answered, not her spoken question, but the real thing she wanted to know. The unspoken question was if she was powerful enough to destroy another human being’s life, she wanted to see if she was capable of having done it. It was like she wanted to prove a point.
“I pity you,” I said, but it had already started. That was when the dam I had so carefully constructed to hold back my emotions came crashing down. She didn’t get to take what was mine and rub it in my face, like hell I was going to let her leave unscathed. She proceeded to rub my face in the fact that she had gotten away with everything, that she hadn’t been punished or even scolded. The bell rung and we stood.
“You talk a big game, but you didn’t really get away with it without being punished,” I said. “And you have not left this ordeal unscathed,” I said as calmly as I could while my fury roiled beneath my skin, building and mounting. The injustice of it all hit me like a physical blow. My emotions surged against the dam I had built to keep them in place, and I felt it bend. I felt the hatred rise from the bottom of my soul and it reared its ugly head.
“Please, I have everything,” she laughed. God damnit, after everything she did, she just laughed. The kindling that the world had been collecting and stacking up against me, around my soul had been ignited. She was fanning the sparks and my soul burst into flames. Her laughter was the blow that shattered my self-control. I am not proud of being foolish enough to do what I did where I did, and when I did it, but I am happy that I did it. I am glad that I stood up for myself, even if it brought what was left of my world crashing down on my head.
“Like hell you are leaving this unscathed,” I said. And I swung. The book I was reading was a hardback complete collection of H.P. Lovecraft’s works. In other words, it was thick and hard. I swung it as hard as I could at her head and with the flat side, I hit her in the face. It was hard enough for her to fall to the grass at my feet. The corner of the book had nicked her temple and blood trickled slowly down the side of her face.
She held her hand up to her face and when it came away with blood, she just stared at the bright red droplets smeared on her fingertips. The world around us froze; everyone just stopped and stared. When she looked up at me, I saw hatred in her eyes, her coal black irises burned and flashed. I felt amazing, like my pent-up anger had finally found a way to release itself from me. She charged me but I was ready, with my feet squarely planted I drew my right hand back and it flew forward. I will admit that I thoroughly enjoyed the sickening snap that her nose made when it connected. Blood stained her uniform and flecked mine, but I was too far gone to care.
That was when the teacher pulled me back and dragged me away from her bleeding form on the ground. One meeting with my parents later and I was expelled, I was free, and my parents hated me. I was supposed to be the good kid, the straight A student, sporty and pretty; I just didn’t turn out the way they wanted. Disappointed and angered they debated what to do with me. A call from a family member gave them an idea.
They sent back to the States to live with my grandmother in California. Of course, they didn’t tell her about the photos, or the fight, or the expulsion; after all, who would want a girl like that living with you? They told her that they didn’t like my high school and wanted me to have a proper U.S. education, and she, being her, readily accepted. She was aging and wanted someone to help her with errands and such. Apart from that, I was a straight A student, with several national Math Olympics under her belt, a pretty blond and a sporty girl. She wanted a grandchild nearby to show off to her friends.
So, three years ago to the day, I was exiled from Mexico, shunned by my family, my teachers disgusted by me, and in the end, feared by my friends. Three years ago to the day, I came up here to look at the stars, knowing that in a week I was expected to start my sophomore year at a new high school where no one knew me. I came up here that night wanting to die, my forearms were already full of scars and in my pocket was a letter. ‘At least I’ll have a nice view as I die’ was what I thought as I stood up here, my headphones were in and The Kids in the Dark was blaring at full volume in my studded ears. I was drowning in my misery and I hated myself for wanting to die, yet I wanted to die because I hated myself.
A shooting star flew over my head as the lyric ‘I am left standing on the edge, wondering how we got this far’ rang in my ears. And I made a wish. “Give me a reason not to,” I said. For though I had suffered and lost, been beaten and defeated, I wanted to live. I guess that’s one of the problems with being resilient, you don’t die easy. That was when Jacob, the grandson of my grandmother’s friend, opened the door that led to the stairwell. My Grandmother had invited her old friend and her grandson over to celebrate my moving in with her that night.
“I get it,” he said. “We’re all running from something. Right?”
“How did you know,” I asked.
“You would have moved the week before freshman year, not sophomore” he explained simply. “You don’t have to tell me why you really moved, but if you ever need to talk, I’m here.” He turned to leave, and I watched him go. As he opened the steel door leading downstairs to the apartments he turned and said, “From what they are saying about you, I can tell you will accomplish big things in the future”.
It was the answer to my wish, it was a dream, a hope. Three years ago to the day, I ripped the letter into little pieces and I let the warm August wind do what it wanted with them. I hit repeat on the song and the music washed over me for a third time. The pain, the anger, the sorrow, the hate faded to sadness until, eventually, all that was left was the lyrics seared in my brain and a feeling of euphoria. Unconsciously my right-hand fingers went to my left forearm and traced over the scars and open cuts they find there.
I looked up to the heavens, “I am going to ace every class, graduate with honors, and stay out of trouble, stay away from love. I am going to earn my ticket to any college I want, then leave and never look back. I will escape. I promise.” I buried the embers of my old anger below the ashes from the flames of my past. I’m not running I told myself, I am starting over. I took a deep breath, the song ended, I sighed and turned to head back inside.
I kept all my promises but one. I got an A+ in every class, I graduated with honors, and I stayed out of trouble; I even made a few friends. But there was one promise I broke; I fell in love again. As the song ends for the third time, I hear the metal door open behind me, footsteps approach, and strong arms wrap around my waist. Jacob nuzzles his face into my neck and a smile tugs at my lips.
“Ready for Yale?” I ask.
“The correct question is: Is Yale ready for us?” he responds. He stands next to me and puts his arm around my shoulders.
I’m not running, not anymore. In truth I never ran, I was exiled, but I made my peace and I’m moving on. The past is just that; past. I will never go back, never see any of them again, but they will know my name and regret what they did to me when they see all I do with my life. Three years ago to the day, I was reborn. I look up at the stars one last time as he takes my hand and we head back inside to finish my packing.