Headlights on Dark Roads

Submitted into Contest #58 in response to: Write a story about someone feeling powerless.... view prompt

27 comments

Creative Nonfiction Sad Teens & Young Adult

Trigger Warning: self harm and other similar themes

We're all fucked up. I forget that sometimes. We're all broken in some little way that becomes like a hole in a pair of tights. There's no fixing it; it can only get worse. I find myself judging people sometimes because of how they deal with their broken bits.

Some people wear them like a new outfit to show off.

Others wear them like a suit of armour, warding people off.

After all, who could love a broken person. 

Most people try to hide their broken. Bury it down so deep you can almost forget it's there sometimes.

You're okay. Honest.

Sometimes the broken is too big to hide. It leaks out little by little like an old hose. If you try to plug the leaks, it explodes.

At the drop of a pin.

Does that make sense? You can't just hide it. It's a living thing that grows and feeds on you, possesses you, always there. Was there a point to this? You could say that.

It was a long and arduous Friday. My broken had gotten to me that day. You could see it in my eyes and behind my smile. It now lay contentedly in my pocket, tucked away but easy to reach if necessary. I told it I would let it out when we got home; I just had one more thing to do. I promised a friend I would help them teach their safety class. As the assistant, I had to stand around and look pretty, waving vaguely, and adding commentary when I thought necessary. First order of business: roll call. Ah, unpronounceable names coupled with my terrible spelling. We counted who was there by who had turned in their papers.

"Alright, who's name didn't I call?"

A small peppering of kids raised their hands and went out to the hall to look for their papers in their bags. All but one returned with papers proudly clutched in hand or with downcast eyes and a promise to bring their stuff next week. I scanned the list to see who still needed to turn them in. After grazing it, I realized my name wasn't on there. I excused myself and rushed out before I could get chewed out. I felt a stirring in my pocket.

No, no no not right now.

That was when I noticed the girl still in the hall. She was curled up defensively, shaking. I could see her broken spilling out around her with every tremor that wracked her body. My broken shivered with her, urging me over to her. I kneeled down next to her, her broken staining my knees.

"Are you okay?" Stupid question, I know.

She slowly sat up to look at me. Her broken had cracked her face and oozed from her eyes. I knew this girl though. Every boy and most girls wanted to get with her because of her reputation. I've heard so many descriptions of what people would do with her, and she soaked in all the attention. I've never seen her with anything less than a smirk on her face and a flirt on her lips. She's broken the hearts of many people I've had to stitch back together. I didn't like her much, but everyone else did, so I kept quiet. I had never before thought about why she had this reputation. It followed her from middle school. My mind ran the statistics. Pretty, young girl with no way to defend herself. It was just one of many possibilities. I realized that while I knew her, I knew nothing about her. Who was I to judge how she dealt with her broken? Mine nagged me at night, urged me to pick up the scissors. It drew me away from large groups. It chipped away at my skin when I knew I was worthless. I gave in to mine. How can I judge for giving in to hers?

I sat and listened as she talked, gathering up fragments as they fell from her lips. I held them as they soaked into my skin, weighing less to me than they did to her. She talked mainly of school and the pressures, failing math, assignments, history (I can attest that class is hell led by a cheerful, old demon). Everything had been piling up and losing her papers was the final stone that shattered her. People came out looking for us as she was finishing up. She repeated parts of her story for them, wiping the broken from her face. They gave the usual If you ever need help talk to me. My year was tough too. We gotta stick together through this. Chin up.

I didn't say anything. When people talked, I listened. That's the way it always is. Most people just want someone to talk to anyway. The gathered group of people didn't see the broken they were stepping in. It soaked into the soles of their shoes, tainting them. Fragments pierced the bottom of their trainers. I wanted to cry out, tell them, but before I could, their broken welcomed the foreign substance into themselves. The remaining bits she gathered up and stuffed back within herself.

The rest of the class went by smoothly. I pointed in all the right spots, emphasizing important parts, and assisted with elegance. I did all this with a distracted mind. Everyone else seemed to brush off the experience. They had seen this sort of thing before. They weren't there when it mattered though. I saw a girl I thought didn't care about anything, didn't let anything get to her, sobbing uncontrollably on the tile. I could see her falling apart. A girl who, ten minutes ago, was flirting with the teacher. Stepping back into class, her entire demeanor changed. Unless you saw her crying, you could hardly tell she had been upset. She was back to her perky old self, except for her eyes. Her broken shifted through them and clung to you when she looked your way.

That moment is forever ingrained in my mind. I watch people sometimes and wonder what their broken is and where they keep it. I watch them and want to help them. Take all their broken from them and make it mine. They deserve to live better. When I see these people, I feel my broken wrap it's fingers around my neck, pulling me back. Our broken controls us, or it kills us. It taunts us like puppets on a string, knowing either way we go, it wins. It always wins, and we're powerless to stop it ourselves.

That doesn't stop me, though. I listen and collect small pieces of others. I cherish each of their stories more than my life.

We're all fucked up, and I don't think I can forget that anytime soon.

September 11, 2020 13:48

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27 comments

Rhondalise Mitza
20:43 Sep 14, 2020

Hi! This was so emotionally charged and sometimes that narrative can seem manipulative and I hate crying so I tend to stray away from this type of writing BUT you write so well. You managed to capture everything the narrator was in just a few thousand words. There's no name but we know a soul through the words and it's impactful in a major way. I've said this before to a few other people, but it's rare when I condone profanity and yet, you used it the way it was meant to be used. For times that have no other words you have to say something b...

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Elliot Thomas
21:27 Sep 14, 2020

Wow, I wasn't expecting so much praise for this story. (This wall of text intimated yet encouraged me.) I'd been trying to write other stories but I couldn't get this one off my mind. I didn't like it at first, but seeing the sort of response it elicited, I'm starting to warm up to it. Thank you for taking the time to read and write this lovely piece in response. You're always so kind. Have the most wonderful of days!

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Rhondalise Mitza
23:22 Sep 14, 2020

Of course! No worries and always keep writing, my friend! Sorry about the lots of words, I don't talk a lot in person but online I can't seem to shut up. Common side effect of being homeschooled and now corona lockdowns, yessir.

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Elliot Thomas
00:24 Sep 15, 2020

You don't have to apologize for that. It's always great to have someone to talk to, especially with lockdown.

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Rhondalise Mitza
01:30 Sep 15, 2020

Just realized there's a cat in your profile picture. If you have Instagram you can join our writing group for Reedsy.

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Elliot Thomas
01:36 Sep 15, 2020

Yes, it's my favourite celebrity posing with one of my favourite creatures. I do not have instagram. I haven't had much of a need for it.

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Rhondalise Mitza
23:41 Oct 15, 2020

"I write for the girls with long sleeves and too many bracelets. I write for the boys that will never be strong enough. I write for the abused and belittled. I write for the girls with too much makeup and not enough self esteem. I write to try to help panic attacks and depressive episodes. I write for the girls, and the boys, and everyone in between. I write for those who think they don't have a voice. I write for them and I write for myself." I love your new bio, Elliot! :) As a girl with long sleeves and too many bracelets, thank you for ...

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Elliot Thomas
00:54 Oct 16, 2020

Aw, thanks. It's great to be able to get back to writing, and it's important to remember why I started in the first place. No one else will write their stories if I don't. Also, it's always fun wearing too many bracelets. especially when you're typing. rip my keyboard

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Elliot Chapman
15:27 Jan 10, 2021

Okay I know you posted this a while ago but I just had to comment, it's so amazing! I'm not the greatest at critques or pointing out specifics, but this is so raw and real, I love it :)

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Yolanda Wu
23:44 Oct 20, 2020

This was such a poetic way to portray the brokenness in everyone. You blended similes and metaphors so subtly into your prose, and everything flowed so seamlessly. It was a beautiful and realistic story about the struggles that everyone faces from time to time, some more than others. I love the title too. Everything about this story was wonderful. Amazing work, Elliot!

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Felicity Anne
00:11 Oct 20, 2020

Wow! What a moving story. You did such an incredibly amazing job! Keep up the good work!

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Rayhan Hidayat
11:16 Sep 14, 2020

This was so well-written. The narrator has a diploma on brokenness and it shows. You made it feel real, tangible, unavoidable. So many of the entries on this prompt have dealt with the exact same subject matter, but I personally think yours stands out. Keep it up! 😙

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Elliot Thomas
13:33 Sep 14, 2020

Thank you. I didn't like this one as much as my others because of how personal and depressing it is to me, but I'm glad you liked it

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D. Jaymz
16:18 Sep 13, 2020

I liked how you nominalized 'broken' making it a concrete part of a person. Your similes and metaphors were delicious in my mind. A very well-written story 👏 Great work 😊

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Elliot Thomas
18:15 Sep 13, 2020

Thank you! :)

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D. Jaymz
19:46 Sep 13, 2020

You're welcome 😊

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Gabi Cranga
01:57 Sep 12, 2020

I recently came across the quote/gist of: you're not broken, you're becoming. And I feel that sentiment in this vignette. Once you see someone's "broken" (I love how you phrase this), you can't unsee it. You see them more fully for who they are. Because all of those things that get to us, that tear holes in us like ripped tights (also really great imagery), they're a part of what makes us who we are, who we become. Like you said, "our broken controls us or it kills us," I feel like, we can either be controlled by it, or accept it- and do exa...

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Elliot Thomas
15:03 Sep 12, 2020

Thank you! I was considering deleting this, but I'm glad you liked it. Thanks for taking the time to read.

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15:03 Sep 11, 2020

The writing is very well done, but I am not a great fan of the subject matter. The theme of personal brokeness and fragility is so pervasive that it has become almost irrevelvant. Put some teeth and claws on and gnash apart the world that does the breaking. Kill the sacred cows. But "i am very sensitive and sad" is 4/5 of the stories I see coming out. Break the habit, you got the chops to do it!

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Elliot Thomas
15:26 Sep 11, 2020

Thank you, this was exactly the kind of advice I was looking for. I will make the time to edit it later. Have a good day until then

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15:28 Sep 11, 2020

It might be best to apply these thoughts to your next story, rather than tear this one apart. Have a shpadoinkle day, Elliot!

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Elliot Thomas
13:52 Sep 11, 2020

Looking for improvements and possibly a different title

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Gabi Cranga
01:58 Sep 12, 2020

like the title : )

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Elliot Thomas
15:06 Sep 12, 2020

thanks. if you couldn't guess, it's a song title from snow patrol. if you listen to the song, it might make a bit more sense

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Rhondalise Mitza
20:33 Sep 14, 2020

Okay, so I know that song and it does make more sense with your story! Also the current mood in the bio... makes total sense. I'm a girl and it makes me sad when my friends don't think they're pretty because they are and also boys are so pretty too and I hate to see media influence them in ways that makes them think they have to be like aggressively attractive if you know what I mean? There's just something very nice about boys who are pretty in mind in spirit without having to change who they are for society. Sorry for the TED talk but I ag...

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