Friday, September 9, 2011

November 1983 "The First Time"


She was so cold. She could not remember ever having been so cold. Her entire body felt as if it were convulsing rather than shivering. She half wondered if her teeth could chip from the force of the chattering. Trying to concentrate on relaxing in hopes it would lessen the shivering, she laughed. When had she ever been relaxed?

A helicopter passed overhead and she instinctively crouched lower on the roof. Don't be stupid. No one's looking for you and even if they are they wouldn't send out a helicopter. It's just the chopper for the hospital. Knowing this was true she still could not shake the fear that she would be found and sent back home without anyone hearing her cries.

Feeling chastised by the voice, she moved to stand up. Her legs felt rubbery and unsteady. How long had she been sitting there? Looking down at her legs, she noticed she was still holding the glass. The blood had dried on her hand. When she pried her fingers apart, the glass stayed stuck to her thumb. Almost falling rather than bending to her knees, she roughly scraped her whole hand across the roof. Even after the glass came off, she kept scraping trying to get some of the blood off her hand and half hoping to take the skin off as well.

A jolt of pain stopped her and she stood looking at her hands. She knew as she pulled her sleeves down as far as they would go that she couldn't walk anywhere with all the blood on her hands. Someone would be sure to notice. There were several office buildings across the street. Maybe one was open.

Keeping low as she crossed the roof she listened to the voices that had become almost constant companions in the last year. Right now, it sounded more like a conversation, but that was unusual. Most of the time they accused or demanded and sounded almost like an opera she had once seen, with each voice speaking it’s own part but somehow blending into one chorus. She could not always understand the words and would often concentrate just to hear them. She felt so disconnected from the sounds. Were they even her thoughts? They seemed to belong to someone else and talked about her more than to her. They frightened her.

Climbing down the building and walking toward the road, she tried to think back to when she had first heard them. It began in her dreams. The dreams of a girl only five years old.

They were a crowd of little black spots. She could hear them speaking to her in her sleep and could see herself alone, off in the corner. She always knew she was unwanted by the crowd that spoke the mean words about her.

When she woke up from the first dream, she remembered it and all they said, with intense clarity. She tried to forget the words but they would only echo louder in her mind. She pretended that the dream had been the same as the cartoon on “Sesame Street”, with the one all alone being wanted and accepted by the group. That was better and did not make her feel so sad.

The dreams continued, only the voices got louder and scarier with time. She would curl up in a ball under the covers at the foot of the bed and hope they would not find her when she slept. She had always been afraid of the dark and now she was afraid to sleep. No matter how hard she hoped or prayed, they would always find her. When they started coming in her waking hours she stopped hiding and began to listen. It became a game to march around the family room to the cadence of the voices, during the long hours before everyone came home from school. In the dark end of the room by the yellow wardrobe, she could sit and hum along, oblivious to the world and staying out of any trouble that would bring...

She shook her head and pushed away the memory. She had no idea what time of night or morning it was but there was no traffic as she crossed the main highway through town. Approaching a cluster of two-story office buildings, she headed toward the one with lights on in the front windows. The front door was locked but amazingly, the side door was open. Looking over her shoulder every few seconds she slowly opened the door and crept into the hallway. The building should be locked unless there was someone there, so she listened carefully as she walked the hall looking for a restroom.

Hearing a noise down the hall, she ran toward the stairs by the door she had just come in. She tiptoed as quickly as she could up the stairs and gratefully found the bathroom right across from the top of the stairs. Pushing backward through the door, she was relieved to find paper towels on the wall instead of those stupid blow dryers. Grabbing a wad of towels she turned to the sink and a towel stuck to her bloodied hand, turned on the water.

The inner sleeve on her left arm was already stuck to the raw skin and she prepared to yank up the sleeve to wash, and then decided against it. The hot water almost burned over her frozen hands but she gritted her teeth and rubbed her hands together trying to wash the blood away. As she scrubbed, her hands began to slowly warm and for a moment, her incessant shivering got worse. God, how could she be so cold?

She started scratching with her nails at the places where the blood had caked. She tried to get each finger clean before she moved further up her hands. Not wanting to leave a mess, she avoided reaching for the soap until the water in the drain ran clear. She stood, scrubbing her wrists and as far as she could under the sleeve without pulling the cloth from the open scratches.

When she was finished, she grabbed another wad of towels to dry her hands and to wipe the counter clean. As she was drying off the side of the sink she caught her reflection in the mirror and realized she needed to wash her face and some of her hair too.

God, you're so ugly.

Just the one sentence, then it stopped. The warmth of the water and being indoors was starting to reach her and as her body stopped its trembling, she found herself almost weak with exhaustion. Instead of trying to be as precise as she had been with her hands, she simply rinsed her bangs and wiped as much as she could off her forehead. She tried to arrange the bangs to cover the bruised place without looking in the mirror and having to hear it again.

Oh, great, now she had to go pee. Somebody would find her if she didn't hurry. She relieved herself then snuck out of the building as she had come in, wondering at the silence that made even her breathing seem loud. Had they left her alone? Looking across the street at the school between the Methodist church and the hospital, she started walking down Route 234 toward the edge of town.