By ABIGAIL DESALVO
It’s a Saturday afternoon and I am still in bed staring at the ceiling as if I don’t have to be out of the house in 10 minutes for my first interview.
Hi, my name is Milagra. My parents moved here from Columbia to get away from the crime and look for better lives. My life contains no adventure, excitement, or good fortune. I am just a girl who lives in a small town where nothing exciting happens to anyone from here. My parents work 12 hours a day just to make ends meet. We aren’t living anywhere near comfortable, and once I turned 16 it was time for me to get a job. So, here I am laying in bed, with 5 minutes to be out the door for an interview.
Creaking and banging fills the hallway. A piercing screech echoes around the halls, bouncing and reflecting off every surface. “Sonrisa, ¡despierta! You need this job. We need you to get this job. Papa y I can not support this family alone!”
It is a stinging reminder of how our life is far from perfect. All of the other kids at school never have to help pay bills. None of them have to get jobs because they can barely afford to live. A knot bulges at the back of my throat and my eyes sting of remorse and self pity. I push through the pain and words scrape from my vocal chords. “Ok, mama. I am going.” They are hoarse and broken.
I hear a sigh of discontent and a mummer of laziness. I want to be angry, but I can’t. I have been 16 for nearly four months now. The bills have gone up, and we already had trouble before. The feeling of pity forms a tight, sour feeling in my mouth and the burning of strain in my eyes returns.
I look over at my clock. I have 3 minutes to leave. My actual interview starts in half an hour, but the store is on Bixon Street, nearly half ways across town. I throw on my best pants and shirt and leave. Papa wishes me luck as I step out the door.
The pay is low, but this was the only job that would hire me since I didn’t have experience. I watch my feet pass by each cracked and contorted block of the sidewalk. It may be childish, but I still gracefully hop over each crack and line. I recited the song that we used to sing when we were children.
Step on a crack, you’ll break your mama’s back
Step on a line, you’ll break you papa’s spine
It made me happy. It reminded me of a time when everything was simpler. The only thing that mattered was who won a game of hopscotch, who had the coolest toys, and just enjoying life. Everyday was filled with games and laughter. The only thing we would cry about was when we fell or had to leave. We were so confident back then. We didn’t care about how we looked, how much money we had, or who we were friends with. It was bliss.
Just like everything else, it didn’t last. We grew up and realized the lives we had, and with that also came the realization of our differences. Now we are judged on what we wear. If you cover up, you’re prude. If you show skin, you’re a tramp, if you dress comfortably, you’re a slob. There is no happy middle. There’s no more true laughter or joy. Why did everything have to come crashing down when we were so happy?
My foot grabs a crack and I feel for a second the wind blow in my hair and my stomach drop. I had not realized how stared off I was. I had walked for nearly 20 minutes until I snapped out of it.
I arrive at the store I hope to work at. The cashier looks at me, detached, with dark circles under his eyes. He seems to be in his early twenties, so maybe he’s in college and had to study the previous night. An older man enters the room. He tells me he is the one interviewing me. We enter the room and the interview commences. As he speaks, he stumbles over his words and can’t seem to keep focus. His eyes seem swollen and blank. Circles of purple skin hang below his eyes.
Our interview ends and he tells me he’ll call if I get the job. I leave the room after thanking him. As I turn to close the office door, I see him doze off into a light sleep. The cashier has slumped against the counter, looking as if he could pass out any minute now. It’s just a coincidence. I walk outside and I begin to realize that everyone is acting like mindless zombies, walking around yawning, on the brink of collapse, and wandering around with no sense of reality. It’s just a coincidence. Right?
Their feet drag behind them, reminiscing of bodies dragging. They release long cries for sleep. Their hollow, empty eyes drift shut causing them to crash towards the ground. What is happening?
My feet stumble over each other as I chase home. Something is not right. The wind stings my face, my nose runs to ice, and my feet begin to turn to stone. My breath escapes my body and my view goes dark. I wake up to someone stumbling over me. Their icey eyes never meet mine; they just continue walking. I sit up and everyone’s faces hold expressionless cries. Their faces hold no smiles, no tears, and no furrowed brows. Their faces are blank pages of what used to be tempestuous lifes.
I pull myself up. My leg falls, reaching their arms for the ground. My ankle pounds and balloons. It hurts so bad. My throat is tight and my eyes sting. It just hurts so bad. I grasp a sign in an attempt to pull myself up again. An agonised scream swells from my throat and expands from my mouth. Across the street, the mindless zombie looks over at me. His eyes show an attempt of sympathy and he almost gives me a pity filled half smile. He looks like he is on the brink of death, but he still takes the time to show a twinge of remorse for me. My feet begin to stabilize under me. It feels like my muscles are being slowly ripped from my body. My joints and ligaments are being torn and scattered. My breath is being sucked from my lungs. A person in my head bangs on my skull, screaming for help. It all throbs. I push through the acute pain that courses through my body.
Betweens panting and gasping, I limp home. My feet stumbling over each crack, caressing each beautifully intricate, broken piece of cement. I find myself at my door, my mom opens the door. Her brows furrow and her nose scrunches. Her red lips form a displeasing scowl. I see her mouth move, but I hear nothing. My eyes feel heavy, like I haven’t slept in years. My head pulses, stinging with every budump. My legs feel like rocks . My arms hang lifelessly from my slumped shoulders. Everything begins to feel like the round up, spinning mercilessly around looking as if it would never stop. My stomach rises and my head goes hot. My mom continues to talk. Her face is no longer a scowl, but instead a concerned look. It leaves a distasteful twinge in my throat. My vision goes blurry. Mom screams some faint echo, but I don’t understand it. Her arms are held out to catch me. She embraces me as everything goes black.
Dim flickers of light floods through my closed eyes, disrupting my solitude of darkness. The fiery light strains my eyes, forcing them to squint to block out all light. I try to open my eyes, but now I see nothing. I can not see anything but my fortress of darkness. The smell of sterilized alcohol invades my senses. The sound of my mother’s weeps echoes through my head. Cold needles pierce through my skin leaving a cold liquid coursing through my veins. The taste of iron swarms my mouth.
I try to open my eyes, but it is too difficult to do. All I want is to run into my mother’s arms and console her weeps. I want to march to a doctor and demand to know what’s happening, but I can’t. I try to move my arms, but they won’t budge. I try to scream, but no sound escapes me. I need to do something. I need to say something.
“Hello there, sunshine!” remarks a soothing voice.
I turn around to follow the voice that distracts me from my own defeating thoughts. I look around, but I see nothing but a deep, dark abyss. My body feels stable, but I can not tell if there is any support I am standing on.
“Well, aren’t you going to say hello back, little thorn?” Inquiries another voice. This voice is a higher pitched voice that reminds me of a nagging, old, rich lady.
I look around, but this time I see two figures. The one voice that just spoke is a tall, brooding rose. Her face is scrunched into a displeased scowl. My eyes linger to her nose. It is absurdly large, distracting from her beady eyes and unpleasant frown. To her side, is an old tree that twists and turns to sharp branches with a short, wide stump. His leaves are none and his bark is of an old rawhide. His face is old and worn. His eyes droop and his plump cheeks sink past his chin. His mouth holds a jolly grin. He is a happy fellow. His looks are displeasing, but the Rose is very beautiful and delicate.
“Look at this little, ugly thorn! Does she not speak?! Is already horrible being ugly, but being mute too…this is absolutely horrendous!”
“Rosa, quit being rude. It is obvious she is in shock.”
“You’re an ugly bloke who is a pushover. Well, I guess not everyone can be as beautifully elegant as me.”
My eyes kept following them and their conversation. This can’t be happening. I’ve lost it. My breath had escaped my lungs. My head begins to pound and my vision blurs. The cold, hard ground greets my head with a familiar, rough blanket of dark.
“Well, look what you did now, Bristle!”
to be continued