Savage Delight

Page 13


“That sounds stupid.”
“Of course it’s stupid. That’s the point. It’s supposed to make you laugh with all its stupid!”
I knit my lips together. Aunt Beth nudges me.
“Well? Go on. Describe your dream man.”
I mull it over for an agonizing few seconds.
“I want him to know the alphabet backwards, and fast. He’ll make perfect cinnamon sugar doughnuts. He can jump rope a million times in a row. He’ll have bright green eyes and be left-handed and be a master of the obscure lost art of ocarina playing.”
“He sounds impossible.”
“That’s the point!” I insist. “He’s my dream man, right? So, if my dream man is someone who can never really exist, then he can’t hurt me. He can’t come up and make me fall in love and smash my heart.”
“Oh, Isis.” Aunt Beth pats my knee. “You don’t have to think like that. Not everyone is out to hurt you.”
“He’ll be really kind.” I smile down at my hands. “He’ll call me the prettiest girl he’s ever seen. Those things are even more impossible. So. So there. That’s him. And he doesn’t exist and he never will. So I’m safe.”
The dream shifts. The kitchen table disappears. Aunt Beth disappears. And then it’s suddenly four months later. Four months of passing out and stumbling through classes on nothing more than a piece of bread and celery. I didn’t need food. The word ugly reverberating through my head sustained me better than any calorie could.
By the time Aunt Beth notices, everyone else is noticing.
Jealous, Gina disappears to Costa Rica for one weekend and comes back fifteen pounds lighter. But no one notices. Not when Isis Blake goes from two hundred pounds to one twenty in the span of six months. Nameless notices. And now, instead of ignoring me, he laughs with his friends whenever I walk by. Smirks. Scoffs. He thinks I did it for him.
I did(n’t).
I never get the chance to work up the courage to get angry at him. I feel it brewing in my stomach, like still-warm embers of resentment. But then my mother arrives. I walk in the house one day to see Aunt Beth and Mom drinking tea and discussing my future. I get a say, of course. And I say I want to leave. Ohio is the perfect place to start over. Anywhere no one knows me is the perfect place to start over. Anywhere that isn’t where Nameless is.
It’s my dream, but it’s more like my life. It’s not quite true to life – the colors are too bright and the faces wobble. But it’s exactly what happened.
I wake up to the white-washed hospital room. I wake up realizing I ran away like a little coward.
I haven’t changed at all.
I’m safe. My counter is safe. Three years, twenty five weeks, six days. I am still safe.
But I haven’t changed at all.
Isis Blake of Northplains, Ohio, is the same fat, cowardly fourteen-year-old girl curled up in the shower. Just a little older. A little lighter. And a little stupider.
It’s dark – probably the middle of the night. I get out of the hospital bed and pull my jacket on. Stepping outside in Ohio in the winter is like suicide without all the flashy brain bits, but I’m doing it anyway. I can’t stand this tiny room. It’s trying to suffocate me with all the beeps and smiling posters of kids getting shot up with flu vaccines. Who smiles when they see a five inch needle? Sociopaths, that’s who.
I promised Naomi I wouldn’t use the window to sneak into the kids ward. But last time I checked a hall is not a window and there is a hall that goes right by the kids’ ward. I just never use it because it’s near Sophia’s room, and that’s the one place Naomi would think to look for me if she found me missing from my bed. I pile pillows under the blankets of my cot, reach under it and grab four leftover jello cups I’d been hoarding under the mattress, and ease out the door. The hallways are quiet. I readjust the jello cups by stuffing them into my bra. I take a moment to admire my considerable multicolored br**sts and feel a single tear spring to my eye. Beautiful.
But back to business. I’ve got some gelatin to shove down the throats of several grubs. I just need to make it around the corner, and I’ll –
I hiss and flatten myself against the wall. A group of interns pass, all carrying coffees. I quell the urge to become fleetingly radical. I definitely want to slide across the floor behind them on my slippers like James Bond, silent and suave, but I also want to see the kids no matter what. Too much is riding on this. So like a lame super normal spy I tiptoe behind them. And pirouette.
And that’s when I hear it. It sounds like a dying cat far off, but as I get closer and closer to the kids’ ward, I realize it’s a person. Someone is screaming like they’re being ripped apart. In the empty hallway it’s eerie, and I start to consider maybe my life has turned into a horror movie and a girl with long black hair will hiking up my phone bill as she calls to tell me I’ll die in seven days, but then there’s the shuffling of feet behind me, and I duck behind a gurney. Naomi, with a few other nurses, charge towards the scream with winded urgency.
“Who forgot to up her cc’s?” One of the nurses asks.
“No one forgot, Fenwall said to ignore the change entirely,” Naomi pants. “But someone was supposed to give her Paxtal instead. Trisha?”
“It wasn’t me!” Trisha insists. The first nurse sighs.
“Jesus Trisha, not again –”
“Do you know how hard it is to get her to take them? When she’s like that?” Trisha hisses.
“Did you call him at least?”
“Of course! He’s the only one who can calm her down –”
They run past, out of my earshot. They must be talking about another Sophia. The Soapy I know always listens to nurses. They love her. She’d definitely never refuse to take her pills.
I inch closer to the door the screaming is coming from. The nurses closed it, but you can hear it through the walls.
“Why does she get to go?” The scream reverberates. “Why does she get to go and I don’t? I want to leave! Let me go! Let me go! Get your hands off me, you filthy bitch!”
I recognize that voice. Sophia. But that can’t be right. Sophia wouldn’t sound so harsh, so feral –
“I hate her, I hate you all! I f**king hate you! Get away from me! Leave me alone!”
The words are all wrong. I slowly peer around the corner and into a tiny slit of window unprotected by the curtain. I can’t see much, but I see Sophia’s legs flailing on the bed as the nurses try to restrain her. I see Naomi walk by with a syringe in her hand. Sophia fights, the bed shuddering as she beats her legs harder. And then her feet move slower. Her screaming becomes softer, hoarse shouts I can barely hear anymore through the glass.
“Please,” Sophia sobs. “Please. I want Tallie back. Please, just give me Tallie back.”
One of the nurses starts towards the door. I pull back, around the corner. As much as the curiosity is burning me up inside, I can’t hang around much longer, or I’ll be in deeper shit than the elephant keeper at a circus. I take the stairs to the kids’ ward without looking back. The commotion Sophia made was the perfect cover – the guard isn’t even at the door. The sleeping room is lined with beds; stickers and colorful sponge art pressed onto each headboard. Toys and books stack on the ground, and the gently beeping monitors glow in the darkness.