Aunt Jenny peeked through the door of my room one day, sat me down, and said,
“We need to have a talk.” I tried to imagine what about. I attempted to be on her good side, but I kept messing up the way laundry needed to be done. Maybe I put some bright colors in with the towels again?
She sat next to me to on my bed and looked straight ahead.
“Um, I’m not sure how to do this because I’ve never done this conversation before.”
Okay. Probably not laundry-related.
She took a deep breath and just went for it: “Uncle John and I know that you’re at the age where you will be getting married soon, and boys will be paying attention to you, and they will want to, you know, hug you or hold your hand.” She let the air out and then quickly added, “We would appreciate it if you could tell us when that happens so we could see what kind of a person he is and if he’s from a good family.”
I studied the gray carpet pattern on the floor. Wow. We were so far off from each other. We were definitely not on the same page. We were in completely different chapters. I was in my second relationship at this point, and this one was worse than the first. I had no idea how to end it and who to talk to about it. And if my aunt was struggling bringing up this topic, there was no way I would talk to her about what was really going on.
I was following Uncle John’s lead, thinking that the next step for me was to get married and move on with life. What confused me was that as I was preparing myself for this, and taking steps forward in that direction, the eligible bachelors weren’t even remotely thinking about it! I was being played and I didn’t even know it.
“Well?” Aunt Jenny was speaking to me with an expectant look on her face. Oh. She was waiting for a response from me.
“Ah. Mm-hmm,” I forced my head to move up and down in a nod. “Of course, yeah, I’ll let you two know.”
A look of relief flooded her face and she jumped to her feet. It was almost as if she was expecting me to share something and was dreading it. “Good talk!” She smiled and left my room.
An unraveled piece from the carpet interrupted the pattern I was following. Nothing could last forever, not even heavy string meant to stay in its place. It wanted to get out from its confinement. It didn’t like being in carpet mode. I felt glad for the string. Good for it, it got out. I wanted to get out from my situation.
It seemed that more and more things were going wrong in my life. The more I tried to please people, the more I heard what was wrong with me. Wanted to make more friends and join the choir? Turns out I couldn’t sing, couldn’t carry a tune at all. Wanted to get married? Turns out the boyfriends want girlfriends but don’t want to get married. I wanted some validation for who I was, but I kept receiving what I was not. I was not skinny and fit, I was not eating correctly, I was not working at a neat clean job, I did not have beautiful hair, I did not have a pretty name. But, that’s who I was. So everything was wrong with me?
My regular diet of breadsticks began to include pizza. I discovered the ingredients we used at work for it were things I liked, and if the cheese was crispy enough after baking an extra minute or two, pizza was quite the delicious food! That, coupled with weekend binging on donuts with youth groups from church, began taking a toll on my body. I puffed up and expanded and had a handful to hear from my uncle. “Oh no, you have to lose weight! How are you going to get married? Guys don’t like fat girls! You need to go running!”
The regular pimples teens get wouldn’t be so bad if that’s all it was. My face got such an awful case of acne that I went to the doctor for treatment. It became embarrassing to go anywhere. I would stand in front of the mirror and sob as I plastered makeup all over in an attempt to even out the surface of my cheeks and forehead. The reflection I saw made me upset and angry. The anger came out through furious thoughts of “you’re so ugly” and “you’re so fat” and became a daily habit of negative self-talk.
The doctor’s visit was a sprinkling of salt to the wound. He prescribed a birth-control medication that was supposed to affect my hormone levels and stabilize the acne on my face.
“Here’s a prescription for you. Hopefully it starts working so you might have a chance to come back for the real reason of this medication,” he snickered. He probably thought he was being clever and funny, but that was not how a troubled teen saw it.
It confirmed everything I thought; even a doctor, who’s supposed to see all sorts of nauseating things and get used to it, thought I was too ugly to deserve anything normal.
I tried to focus on church. Maybe God would show me something and I’d feel better about myself. Some friends heard about a prayer service two hours away. It was led by an older gentleman, and was in fact called “Grandpa’s Prayer”. I had the privilege of attending a few times with my sister and some friends. It had a lot of young people who appeared to be on fire about God and life and it was so encouraging to see! But alas, since it was so far away, it wasn’t something I could frequent.
The church I attended had prayer services filled with some older people and with some more senior citizens. I was the odd young duck. It felt too awkward and unnatural. I couldn’t fit in. The youth services were there but I knew the people. They appeared one way in church, and acted another way outside of church. The more “churchy” they seemed to be, the further away from the truth that was. I hung out with them. I attended the parties they had. I was handed water bottles that were filled with vodka.
The attitude was: “How far could people go without getting caught?”
I felt sorry for the parents who naively allowed their home to be used for a “gathering” without being aware of the young people almost dying from alcohol poisoning within those walls. I saw trashed people on Saturday who would put on their Sunday best and sing in choir the following day. The most promiscuously behaved were the ones who could get Oscars for putting on such a show in church and be the best of them all. That was the life. It was a double standard or nothing at all.
I hated the double standard. What kind of a life was that, wasting it away on moments that nobody remembered but then tried to glorify? There was no purpose to it.
There was no purpose at all.
There was no purpose to life.
I sat up.
Linda was sleeping in the bed we shared, but she was a sound sleeper. Regardless, I climbed out from under the blanket and made myself comfortable on the floor to continue my thought process.
I was a terrible burden to Uncle John. He stressed out constantly about my whereabouts. He would call me at random times throughout the day to verify where I was, and if he stopped by the college and couldn’t find my car I would need to draw a diagram of the parking lot to show where I had parked, in order to confirm that I wasn’t out doing stupid things that “youth did these days”. He would have this stress eliminated.
Linda would miss me, but it’s not like she would have a shortage of other sisters to choose from if she needed to talk to somebody.
My numbness turned to something cold. Chilling cold. Goosebumps covered my skin. The problems that I had would go away. The problems I created for others would go away, since I was the main problem.
Several tears slowly rolled down my cheeks. I couldn’t believe it came to this. My thoughts tormented me. It would have been so much better for everybody if I had never been born, but since I was, there was only one option left. I would leave life. How did I not realize this earlier? I should have driven faster on my racing days. Should have been more reckless. Well, at least this way I can make a plan, I can have all the details figured out. I can compare different methods and decide which one to choose. Plus, I can say goodbye.
After turning on the light I took out a spiral bound notebook from my drawer and opened to a blank page. I found a pencil in my bag, decided against it and fished for a pen. With trembling hands I scribbled a goodbye letter to Linda, apologizing for not being the good example of a big sister that I should have been. I looked over the letter and couldn’t even read it because the writing was so sloppy. I steadied my hand and rewrote the letter.
Quietly, I tore it out, folded it neatly, and set it aside. Next was a simple apology letter to Uncle John and Aunt Jenny, for messing up their lives with my unpredictability and for being such a burden. I felt each sibling deserved his or her own individual letter, so I wrote that bunch. They probably had great lives with their new families, and wouldn’t even miss me at all.
Each page was soaking up tears that dripped from my eyes. The ones that fell on ink got smudged. I imagined how dramatic it would have been if the tear splats looked more artistic, like watercolor splashes. It would be such a glamorous declaration of my farewell. Geez, how can I even manage to think of that?
A few more letters addressed to friends made it into the pile. I carefully placed the letters inside the notebook and covered it with a few books. It wouldn’t be beneficial if somebody discovered those letters earlier than necessary.
After that I climbed back into bed.
I didn’t feel rushed.
I felt in control.