The clicking of silverware grated in my ears, the silence becoming more and more suffocating as the clocked ticked-laughing menacingly. My hands moved around the plate, creating a disfigured picture wherein I could barely distinguish one shape from the other.
“Rosalinda is there a reason why you’re making mincemeat out of your food?” My mom’s cold voice sliced through my head and I looked up, careful not to appear startled.
“Of course not mother, I feel I’m not in the mood for dinner tonight.” I hesitated, don’t jump in too soon. “Mother…” She looked up at me in surprise. Conversation at the dinner table was a luxury in itself. “How did you know what you wanted to become? When you were younger I mean?”
“I excelled at school and got recommended for a program. If you try hard enough, perhaps you could one day be a fraction of what I used to be like in school.” I pinched myself underneath the table to stop the first tear from coming. Tears are weakness. Feelings are weakness. I pulled myself together in that same second and continued on as if I was completely unaffected by her distaste.
“And…you were happy with the decision you made?” She looked at me like I was crazy.
“Of course I’m happy with my decision. I have a beautiful home and a great job. Wouldn’t that make anyone happy?”
“No I mean…” I fidgeted with the table cloth. “Do you regret your life’s decision?”
“Rosalinda where is this coming from?”
I bit my lip, “I just…I don’t know. I can’t put my finger on it but something’s not right.”
Mother put down her fork and crossed her hands on the table. She studied me carefully. Was she searching for some sign of the spoiled, oblivious girl that she thought would emerge from a life of luxury? Was she looking through my windows for some hint of deception against the life she had built? “Listen to me very carefully Rosalinda, happiness is power. You can’t be happy if you’re not fed, if you’re not listened to, if you’re voice is miniscule. No one will listen to you, and no one will respect you. And that’s only the basis-what about the roof you sleep under, the food that’s on the table?”
“But what if I don’t want that,” I said softly.
She looked up from her nails, “Excuse me?”
“What if I don’t want this life? What if I want to find true happiness?”
Mother laughed and leaned forward, “well good luck finding it on the streets of poverty.”
With a fluid grace Mother rose from the table, taking her glass of wine with her. “Don’t bother me in my study,” she said coldly.
For a couple of seconds I simply sat there, my hand clutching the edge of the tablecloth and then suddenly with a desperate strength I pushed myself away from the table and ran upstairs to my room. Throwing open my door I looked around at my king sized bed, my customized dresser, the window seat that gave the perfect view to the ocean. My hand clenched on the frame of the door.
I didn’t want to keep living like this. What kind of life was this? One of misery, or reluctant obedience? Where was the love, the passion that came with life? Where were the smiles and laughter and twirling around in the rain? Sitting in front of the fire and playing monopoly? Drinking hot chocolate, hanging out with friends at the mall? Where was the essence of life in this house?
Biting hard on my lip I turned towards my closet, where I knew hidden away between the silk dresses and countless shoes was a backpack that I had never used. Back when I thought I could’ve been a “normal,” kid.
And suddenly I wasn’t thinking, I was only acting. I pulled the bag out of the closet and set it on the bed. It was completely brand new, coloured a dark shade of blue with a splash of red.
My hands worked mechanically. Clothes. Backpack. Clothes. Backpack. Clothes. Backpack. I didn’t even allow myself to think for a second what I was doing, because I knew as soon as I allowed myself to take the knife that would be the final blow to my life. As I opened my other closet to get the things only closest to my heart, I found myself staring at a mirror entranced by what I saw. My black hair hung in tendrils covering my face, and my dress hung limply around me. I stared at myself in the mirror. There was no life in her. And then there was me. This girl whose eyes reflected sorrow and misery. She stared at me, begging me to release her. I had the key, and she had my thoughts, my feelings. And yet who would win in this struggle?
Was I really willing to sacrifice my life of luxury and ease for a chance at living life? And yet I couldn’t even ask anyone if I was doing the right thing. I was alone in my world, but perhaps I won’t be alone in “their world.” The world of real joy, real luxury, instead of fake materialistic things.
With that thought in my mind I tucked the bag over one shoulder and crossed over to the balcony. The night wind blew softly, calling me forward. I looked down at the spiraling stairs, stairs as long as Rapunzel’s. Although I guess in that sense we were both the same. Both running away from a caged life.
As my feet touched the soft grass I closed off the doorway to my thoughts. I hadn’t escaped yet. There was still the guard-my conscious. But that was no match against me. Against the powerful, hopeful thoughts swirling in my head. I could do it. I will do it. And I’ll have friends, and…and maybe I’d meet someone. And I’d go to school and dance in the rain. And I would build snowmen and adopt a pet. I would catch a place and travel all corners of the world. I wouldn’t be dead in my core. I won’t be the living dead anymore. My stride quickened with these thoughts. I was hallway across the wide expense of lawn before I froze, jacket in one hand a duffel bag clutched loosely in the other.
Two wide eyes stared at me from the darkness. The yellow circling the pupil like clouds over the sun. We both stood staring at each other for what had seemed like an expanse of time before the creature lurked out of the shadows. It was a dog. A filthy dog who desperately needed a good and thorough washing. His ribs showed through his coat and as he moved forward, he seemed to limp-leaning heavily one side.
My first instinct was to back away, protect myself against the dirt and filth. Mother had always told me to never touch animals.
And it was exactly that thought of Mother that caused me to move one step forward instead of three steps back. After all, weren’t he and I alike in our place in the world? Both longing to look for something more?
I cautiously approached the dog-he whimpered and stepped away from me, limping fugitively on his injured leg. He was hungry. My hand clenched tightly around my duffel bag before I let it drop and pulled out a bag of beef jerky that I was going to eat for the road. Cautiously, I extended my hand towards him. He came towards me again, hiding his leg as if he knew that if I got hold of my weakness I would only use it to abuse him. My hand dropped the meat without my conscious thought and I moved away to give him space.
As he devoured the meat like a man would drink water after starving of thirst, I started to realize something. Looking down at this dog, did he have a family? A home? Did he leave not by choice but by force? I saw myself in him. I saw me on the sidewalks begging desperately for just a scrap of food, my long locks now tangled and oily. I saw myself sleeping on a park bench regret burning through me as if in that moment I was dosed in gasoline and lit on fire. I saw myself slowly starving away, becoming a ghost in the world. I saw children’s staring looks and adults arrogant ignorance. Can I let go of my life of ease just because I’m dissatisfied? Because I think the world is kind? And as much as I told myself that I could, at the end of the day I could barely support myself as it is, my thoughts and emotions crowding me. No one would take care of me, no one would help me. Everyone had their own lives to worry about, their own homes, and their own families. I was alone. I would always be alone.
And for the first time in a long time I let a tear slip down my face without a shred of shame. Tears were not weakness. Tears were the silent submission to let grief and hopelessness carry you away in an endless black sea. Tears were the physical form of deep mental anguish.
So I turned my back on the laughs and the tears. And as I took my first steps back towards my prison I could hear the girl in the mirror banging desperately. She had been so close to freedom only to face the harsh mask of reality. I could hear the smiles and giggles fade away into nothing. I could hear the excited shrieks as the first snowfall came melt like any other thing. I could hear myself draining away, becoming the ghost of the person I once was.
Opening the front door, I slipped inside and shut the door behind me. Mother came out of her study and peered around to look at me. “What on earth are you doing Rosalinda?”
I glanced up at her as if startled.
She signed and slipped her hand over her face. “Never mind then, I don’t really care.” Her eyes scanned my clothing, my backpack and duffel bag. “You weren’t…you weren’t planning on running away were you?” I looked towards the floor and breathed in deeply. I would never let another tear fall again. “Oh Rosalinda, where were you going to go?” I would never allow myself to stand on my own feet and think. “Don’t you know what the world does to you?” I would never speak again, never smile, never laugh, never act on my daydreams. “It’s cold and harsh out there.” I will never, ever allow myself to feel. “Where were you planning on going anyways?” I will never allow myself the luxury of being happy. I would always be stuck here, entranced with mud but dreaming of beaches. This prison has no escape.
“Nowhere.” I replied softly. “I wasn’t going anywhere.”