walk | 008
“What did you do today?”
The question brought a slight mist of disgust across her pretty features, her nose scrunching up as her forehead wrinkled with the thought of answering the stereotypical question that she would be forced to listen to if she didn’t reply within the long hour of her session. Her legs crossed as if on autopilot and a smile coated with fake sweetness pulled at the tips of her lips. Ali didn’t know what to say – her day hadn’t been an eventful one nor had it been boring. It was just one of those days that she wouldn’t remember a week later.
With a shrug, her smile grew wider and she blinked her wide brown eyes at Professor Winchester. “I dropped by the music store on the way home from college. They had an offer on guitar lessons. I thought maybe I could learn the guitar, or maybe even the piano.”
The fib brought a brilliant grin to his face. Although she knew that he knew it was a lie, Ali couldn’t comprehend why he hadn’t just called her out on her lie. He knew better than anyone that she was probably hiding away in her room, scrolling through the pages of her Tumblr dashboard. “That’s brilliant Ali, it’s progress. Maybe tomorrow you could cycle through Orion Drive instead – I heard the view of the sea is gorgeous.”
The name of the road felt like a stab in the heart. “That’s okay, Prof. I’m going to drop by Starbucks on the way home tomorrow to tutor a classmate. That’s out of the way.” Ali felt like lying was second nature ever since she started coming to this place. It wasn’t as if her ‘condition’ was rare. She knew as well as any other that it was a common thing to have and every adolescent would experience it at least once in their life, whether it being a short period of time or not.
The hour-long session carried on that way – a swordfight of words and lies that leapt through the air to stab at the other. Professor Winchester wouldn’t let the idea of Orion Drive slip and Ali would counter with a lie that would spring up in her brain a split second later. It was beginning to tire Ali out. Each of their sessions went exactly this way, no additional differences except for the occasional progress of telling the truth. It wasn’t that she hated Professor Winchester, he was actually a really cool guy – she frankly didn’t know any other thirty-something year old in her small town of Blackwood who would take a kid with dissociative identity disorder to the art museum without giving two shits about any sudden shifts in personality – but he was a psychiatrist and Ali was pretty sure that being nosey came in the job description.
Professor Winchester stood up with twinkling eyes that were uncannily similar to those of Professor Dumbledore from the Harry Potter series. “I’ll see you again next week, Ali. Remember: the mansion is open to all and you’re welcomed to stay if you’d like.”
“Thank you, Professor.” Ali smiled, genuinely, for the first time that afternoon. She pushed out of the armchair and strode across the room to open the door. The brunette turned back once more to smile faintly at the psychiatrist before shutting the door behind her and running smack dab into Jason Myers – the boy with a tendency to ask her to make him sandwiches.
The boy smirked at her and leant against the doorframe. “How was your session? I was waiting for a sandwich.”
“You’re fifteen years old. You should know how to make a damn sandwich.” Ali scowled; it took every inch of her to not punch the irritating sucker in the face. If the professor hadn’t said that punching people would land her more sessions, she would’ve sucker punched the brunet before her to Singapore and back. “I’ve got to go, I have extra lessons with a professor from college.”
As she walked away, her ponytail swishing behind her, she heard Jason’s fingers slip from the doorknob. “I thought one of the symptoms was that you would have a loss of interest in previously loved activities? And you were supposed to lock yourself in your room to cry, not scroll through Tumblr. Are you sure Professor Winchester diagnosed you correctly?”
The anger that roared in her ears was enough to make her hurl a vase at the opposing wall but her hands curled into fists instead; God only knew what Professor Winchester would say when he saw his wife’s prized vase in pieces on the carpeted floor. Ali could feel her eyebrow twitch with irritation and anger. She spun around and jabbed a finger at the, unfortunately, tall kid’s chest.
“Did you just stereotype me?” her eyes blazed with anger but she knew that although her rage was near explosion, the twinge of sadness she felt wouldn’t leave her alone anytime soon. “That’s rich, coming from someone like you. You’re talking to a depressed girl when you’re a druggie. Isn’t it funny how fast the table turns? The worst I can do is jump off a bloody cliff but you, a fifteen year old drug addicted insomniac, can do much, much worse. You have no idea what each one of us here in this god forsaken counseling home is going through. Everyone has their own problems and no one has the right to make anyone’s problem seem smaller or bigger than other’s.”
She glared at him even harder as his eyes hardened and he stiffened. “And no, Jason, I don’t lock myself up in my room to cry because I don’t have the energy within me to cry anymore. The word ‘diagnosed’ pisses me off. It’s as if I have a crazy mental issue that’s exaggerating what I actually have.” Ali raised an eyebrow at his uncomfortable expression and softened her tone. “Do you know what’s wrong with me?”
At the subtle shake of his head, she felt immensely guilty, the overwhelming urge to wrap her arms around him ignored by her fear of getting caught. “My parents thought I was depressed ever since the accident and they sent me to this counseling home in hopes of getting me to open up. A mentally ill person doesn’t accurately describe their symptoms nor does the doctor coincidentally have time available when the person needs to see him or her. It also isn’t as easy as how the behavioral scientists and psychologists on television make it out to be. Professor Winchester didn’t officially announce me as ‘depressed’ until two months later.”
“It took that long?” Jason murmured, shifting his weight from his left foot to the right. His hands were in his pockets and his eye bags seemed more prominent as time passed.
“Yeah,” she chuckled softly. “I wasn’t exactly the poster child for cooperation. Depression isn’t always an overwhelming wave of sadness. It can be the feeling of emptiness, like there isn’t a single person in the world who would understand how you feel. As if tomorrow couldn’t be better than yesterday. That’s depression for you.”
Jason’s eyes were glued to the floor. “What does it feel like?” he whispered, reverting into a body of a ten year old that had just lost his ball in the yard of the ‘haunted’ house across the street. “You don’t have to tell me if you don’t want to, I understand.”
Her heart clenched for the boy four years younger than her. She crossed her legs and sat on the corridor floor, waiting for Jason to sit before she continued her tale with a sad smile. “Depression pulls you deep into the dark, like a dream where you just keep falling and falling and falling until you hit rock bottom; but there’s no end to the falling – you just spiral deeper and deeper into the chasm of darkness. It feels like the walls are closing in and it gets hard to breathe. But you keep falling anyway.”
Ali choked on a sob threatening to escape. She stopped herself from crying, clearing her throat with a nervous laugh. “There’s no ground to break your back on but there are plant roots that you grip onto, clutching onto it like it’s your only hope of crawling out of that chasm. In the end, you lose your grip and fall faster into the chasm. There’s no end to the madness. You can’t breathe because it’s so suffocating. You drown in your own demons even though you know how to swim. Deep down, you feel that ache of wanting something so badly that you’d climb out of the chasm if you had the chance. It’s the ache that’s scarier than the falling because you know that if you keep falling, there’s no way you’d find out what you long for.”
Before Jason could even say something, Ali stood up, brushed the invisible lint off her sweatpants, and hopped down the steps. He stared after her in amazement, fear and awe. Her arm reached up to brush what Jason hoped wasn’t a stray tear before she disappeared out of his sight completely. How could someone be so strong whilst going through something that sounded worse than hell?
“Jason? What on earth are you doing on the floor?”
A sheepish smile and a rub of the neck later, Jason closed the door of the office behind him, leaving the tensed air outside in the corridor and Ali, at the bottom of the stairs, collapsed against the railings with her knees pulled to her chest as she cried for the first time in a long while. Her shuddering gasps for breath racked her body, making her tremble in her curled up frame. Two years since it happened and she still couldn’t get a grip after just mentioning the accident.
| ∞ |
February 14th, 2014
Ali had never been good with anniversaries.
Whether it’d be relationships or marriage, Ali couldn’t ever remember the dates that would eventually be important in the future. Take the time Stacy McLaren and Matthew Cross dated and Ali had completely forgot to buy them an anniversary present when the day came. Or the time she slept through her parent’s anniversary party.
Today was different.
Valentine’s Day wouldn’t be a date that she would soon forget. Ali didn’t think she could ever forget the day everything started to go wrong, the day that gave her a limp that lasted for more or less a year. Especially with it being such a globally celebrated event, the fourteenth of February was a date that she knew she would carry with her till the day she died. It was something that had to be done, whether or not it made her feel uncomfortable. God didn’t care if you felt like the world had crashed around you for the second time; He just wanted you to learn your lesson.
Ali wanted to storm out of the church right at that second. The moment the preacher opened his mouth was the moment that Ali wanted to shrink and curl into a ball on one of the benches. She wanted to be in control of herself again. His voice droned on and on about the ‘tragic accident that had occurred one year ago’ and about the ‘blessed soul that would’ve joined the angels in heaven’ for the fifth time that day. The eighteen year old felt like running past the sympathetic glances and out the giant oak doors, into the warm arms of the sunlight.
“We will never forget the beautiful soul that has left us exactly one year ago. Let us bow our heads in silence to respect the memory of Amanda Mason: a beloved daughter, sister and friend.”
The eerie silence that befell the entire church was the opportunity Ali used to let a tear slip down her cheek. Valentine’s Day – the death anniversary of her sister, Amanda – was a date she never wanted to forget. A date that she swore would be a date kept to herself and her sister only. No one could replace the amount of chick flicks they had watched together on this very date. No one would ever become Amanda. She wouldn’t love anyone the way she loved Amanda.
“This is all my fault,” she whispered. “This is all my bloody fault.”
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