Lucy. It is an ironic choice of a name for a girl like me. It means light. My parents have told me time and time again that they chose that name for me because I was the light of their life. They had spent five long years trying to conceive before they were told that they could never have a child and then out of the blue my mother found out that she was expecting. I was my parent’s little miracle. Their precious angel, the light of their life. They would have thought differently about that name had they been able to look sixteen years down the road.
My eyes are struggling to adjust to the harsh florescent lights glaring down above me but it doesn’t take me long to recognize the reticent drawl of the heart monitor. I feel where they had to jam the hypodermic needle into my foot because they failed to find an acceptable vein elsewhere on my body. My body feels as if it has been thrown against a concrete wall, bruised and broken. It is not a new feeling. I cannot seem to recall a memory where I didn’t find myself weighed down by a relentless fatigue.
Something doesn’t feel right though because I cannot seem to shake myself out of this haze. My vision hasn’t become clear and I cannot make out the voices behind the staccato of the heart monitor. This frustrates me because I want to hear what these people are saying. I want to know who they are. I want to know where I am at.
A cold realization suddenly comes over me. I do not feel my mother’s hand holding mine. This is not the first time I have woken up in a hospital. It isn’t even the second or third time. I cannot even remember what number this time makes it. All I know is that every time my mother has been by my side so that I would not wake up scared and alone. She is not holding my hand this time. I try to shake the fear away by telling myself that she must have went to the bathroom or to get some coffee so that she could stay away a little bit longer.
I can see the shadowy outlines of the people who are standing over my bed but I still cannot make out their words. Never in my life have I felt so tired. My eyelids are heavy and I could easily succumb to the notion of sleep. I need to stay awake until I know that my mother is by my side and who these people are. I think that they are holding a clipboard. Perhaps it is a doctor or a nurse making the rounds? Maybe they are discussing with my parents what is wrong and how they think that they can make me better.
None of those are right because then my mother would be right beside me holding my hand. She would be asking how much longer it would be until she was able to take me home. It had been several minutes since I’d woken up and still my mother was nowhere within eye or earshot. I was starting to fear that my mother wasn’t here with me. Why would she not want to be by her little girl’s side? Wasn’t I the light of her life?
“Ah Ms. Powell it is nice to see that you are finally awake,” a shadowy figure at the end of the bed said when my vision finally started to come into focus.
That shadowy figure was a tall middle-aged man in a starched white lab coat and beside him was a small brown-haired woman who appeared to be in her early thirties. Both of them had blue binders in their hands with my name printed on a white label across them. Within those blue cardboard covers these individuals would read what they long ago termed my “sickness.” They would read the progress notes of my history. They would read all of the sessions where I filled their ears with garbage about editing my self-perception and how I need to garner more realistic expectations for myself. What they called “killing myself”, I considered perfecting myself.
“Where am I?” I groaned as I tried to shield my eyes from the harsh lights above.
“You are currently at the Forest Pines Rehabilitation Center,” the shadowy figure with a heavy masculine drawl says, bringing emphasis to the title of the center.
Forest Pines Rehabilitation Center? Why am I in a place like this? My heart begins to pick up its pace as my mind scrambles to come to some rationalization as for why I am in this strange place all alone. Where is my mother? Where is my father? Why am I not in some hospital as my mother argues with them to let me go home as soon as possible? Why are these strange people at the foot of a bed that is quickly becoming a cage?
The strangers at the foot of my bed seem to read my mind. They give me empathetic looks that seem to tell me everything that I don’t want to know. I know what words are about to come out of their mouths. They are about to tell me that my mother isn’t here. She isn’t just down the hall getting coffee. They are going to tell me that I am not going home today or even tomorrow.
“Ms. Powell I know that you must be afraid right now,” the brown-haired woman says softly. “But there is no reason to be. We are here to help you get better.”
I barely held in a maniacal laugh. When haven’t I heard this before? The brown-haired woman might as well have said,” Ms. Powell I’m glad you are awake. Welcome to hell.”
I love the feeling of the brushstroke meeting a blank canvas for the first time. It is the thrill of giving life and color to something that has been void of anything its entire existence. There are no rules governing my hands as I stroke colors across its blankness. The colors can be as muted or as wild as I would like them to be. I can take myself out of this world and place myself into an existence not tainted by the spoils around me. As long as I can paint and capture the world around as I see it then I am happy.
I was thrilled that my parents bought me a painting set for my sixteenth birthday. It was the first evidence of them listening to a word I ever said. I must have dropped hints for a week that at paint set was all that I wanted. I was not interested in new clothes for my upcoming junior year of high school or a fancy new electronic that seems to be what all the other kids my age seemed to hunger for.
I have a feeling that this upcoming year at school is going to be different from any other. The school finally has the funding for an art department. I can finally take an elective that doesn’t leave a sour taste in my mouth or on my mind. Grandma Faye gave me my keys to freedom over the summer when she finally realized that it was no longer safe for her to be behind the wheel. The only stipulation to that deal was that I take her to the grocery store and pick up her medications from the pharmacy once a week. That was a deal that I could more than live with.
One thing that I hate more than anything is asking my parents for a ride somewhere. It is a never ending series of questions. I remember the time when I started my monthly flow and I was forced to ask my father to take me to the store for tampons because my mother was out of town. He thought that this was my hallmark moment into the walk towards womanhood. I couldn’t have been more embarrassed when he told the clerk at the store that he was proud that his little girl was turning into a young woman. I had just wanted to die and shrivel up into my hoodie. From that moment on I swore off asking my parents for anything more than remembering to pick up orange juice with pulp from the store for me.
I’ve learned how to become extremely self-reliant over the years. I’ve trained my internal alarm clock to wake me far before I miss my ride to school in the morning and to pick up my winter coat while shopping for school clothes over the summer. My alarm clock reminds me to go down before anyone else awakes so that I may have my favorite cereal without the bickering of my little sister.
Melissa was a complete surprise four years ago. My parents had no clue that they could conceive again after all of the trouble they had trying to have me. I was not exactly thrilled when my parents announced that I would have a little sister. All that I envisioned was babysitting and a baby keeping me up all night on the nights that I couldn’t afford it. The only positive thing that Melissa brought into my life was that she shifted most of the attention from me onto her. Not that she was complaining. My sister is a natural social butterfly and loves to be in the middle of everything.
My mind shifts to the day that lay ahead of me. I have been awake since four this morning. I put away my paint set and roll my canvas back into its original holder. It will be waiting for me when I return home. I am reluctant to take it to school with me until I learn more about what or what not the art department has to offer in terms of supplies. It doesn’t make much sense to use my own supplies when taxpayers can supply them for me.
My clothes are sprawled wildly across my floor. I try to separate what is clean from what is dirty so that I can make a halfhearted effort to look decent for my first day of school. Knowing my mother she will lecture me on the necessity of being a proper young lady, and a proper young lady does not go out into public looking like a homeless hoodlum. I find a pair of dark skinny jeans that are fairly free of wrinkles and a clean blouse is hanging up in my closet.
The clean blouse hanging up in the closet is evidence that my mother has been in my room recently because I cannot remember the last time that I hung up clothes in my room. My parents and I reached a compromise over a year ago that as long as I clean up after myself in all other areas of the house that my room is my territory. They cannot dictate how I am to live in my own personal space. After many weeks of compromise and arguments my parents finally, but reluctantly, agreed to this decision. They figured that it was not worth the battle and it was just a phase I was going through.
I run a brush through my hair and I hope that a pony tail will tame the mass of curls and frizz. I eye my straightener and give only a moment’s thought before I dismiss the idea of spending the hour trying to flatten the incorrigible curls that I inherited from my mother. The one thing that I didn’t inherit from her was the motivation to keep up with all the hair care products necessary to keep my hair from looking like it lost a battle with a lawn mower.
The only person who thought that my hair was part of my charm was my Grandpa Harry. He told me to not give a moments worry over my hair because it was one of the few things that would make me stand out of the crowd.
“Lucy, listen here,” he would say as he would puff on his cigar. “There is nothing more special in this world than a girl who can look straight in the mirror and be happy with what she sees.”
“But Grandpa, how can a girl be happy with something like this on top of her head?” I would say and like the little girl I was cross my arms defiantly.
He would put down his cigar, swoop me up into his arms, and give me that big goofy smile of his. “Because Lucy my girl, if you can’t learn to be happy with what the Lord gave you, then you won’t learn to be happy with anything.”
My eyes mist over a little at the thought of my Grandpa Harry. He lost a long battle with cancer right before my eleventh birthday. He was the only one who I ever truly enjoyed spending time with. He filled my childhood with camping trips, days at the parks, and lazy afternoons of watching shows that my mother would have a stroke over knowing that her little girl was watching what she termed as “filth.”
I never understood how my mother turned out the way that she did when she was raised by a man like Grandpa Harry. He never pushed away a chance to spend any moment that he could outside getting his hands dirty. My mother and her father couldn’t have been more opposite even if they tried. My mother like everything to be neat and in place while my grandfather didn’t mind a mess at all. There are still days where I cannot believe that he is gone.
I glance at the clock and it reads a little past seven. If I wait five or ten more minutes then I will miss my mom as she hustles Melissa out the door to her daycare on her way to work. Fat chance of that happening though. My mother may be too busy to notice me sometimes but she isn’t too busy to remember that this is my first day of junior year. I shudder at the prospects of what she has planned for me this year. I know that she has her heart set on the chance of me going to prom. She has always dreamed of dressing me up like a Barbie doll for that event. It is for occasions like that when I wish that Melissa would grow up just a little faster.
“Lucy!” Mom calls at the bottom of the stairs.
Right on time. I know that she has been staring at the clock waiting for a good time to call me down. I check in the mirror to make sure that I am presentable enough to pass her standards. I am wearing some shade of pink and my pants are not filled with lint. My hair is pulled back tightly enough that the frizz is under control. She won’t be happy but she won’t complain either. My mother has learned that some battles with me are just not worth fighting.
“Coming!” I yell as I open my door and make it down the stairs.
I just now realize that I was so lost in thought this morning that I missed my opportunity to sneak down to the kitchen undetected. This means that if I want something to eat before school then I will have to sit down and eat the Melissa. I would rather shove razor blades down my throat.
“Darling, are you sure that is what you want to wear on your first day of junior year?” my mother asks with a frown on her face?
“Sure, what is wrong with it?”
“Well, it just seems like something you would wear during the second or third week of school?”
“Mom, how about you let me worry about what I’m wearing? I’m sure that if I’m comfortable wearing it then you should be too.”
With that my mother knows that this is not a battle she wants to proceed with. She turns to Melissa and begins fussing with her hair. Poor child. My mother thinks that a four year can wear her hair down without messing it up within five minutes.
“Lucy, would it be too much for you to drop Melissa off? I am running late and I won’t make my meeting with how this morning is going?” My mother asks as she frantically tries to fix her youngest daughter’s hair.
This catches me completely by surprise. She has never let me drive with Melissa in the car. She is always terrified that I would crash or get pulled over and this would scare poor Melissa. With my mother running late I realize that there isn’t much of a window to say no. I don’t even really want to say no I just don’t want it to turn into a habit. I don’t spend much time with my little sister and the ten minute car ride to her daycare is right on the way to my high school anyway.
“Sure Mom, just make sure her lunch is in her pack before she goes.”
“Ah Lucy, what would I do without you?”
I could think of about 100 things she could do without me right off the top of my head. “ No problem Mom, it is on the way anyways.
She bends to kiss Melissa good-bye. “Mel, you be a good girl for your big sister this morning and Mommy will pick you up at the end of the day.”
Melissa kisses my mother good-bye on the cheek and gives her a hug around her neck. “Bye Mommy.”
I glance to the chicken clock that hangs above the doorway in the kitchen. It is a clock that my mother hates but my father adores it. My mother would rather hang that clock than allow for my father to line up his ridiculous dwarf figurines all throughout the house. The clock says that it is fifteen minutes till eight. My first class is at eight-thirty. It is history and being taught by possibly the most monotone man on the face of the earth, Mr. Nelson.
I am not sure how a man like Mr. Nelson has been able to stay at teacher for the past fifteen years. Perhaps history is one of those subjects that do not require a lot of passion to teach it successfully. All his class will consist of is lectures, notes, a couple of movies, and a weekly chapter test. Attendance isn’t even required to make a passing grade for the year, and a passing grade in history is all that I need to be able to attend the community college just a few miles down the road.
College is one of those things that my parents have been giving me a lot of grief about over the past summer but it isn’t one of those things that I have given much thought about. It isn’t my dream to go to some Ivy League university and make it to Wall Street. Numbers make my head hurt and too many people around me just become annoying rather quickly. I haven’t quite figured out how to tell my parents my thoughts on going to college. I can just imagine the two hour lecture that conversation will turn out to be.
My mind reverts back to my Melissa who is looking up expectantly at me. “What is that look for?”
“Mommy always makes me breakfast before we leave for school.”
“Why don’t you eat breakfast at school then this morning?”
Melissa twists her face in disgust and shakes her head. No words are needed to answer that question. I can’t really blame her either. I don’t eat the school meals either. Most of the time I don’t eat lunch at all because I’m always forgetting to bring something to school with me that is more appetizing. My mother constantly blames my forgetfulness on my age. My father says that it is a lack of responsible time management. I say that I prioritize sleep over waking up in the mornings.
“Well tell you what? Why don’t we stop through the drive-thru at Burger King and get you those French toast sticks you love so much?”
Melissa’s face brightens up to this suggestion and shakes her head in urgent agreement. I press my fingers to my lips and say, “But this has to be our little secret. You know how Mommy gets when we eat things that are bad for us.”
Melissa giggles and nods her head. “Gotcha. Our little secret.”
She sticks out her pinky to make a pinky promise with me. I smile down at my sister and give her my pinky. I had almost forgotten that past her tantrums she was almost fun to be around. I tell her to hurry and get her coat and backpack so that we can get into the ancient Buick to give it time to melt the frost off of the windshield.