The choices were laid out simply: continue on the path of self-destruction until the day my heart would surely give up, or put faith in those who loved me more than I loved myself to save me.
It seemed surreal. I didn’t know that this actually happened to real people in real life. I’d seen it happen to characters--usually played by Christina Ricci or Mary Kate Olsen--in movies that you later mock and criticize with your friends. But those bitches are rich and spoiled and have too much time on their hands. They are not me-- a Jewish Ivy League-bound straight-A student from suburban New Jersey. Or, rather, they are not what I used to be.
The airline deemed me too frail to walk alone and therefore a liability. After I steadfastly refused to sit in a wheelchair, they provided me with an escort to prevent me from collapsing in the aisles as I exited the airplane. I grabbed onto some uniformed man’s arm-- I cannot remember his name but I know he told me-- and he smiled a forced and pitiful smile as he led me past the empty rows of cushioned seats and into the airport, carefully checking to make sure I was still upright after every step. His eyes spoke: “what a shame.” He offered me a wheelchair but I declined; I was stronger than he suspected.
I tried to help pick up my luggage, but my parents quickly whisked it away and tossed it into the trunk of our rented minivan. Without saying a word I pulled myself into the car, closed the door, and my Dad merged onto the highway toward Petersboro.
My parents silently sat and stared out of the front windshield looking for landmarks or signs indicating our location. I had no interest in finding out where I was, so I put on my headphones, pressed “PLAY” on my Walkman, and listened to the soft hum of Simon and Garfunkel’s poetry melt into my mind.
"Kathy, I said as we boarded a Greyhound in Pittsburg, Michigan seems like a dream to me now…"
Tears welled in my eyes, but the instant I felt their presence I blinked them back. For the first time what felt like forever, it seemed as if someone understood my hopelessness and had also felt that the present could be the worst place to be. I closed my eyes and tried to envision myself back at the New Jersey Shore, enveloped in the stinging salty waves that always crashed before they made it to land, but I was brought back to reality by a jolt of the car. The locked car door and tightly fastened seatbelt kept me in place, and I smiled at the world’s alleged sense of humor.
We finally exited the highway, and my father, trying to remain chipper in the face of such moroseness, excitedly exclaimed “we’re almost there!” as if that would cheer me up. I twisted my neck away from the window and toward my father’s rear-view mirror and made eye contact with his reflection. But the sight of me seemed to sadden him and he instantly appeared several years older. He quickly refocused his attention on the road as if to deny to himself and perhaps to me that he had ever dared to look me in the eye. I couldn’t blame him -- I had stopped looking at myself months ago.
Our minivan glided along for a while and I noticed that there were no street signs. Apparently these roads were so desolate that even the town found them unworthy of names. It was the perfect place for someone who was unsure of her destination. I knew very well where I had been: a hell of my own making but not under my control. I had been a prisoner of both a mind incapable of caring for itself and for the body I had practically ruined. The choices were laid out simply: continue on the path of self-destruction until the day my heart would surely give up, or put faith in those who loved me more than I loved myself to save me. I apprehensively chose the latter.
I could only hope that where I was headed did not entail staying in this uncharted place with only fields of grass to confirm my existence. Sure, my previous state was nearly intolerable, but at least I was able to distract myself from reality and haze the truth. On these unmarked roads I was painfully aware of the shadow of a person that I had become.
"Kathy, I’m lost, I said though I knew she was sleeping. I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why…”
Long after I turned my Walkman off the music reverberated through my skeleton.