On this morning, I didn’t lay in the darkness. On this morning, I didn’t need to keep my eyes shut tight. On this morning, I was already awake. The excitement of this day would not let me sleep, it would not the darkness take over.
Boom, Boom, Boom!!
“TODAY IS THE DAY!” I shout while pounding on the wall that separates our bedrooms.
“I hope you’re awake because I am ready to start the day,” I state while I bounce off the bed and head to my closet.
“If I would have known that allowing you to transfer school, would cause this; I would have let you transfer a long time ago. I haven’t seen this Nalah for years now.” My mother states with glee in her voice.
She was standing in the doorway of my room, admiring me. For the first time in a long time, she was seeing me. For the first in a long time, she could see the light within. She still didn’t know the whole story and I was thankful for space she was giving me. That night she promised that today would be my last day. She told me I never had to step foot in that place again if I didn’t want too. But I did. I wanted to say goodbye to the few friends I had. Nurse Ferguson, my English teacher and my only real friend Janelle. I owed them goodbyes, for everything they ever did to help my situation. I owed myself a proper goodbye.
“You know you don’t have to go. We can stay home and watch 90’s chick flicks” I’ll straighten your hair the way you like.” My mother pleaded with me.
“Me, skip school? You, suggesting I skip school?” I state with a mischief look on my face.
“Mom, it’s one day and it was one incident. I’ll be ok”. I promised. I say trying to convince myself more than her. The look in her eyes told me everything, they told me she knew. She knew everything. I look away from her pleading eyes and head for the door. Before I completely leave the house, I turn back and with one last look at my mom I tell her
“We’ll talk more tonight, I promise.”
Today I wore that smile again. I sat on the bus and told myself I would walk tall. I told myself that I would walk through those doors the girl my mother saw this morning. I would walk through those halls proudly. Every day I hated going to school. Every day my mind and body were under attack. But today was different. Today was a new beginning for me. The sun was finally shining in my direction. It was my last day at this school. For the first time ever, I walked into that building that had beaten me to the bone with my head held high. Today nothing any of these people say or do is going to get to me.
First-class of the day, English. My safe zone. There no one can touch me, but the way I’m feeling right now I don’t need a safe zone. I’ve never felt this feeling before, it’s overwhelming but calming. It was like being in the darkness but in the light. I can’t wait for this day to be over, but I fear it’s going to take forever. Everything is in slow motion, in this slow-motion, I feel them coming at me like a pack of wild dogs. In the corner of my ear, I hear one say,
“So, we hear today is your last day here?”
With every word, out of her mouth, my body gets smaller and smaller. She continues by getting closer to my ear and says,
“I hope it’s not because I shared my lunch with you.” She proceeded to laugh and says, “I was just trying to be nice, you’re so ungrateful.”
I lower my head trying not to be seen, when another girl position herself right in front of me, looking me straight in my eyes and says,
“Well, then we just have to make it a good last day, won’t we ladies.” The chuckles that flowed through the room made my soul crumble. I wanted to run and hide but it was like my feet were stuck to the ground. At that moment, my body became cement. Defeated I slowly lowered my head.
It was the same for these girls; every day they would find innovative ways to torment me. I don’t really know why they hate me, or what I have done to deserve this type of abuse from them, but it’s become our everyday dance. I’d avoid them at all cost, they seek me out like a dog looking for its bone. Instead of focusing on schoolwork, these girls who had once been my friends now only focused on me. Instead of studying about Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, they were learning the limits they could push me to. “A good last day!” What does that even mean I thought. In a slow panic, I begin to sweat thinking of all the possible ways that they could make this a good last day. Before I knew what, I was doing I said,
“You could leave me alone, that would make it a good day.”
“She speaks, she sounds like the mouse rodent she is but she finally spoke,” one of the girls says tightly.
In unison, all three girls walk away whispering and laughing.
We had gym class next, the worst class period of the day. This class was supervised by a lazy teacher who was only here to collect a check. Knowing this and knowing what these girls are capable of, I fear that the attempts on my life in the past will come true today. Something about the way they moved on this day, made the hairs on my body stand straight up. Walking into the locker room I could feel the fear dripping off me. I knew they could smell it a mile away like they were the loins and I the prey.
I hated being in this room. The chlorine smell was so overpowering it made my insides burn. Changing into my bathing suit, I had to make myself take a moment to refocus, to help calm the spinning room. With the noise and the smell, it was hard to escape into the darkness and find peace. Anyways I had to hurry before they saw me. The locker room is where they got in most of their jabs at me. I quickly locked my locker back up, and before anyone could see I ran to the back of the locker room and out the door into the pool area.
It’s quiet in here. The water seems asleep, giving me a sense of secured hope. Without warning, I slip into the darkness and let it cradle me like being wrapped in my mother’s arms. A blinding light wakes me from my day-dream. I jump into the pool, I can feel every inch of the water and the water can feel every inch of me. I love the water. The water can be like darkness. Everything and nothing. Water can surround everything, leaving no room for anything. If it wanted too. The teacher yells I’ll be right back and tell us to continue with the free swim.
At that moment, I knew that something was going to happen to me. I closed my eyes and wait. Within seconds I could hear the waves of the water hitting me. Suddenly cold small hands begin to cover my body. I don’t fight them; I just let whatever is going to happen, happen. They’re pulling me farther and farther into the pool. They’re really going to kill me this time. I could feel it; they had been trying to kill me for the last 2 weeks, and now it was going to happen.
Soon the water has swallowed my whole body. My body begins to jerk and thrash around, it begins to fight for me when I refused to fight for myself. Everything is peaceful and silent. Everything feels right and safe. At this moment, darkness fills every corner of me. At this moment, I am nothing and everything. I am full. I am centered. I am free. In this darkness, I am everything I will ever be. As the darkness threatens to take over, I now understand. I understand.
I come to with people all around me, and a fire in my chest. I can’t feel my body, but I can feel the cold and the pain. Everything hurts. My body feels like it is one heavy lump of nothing trapping my soul in a place of misery. I close my eyes trying to embrace the darkness but I can’t. There are people all around me moving and screaming, but I can’t hear them. Their faces tell me everything that’s happened. In their eyes, I can tell I’m alive. Smiles ran over their faces, you can see that their relieved I’m alive.
I close my eyes, trying to regain that sense of peace that made me feel so safe. I close my eyes, wishing the girls had done their job, wishing they had killed me. Suddenly I’m yanked to my feet and carried off to the nurse’s office. They poke and ask many questions, but I stay frozen staring at the walls. I feel nothing, but this yearning in the pit of my stomach that calls me back to the water. I want to feel alive again.
The rest of the day went on like any other day, but everything was different. I was different. I now walked the halls like a zombie. My body is still alive but my soul feels disconnected, out of place. My soul felt trapped like it was forced back into a jail cell; like it was being punished for a crime that wasn’t hers. My view of the world now was different. Everything I saw was different. I’m different.
The bus ride home proved that to me. Sitting on that bus facing my best friend, I could tell she knew I was different. She wanted to know what happened but all I could explain was the feeling I got from being in that pool. The feeling of being alive and at peace with myself. How could I explain that I now understood who I was when I didn’t even understand what was happening? I just knew whatever it was, it was right. I tried to explain but she didn’t understand and I didn’t expect her to. Looking into her eyes, I could see she was looking right through me. I could see the fear on her face, the fear she had for me. Before I knew it, she grabbed me into an embrace I wasn’t ready for. Like every other day, she told me everything was going to be okay, that tomorrow would be better. Today for the first time I actually believed her.
Later that night when I got home from school, my mom was waiting at the door for me again. The minute she saw me she started with the question, asking me this, telling me that. I knew deep down inside she loved me and was worried. But all I could think about was that pool and that feeling and how I was going to experience it again. Without a word, I brush past her trying to reach the stairs but she stops me.
“You promised Nalah, you promised you would explain to me what is going on.” She begs wobbly.
“Please let me in.”
I stand frozen, unable to move or register the activity around me.
“First I get a call last week about you getting bullied and now today they say you almost drowned.”
She grabs my arms so rough, she causes a burning sensation to pierce through my entire upper body. Looking me square in the eyes and with a tremor in her voice she states
“They said it might not have been an accident. You may be a victim of bullying again today”
When those words escaped her mouth, I crumbled to the ground. She knew. She knew I was weak and pathetic. She knew I was a coward. I could no longer live in the shadows of my misery. I could no longer lie to her face. I had to let the momma bear roar.
There was no escaping from my mum. She had questions and she demanded answers. For the most part, my mum was always gentle and understanding with me, but right now she was hurt, confused and angry. She didn’t understand why she didn’t know, why no one had told her. Why I hadn’t told her. Why she didn’t see it. Like me, my mum was blaming herself. She paced up and down the kitchen, asking question after question just trying to understand. But she didn’t understand, because I didn’t understand.
“Make me understand. I need to know why?” She demands
Understand what, Mom? I snap back. Understand that I’m a coward that let all this stuff happen to me and I never stopped it. Is that what you want to understand?
How could I make her understand something I myself didn’t understand? I didn’t know why I just sat there and let them mentally and physically abuse me. I didn’t know why I stop reporting it to the teachers. I didn’t know why I didn’t want her to know. I didn’t know why I was so weak but I was.
“Baby, I can’t help if you don’t make sense of all this.” She pleads
“I’M WEAK” I scream
“I’m weak, ok. Not everyone is strong, not everyone is you.” I state as I run out of the room and up the stairs.
Once away from my mother’s pleading eyes, I rushed to the bathroom, turned on the water with the intent of taking a bath to get the chlorine off me, but once my body hit the water I knew what I had to do to get that feeling back. I knew I had to finish what they started. I slowly lowered my body into the bathtub until my entire body was under the water. I opened my eyes as the peace covered my body and the darkness filled my head. For the first time ever, I was awake in the darkness. At this moment, I’m alive. At that moment, I knew I had to die.