When she couldn’t write, she thought about her feelings and tucked them away in her memory under categories. The Shell, she called this one. It’s when your life throbs inside you, but like in a chestnut, it stops short inside — at a smooth finish, a wall.
She couldn’t break the nut at those times, and so she kept walking. Walking down the empty hallways of the high school, past the rows of blue lockers. She held her books tightly in her arms, as she often did walking to a destination (be it science lab or Algebra), when everyone would flock the halls and the bell would ring before you had managed to move a few feet.
“The joy of public schools,” the thought entered her head as she’d heard other say, but she didn’t really mind it. She didn’t mind the crowded classrooms, the terrible math teachers, the yellow slips of detention thanks to unavoidable high-hall-traffic tardies. Even as she reached detention hall the day before spring break and sat quietly far back in the second to last row with her head hung low, she didn’t mind.She hid behind her shield of long hair and waited.
The clock ticked, a pencil dropped, a boy readjusted in his seat. The turning of a page. The clock ticked again.
As she sat, she thought about her period. She’d had it for two months, and finally her mother dragged her to the doctor. She’d rather have bled to death than go to the doctor. But her mother made her go. “Please stay in the room with me,” she pleaded and tugged her mom from the sleeve when they got there.
Her heart ached. In the numbness of youth, she didn’t know how to feel about life, about blood, and the fact that she could have a baby if she wanted. A baby, another human life. But who would she have it with? There had been Jeff, who broke up with her after two weeks. But that was it.
The doctor had looked down and laughed. “You’re bleeding a well here, aren’t you, missy?” he’d chuckled and looked at her. Her face must have turned red. Later when he felt her breasts, she laughed. The harder she tried not to, the more she laughed. She stopped laughing when she had to answer his questions. “Now be honest,” he said, glancing at her mother. “Have you ever had an object in there? A finger? Anything else?”
What was this, a body of lies. Who was he. What is pain. She cringed as he tried to force in his fat finger to feel her organs. Tears came to her eyes and she pulled backward. “I’m sorry,” he said. He signed away for her to take a pill and wished her a happy vacation in Florida.
The clock ticked again. A boy sighed. She looked down at her empty desk. Again, nothing — the chestnut had no opening. She missed her father. She wanted to be a writer. She wanted to cry. She didn’t really want a baby.
Little did she know that the blood had already stopped, and tomorrow she’d be in a small bathroom without windows by the beach fitting her new white bathing suit on her body, while a distant friend who’d just turned 18 would die in a car in those few moments before she opened the door and re-emerged from the bathroom. When she would hear about the accident, she would forget all about her blood and think of his. His last moments.
But that would be tomorrow. Today was here. And the slower the clock ticked, the deeper she fell into the sweet sorrow of her thoughts, completely unaware of time altogether.