by Grace Ashele
My books lay close to me in a vertical formation. Dusty, pretty and unloved. I looked at them and wondered when I would touch them again, flipping the pages, sniffing scents and swallowing contents.
My bed was cold, but I was boiling up inside. My body was immobile from pains as I drummed my fingers on my thighs and waited my turn. This was a game and I had no say in when it would stop or when it would be my turn to duel. Or make a move. Literally.
Mama was going about, doing her chores. She was busy. I was dying. A death that had no end, only breaks where I prepared to die again and again. I tried to rise but it pulled me back, punishing my attempt with a killer jab at my neck. I tried to speak or scream for time out, but it shut me up with another dreaded move. My whimpers and weak attempts to writhe were acknowledged.
This was the end. It had to be.
Enough. No more breaks. Take me. Please.
It had started with a shrug at boundaries. What did they exist for anyway? Then a lousy smirk at the line between good and bad. That line was smudged. Just a little at first then it was totally wiped off. What was good if bad didn’t matter? After that it was just us in our cycle, decisions, a little regret maybe, grief, highs and lows, our secrets. Conscience? Duh. Consequences? What was that?
This was not the plan. It was never told. That aftermath would join this game of freedom. That it was brutal and total in its intention. That it silently killed.
I tried to move again, maybe I could tell mama that I was dying again, slowly, silently, alone. Mama picked up my diary, shut it (an order I made everyone obey with punctuating reference to adulthood and privacy) and smiled awkwardly at my stillness. It dragged both ends of my lips to the sides of my face so I looked like I was smiling. It made a warning punch to my stomach and I giggled in response to stop myself from screaming: my code for telling it we had company and I had to move like every normal person. I went for my phone and started on my 74th goodbye note.
Sometimes they let me pick at the pieces of me on the board so I can make more pseudo-mistakes, keep my secrets, and tell more cover-up lies. For a moment of freedom. Casual yet choking freedom.
I was dying and I wished this time that it would be the final stroke in this death game.