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By: Jessica Z.

1st · Middle School Writing (2019)

Her lamp was on that night. It cast a mellow light and bled crimson when I shut my eyes: the color of sweet peaches, chipped nail polish, stained glass behind Jesus the Savior. She lay on her bed with sallow skin and lips pinched tight to her gaunt cheeks. That summer had not been kind to either of us: for me, it was an empty desert; for her, it was the fantasy mirage.

Listen closely, she spat, and I did, eyes open in terrified wonder. Don’t shut me up, you ungrateful girl. I–I can’t even look at you. You’re unrecognizable. You scare me. You are not my daughter.

You are a monster.

I stopped breathing.

My words withered away, coating my tongue with rusty iron. I slipped away before she could see me fall apart; the mask was on again, but I wanted to claw it from my skin.

I wanted it to stop. I did not want to live with my days smudged together like a messy mistake. I wanted to fly away from this endless desert, to stop wandering around with a soul parched for comfort. I wanted to believe in happiness; I believed in toxic lies. I wanted to breathe again; I was suffocating. What did it matter if I wanted? ‘Better’ was an elusive utopia.

Up and down in a useless eternity, a seesaw I never asked to be on. It made me dizzy, made me sick. Pain was my new normal and it was easier to let myself be broken than to stitch myself together. But that night, I realized that I was tired of playing tug-o-war with myself. I was tired of throwing away my joy. My life is not a game.

That night, I hopped off the seesaw and let go of the rope.

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