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Karen Runge

Almost Falling Apart

Here's the trick, here's the thing - walking from the driveway across to the house, my hands in my pockets, head down. My brother walks like this - a little disconnected, a little guarded. I walk like this. I walk like a boy when I'm scared.

"Just pack enough," says the woman with the voice I don't trust, with a hand on my arm, a hand that makes me jump, makes me want to recoil even more.

And somewhere, deep in the back where I can't quite feel it, something in my head goes... snap. Very softly. I taste pain in the flesh of my lip - brutal and sharp, my teeth digging in.

Do you feel?

Do I?

Legs very weak. My mothers waiting in the entrance hall, the big entrance hall that poses for you every time you walk through it, looking beautiful and echoing, taunting you with you don't belong here - even at me, when this is my home.

Spoiled little rich kid, this woman with the Hand and Voice must be thinking. Spoiled little rich kid, looking up around our house.

My mother smiles at the woman, smiles her Nice to see You smile, polite and beautiful, and very warm. She doesn't look at me.

I'm going up the stairs, still with my head down, watching my knees rise in turn, thinking how much narrower my legs look now. How much thinner I must be, and just didn't notice before. Since.

I don't say, "I'll be a few minutes", or "see you just now". I don't say anything, because I can't say anything - there's a physical sense of heat on my brain - a burning kind of panic that's clouding out my thoughts, my words.

Trembling now, like I'm losing blood with every step, until I'm up at the top, walking the balcony that overhangs the hall. In this big house. In this big, beautiful house. In this big, beautiful, perfect house. And it'll make her scorn me, make her scoff at me, how dare I be how I am, when I live in a house like this?

They don't understand. I don't think they understand.

***

You can scream if you want.

I'm packing my bag. Toothbrush. Panties. I choose the sauciest colours for my underwear, the lowest-cut tops. I'll shock them. I'll hide behind the shock. I change my jeans to cargo's. I pull on my meanest pair of boots - the steel-capped ones, black and covered in studs.

Image thing... image thing... why am I hiding behind an image thing?

...Snap, and then I'll fall.

Crossing back over the balcony, she's talking to my mother. The Voice is speaking to my mother, telling her, "it's like a handicap". She's saying, "Its like a handicap, you shouldn't hold it against her."

Mental itch, enraging, the injustice, the unfairness. Want them to stand here in my big mean boots, feel what I feel.

These comments they think are gracious.

These insults I think are cruel.

Used to talk about my intelligence, they used to see 'potential' in the impulses and reactions of my brain.

Then it was 'self-sabotage', talking about how sad it is, but sometimes intelligence can be what kills you... or drives you mad.

Me.

MAD.

One of them told me, You can scream if you want.

So I scream.

And its over the balcony, the sound needles in their ears, me thrown off the balcony by my intelligence, going SMASH into the glass coffee table, going SMASH between their cushioned armchairs.

And glass and shock and horror and I'm screaming... and I still scream... because they said, You can scream if you want - get my intelligence unleashed.

And my mothers shrieking, "CALL AN AMBULANCE!" because she's panicking about the blood, about me, where I sit swallowing the shock of impact through the agony-line of my spine, so much blood and glass you can't see whats cut and whats broken and whats not.

Or is she screaming about the coffee table?

Or does that make me cruel?

Glass sticking out of my wrist, a huge open shard plugged - wedged - between the bones in my lower arm. It must be a nibble away from sticking out the other side, almost driven straight through. And I laugh because that must be FATE - I've been trying to hack through my wrists for years without success. And one day I throw myself over the balcony and it all just comes together by itself.]

"Don't touch it!" one of them screams.

I pull it out anyway, and there's the odd sensation of glass carving against bone, I can't be sure but I can hear it, too, like a knife on hollow wood.

I'm laughing.

Laughter and hoarse screaming, mixed and mad and maybe they're right, but they never told me it could be so beautiful.... Blood can be so beautiful, vibrant and elegant, the way it falls, washing the narrow leg of my cargo's with its taste of something real.

Mocking my big hallway, because that could never be so beautiful... or so real....

They never told me it could be so beautiful... I am real... I am beautiful here, with it rising up through my clutching fingers, moving, with it pooling bigger and bigger in my lap, splashing down and shining on the glass.

***

And I'm thinking its okay for me to scream... and I'm thinking I want to bleed forever.