The slam of the door behind me rattled the walls. My backpack fell on the carpet with a thick thud – dress shoes followed. I held on to the wall in the dark, making my way forward with Jell-O legs until my fingers found the light switch next to the vanity. It hesitated a moment before flickering to harshly illuminate the yellow countertop and shiny sink basin with an iridescent anxiety. I caught my own eye in the mirror on my way to opening the bathroom door. I paused. Thick, sticky streaks of mascara ran horizontal from forceful rubbing. I had the sunken eyes of an addict and protruding cheekbones of a desperate child. Little strands of hair stuck to my face from sweat. I closed swollen eyelids shut in that brief second and pushed on the bathroom door until the fluffy mat inside curled up beside the tub. Once the toilet lid clanked open, I couldn’t stop heaving.
I was frozen in this position for an hour. Goosebumps had spread across my arched back beneath the thin fabric of my dress. My fingers remained in a claw grip on the toilet bowl and my sore knees on cold tiles supported my small frame. Sobs left my chest completely raw. I had been gutted out like a pumpkin and was left with a numb heart.
It was October. The rays of sun that pierced a cloudless sky argued against the notion of season. The world had perfectly misplaced my body from my hellhole at school to the passenger seat of my mom’s dirty red Prius. Receipts and empty sparkling water bottles were scattered everywhere. Moma’s seat was pushed forward close to the wheel that was being forcefully gripped by her left hand. Her other hand was desperately grasping my clammy palm. We were driving down PCH right below the speed limit. Moma had flown me home without a second thought that morning, understanding the desperation in my voice. She gave my hand a long squeeze. I squeezed back, my eyes on the air freshener attached to the vent. It didn’t completely cover the underlying stench of cigarettes. The heavy blast of perfumed air conditioning dried out my eyes. My insides were buzzing. The high-pitched hum cultivated itself in my inner ear, working its way along my jaw to my tongue and the back of my throat. I felt alert, focused, and present. I scratched the oily skin of my cheek, my focus rapidly cycling from Moma to road signs to the yellow lines on the asphalt ticking away each passing second. I was exposed and enormous. My gaze shifted out to the coastline. I imagined all the little people in the little cottages of Crystal Cove living their own separate lives. I imagined being one of them, sipping wine out on a beach deck, listening to the static of waves falling one over the other.