Noisy Water Review

Enlightenment

Elizabeth Wykes

“Mind if I have a smoke?” you ask, already exhaling a thick fog out of your magenta lips. Of course not, I think to myself. I am envious of your freedoms, of all the things you can openly obtain while I am forced to sneak around at a much greater risk. You are gorgeous, you always have been: blue eyes that have seen too much, long brown hair with hints of blond that link you back to your California hometown, porcelain skin with a hint of vermilion on your cheeks. If I look closely I can see the scars from your razor blade addiction back in eighth grade, and the marks from cigarettes are still visible on your wrists. I remember watching you hurt yourself and condemning your actions, then doing much worse things to myself at night.

You are the only link to the old version of me. I remember when we used to feast off each other's misery and fight over the meaning of song lyrics. I could always tell you everything. Yet it was not until this summer that you found out about the rape- when it slipped out of my mouth you stared at me wide-eyed, not speaking a word for a good minute before saying, “I need a latte.” That is what I love about you, your impulsivity. It is not overbearing or overzealous; it only reveals itself at the appropriate moment.

I remember first talking to you about the sexual abuse I had experienced at a younger age when I was eleven years old. Before then, I had not known you that well or long, but you were a part of the group, so I trusted you. I told you in the school yard while we were sitting by the gnarled roots of a maple tree. You did not say much at first, and I could tell you were attempting to come up with an appropriate response. After a few minutes had passed, you looked at me with those turquoise eyes and said, “I’m sorry.” After that, we did not discuss it for over a year.

The discussion began while I was sitting on the white, stained carpet in your bedroom and you were sprawled out on your astronomy-themed comforter, with The Doors blasting from your stereo.

“You don’t have to answer this,” you muttered. “But what was it like, having him force himself on you?”  

I was quiet for a minute and then let out a nervous laugh. “I’m over it now,” I lied, gripping the carpet in my left hand. “Every time it ever happened, though, it was horrible. Words cannot describe it.”

You awkwardly climbed off of your bed and sat next to me, placing your hand on my knee. You always cared but were not sure how to show it.

Years went by and we told each other everything. Whenever you stayed over at my house we would sneak out into the nearby woods to sit, talk and smoke. If I was at your place we would stay out in Broadripple extra late, perhaps three or four in the morning, before walking back to your house to eat tortilla chips and listen to Billie Holiday in silence. At the end of eighth grade, however, a mood disorder took over my life, transforming my usual mood into a variety of ups and downs. One minute I would be babbling incessantly, flailing my arms around wildly and the next I would be unable to move or speak, entirely consumed by melancholy. A depression took over your brain, and I later found out that you had been battling dangerously low self-esteem and a feeling of hopelessness for years. You had never told me about these things, despite our closeness, because you felt weak for feeling that way. That summer, we started hanging out less and less, even though we were going to separate schools the next year. We had too much to deal with on our own and could not help each other out.

Freshman year we barely spoke. You later told me that you could not bear to watch my self-destruction, and chose to wait until I was stable to talk to me again. There was limited contact between us until the summer before our junior year, when we carried on countless philosophical conversations and walked in the city. One night we wandered around downtown, first stopping at a vegan coffee house and later sitting on the edge of your favorite fountain. We talked for hours about our lives, drinking lukewarm soy hot chocolate while watching the city sleep.

I am now sitting on your back porch, not wearing a jacket and watching the snow cascade down while cherry-red cardinals flutter in the skeletal trees. You are smoking again, and I don't mind. You don't ask if I want a drag because you know what my response will be. I am eating chips with the salsa you made earlier and stealing sips of your organic strawberry drink. At this moment, I sit here shivering outside of your house, observing your backyard. For the first time in days, weeks, months, I feel at peace. I feel happy. I realize that I would sit here with you forever if I could, even if it meant freezing to death.

> Return to Top