‘Reasons’ by Ellen Ricks

soft cartel may 2018

Everyone wants a reason.  Everyone assumes there’s a reason. Some grandiose explanation that made me decide, once and for all, to end it. Just one big game changer. But there isn’t; just a thousand small reasons I don’t remember. A thousand meaningless reasons that lead me to try, and fail, to kill myself four times. Nor do I have an excuse for why I’m sitting next to my windowsill, deciding whether or not I should try for a fifth time.

“Hey baby,” her voice calls from the doorway.

But I’m pretty sure she has a lot to do with it.

My gaze is out the window, the sun had set hours ago, just a starless black sky. Briefly, I consider opening the window but thought better to wait. It’s still cold for April and I wanted to stay warm as long as I could.

“Go away,” I tell her, not looking at her, not wanting to look at her.

“I live here.” Her voice is still soft and sweet as the “hey baby” in the doorway, but the edge is developing.

“No, you don’t.”

“That’s more of an opinion, don’t ya think?”

No response. She walks over  and kneels besides me, running her fingers through my hair. I don’t flinch away.

“What’s the matter baby?” she coos into my ear, soft and sweet.

“You know what’s the matter.”

“You should do it.”

Finching, I allow myself a peek at her. She’s grinning at me, crystal clear, real and solid. I’m in trouble.

“Don’t look so shocked Liza. What did you think I would say? ‘Hey kid, you’re going to make it through. I believe in you!’ That’s not how this works.”

My relationship with Edna has never been much of a cheerleading session. “You got me there.”

“Well ya know what they say,” she grins. “When at first you don’t succeed…”

“Try, try, again.” I finish the saying, looking down again. It’s hard for me to look at her for too long before my stomach turns into knots. She lives for my dark months. Edna never could resist and opportunity to glow.

“You’re getting fat.”

Reflexively my hands fluttered down to my stomach. Lifting the bottom of my garment halfway to touch my soft stomach. Using my fingers to push down the atrocious thing, wincing at the feeling. I want it gone.

“You shouldn’t have eaten,” Edna says, staring at my stomach. Waves of her judgment crash down around me. “How many calories did you eat today?”

I don’t answer. I can’t answered. Not when her mouth is as sharp as truth.

“Fat ass.” There is a harsh, sickening smack. And then another because I have the senses to pull my clothing down again, wrapping protective arms around my torso.

“Fucking fat ass. Why the fuck do you keep eating? Jesus Christ it’s like you want to get fat. Why do you do this to yourself Liza?”

I didn’t know. “Oh you know. Just love hearing your bright speeches of optimism and warmth.  Really tugs at the old heart strings.”

Edna laughs like a thunderstorm. “Ha, your pretty funny. Not pretty pretty. But pretty funny.”

“It’s on all my business cards.”

We smile at each other, an uneasy ceasefire that can never be trusted. She grabs my hand and I squeeze it. Everything is so shaky right now that I’ll hold on to anything.

“Remember when we first met?” She smiles and I shudder at the thought.

“Unfortunately yes.” It was three years ago; the prelude started long before, with the anxiety and the depression, but the main event began with depression. Chained to my bed after a breakdown. Everyone blames the guy, everyone blames Dave for what happened, for the breakdown. I’ll admit, it was a shitty way to end it. On Valentine’s day, with my gift in his hands, telling me we were just two different people which is simply code for: I’m cheating on you and since you won’t fuck me, I’ll go fuck her. Sooo, fuck off. The situation rendered me incapable of doing anything but lie in bed and cry. The breakup wasn’t the full reason, but it’s the reason people gave me.

My parents, who are lovely people, have trouble with “feelings” and gave me three days to cry it out before telling me to get over it. I wanted to, but I couldn’t. Like the part of my body that told me to get up and do stuff had taken a break and forgot to tell me. Just shut of the light and left without even a warning.

I didn’t know where she came from or how she got in my house, but there she was, stroking my hair.

“Hey baby,” she whispered. She was glowing bright in the darkness, smiling.  She grabs my hand and led me to the bathroom, then lifted up the toilet seat. She pushed me down on my knees onto the cold, white tiles. With one hand she grabbed my hair and with the other she put her middle and index finger deep into my throat and let the body react.

When I came back up for air, gasping for breath, disgusted by both myself and the taste, Edna rubbed my back and told me she’ll teach me how to gain control. With a little help I learned to purge for myself, and after a year of that doing, that I “moved up” and learned to control my food intake, letting Edna have it, so I wouldn’t eat it. She never told me I was getting thin.

I glare at her. “This is seriously fucked up.”

Edna smiles, “Just like you.”

I shrug and turn away.

“So fatty, gonna kill yourself yet?” She asks me, bright as can be.

“I’m calling Lynn,” I announce, grabbing my phone off the floor. Lynn has been my best friend since the third grade and after twelve years of friendship you kinda have to be each other’s suicide hotline. Well, Lynn never had depression or other mental illnesses so I’m mainly her hotline for what outfit to wear and why her shady boyfriend is an asshole.

“You’ve never called her for this, have you?”

I shake my head. I don’t usually make phone calls in these situations; I just jump right into this sort of thing.

“You’re pausing,” she notes. “Why? Lost your nerve?”

“What time is it in Texas?”

“How the fuck would I know?

“Good point.”I clicked on my phone; 10:48 pm. “It would only be 9 something in Texas. She must be home.”

“Or fucking her boyfriend,” Edna suggests, moving from the floor to flop down onto my bed. She’s so light that the bed doesn’t make a sound when it carries her weight. I wish I could be like that.  “Why’d she go to Texas again? To get away from us?”

I roll my eyes. “For school. And there’s no us, there is only me.”

“Yeah, Lynn doesn’t really like me, does she?”

“Nobody likes you.”  I remind her.

“Rude!”

“I would say I’m sorry if that hurt your feelings but I’m not a thousand percent sure you have any, so sucks to suck.”

“Takes one to know one fatty,”

“I thought I was baby?”

“You’re a fucking cry baby.”

“Shh I’m the phone.” I tell her, pressing Lynns’ name on my contacts. It rings, and it rings, and it rings before I finally  get the dreaded “ I’m sorry, but the number you have dialed is unavailable, please leave a message after the tone.”

“I’m sorry, the number you have dialed is sick of your shit and won’t pick up. Please get a fucking life, loser.” Edna laughs from the bed. “Oh come on! That was a little bit funny.”

I ignore her and end the call. I pull up Lynn’s name on IMessanger and text her: Hey, can you call me or FaceTime or something? I’m kinda in a dark place. Please? I press send.

Edna’s behind me now, her sharp chin digging into my left shoulder blade.  I try to get her dark brown hair out of my face but it’s everywhere.

“Well that’s sounds fucking desperate,” Edna decides after reading. “Jesus, the poor kid. She must get a hundred of those a week. Ha. I guess we know who’s winning the clingy friend award this year.” She brushes past me and back onto the bed.

“Can we please just drop this?” I wrap an arm around my torso again. I look down at the floor, at my ugly, paint chipped toenails; but I don’t look at her. I feel her grinning though.

“I wonder what she’ll think when she gets that message?” Edna muses. “She’s probably with all of her friends right now and she looks at her phone and reads that sad little message that you sent her for the millionth time this week. I bet she’ll laugh. Not only will she laugh, but she’ll get the attention of all her little Texan sorority friends and read all the little melancholy messages aloud so everyone can get a good laugh at the depression girl with the fake eating disorder. And they’ll ask her ‘Lynn, who the hell is that?’ and she’ll say ‘Some girl that use to ride my bus in school. God, I talked to her one time and she keeps following me around. So awkward.’ I bet Collin-“

“SHUT UP! CAN YOU JUST FUCKING SHUT UP FOR A GOD DAMN SECOND?!” My hand shakes so hard the phone drops. “Get it together Liza. Get it the fuck together.” I whisper.

“Shhh, it’s okay baby,” Edna coos. She’s next to me again, trying to take me into her arms as I slowly try to back away.

“Please don’t touch me,” I whisper.

“You don’t mean that.”

“I mean it.”

“Who else do you want touching you?”

“I’m calling Rob.”

I feel the temperature in the room go down about five degrees. Edna pulls back and glares at me before laughing. “Ha! Oh My God,! Oh My God! Are you serious? Tell me you’re joking. Oh My God you’re not joking! Hahahahaha! Okay, yeah call him. I would LOVE to see how he would try to talk you out of this one. That would be the absolute cherry on top of my night.”

Now it was my turn to glare at her. “Fine, I will.” In all honesty, this wasn’t one of my better plans; considering the fact that Rob hasn’t really talked to me at all during break. He was a little off before break started, but that might have been because of school or his new anxiety meds, or his family or…

“You,” Edna finished my thought. “ Speaking of cherries. It’s that the guy who fucked you?”

I wince at the term. “Yes.”

“Oh yes. I vaguely remember getting the memo.” She spreads herself out on my purple comforter, smiling to herself. “Saw the night two weeks after that though. Front row seating. You remember that night, don’t you Liza?”

I flinch at the memory. The night that Rob came down to my dorm room at two in the morning and told me to get my coat; that we were going for a walk. It was snowing outside and we walked pass the snow banks in only my pajamas and coat until we got passed the Student Union. That’s when he told me he was never going to date me, and that this was never going to be a relationship. I never asked him for a relationship, which did not stop him for explaining over and over again why this was never going to be a relationship as I shivered in the cold.

“That was a fun night” laughs Edna.

I shrug. “The sex after was good.”

“Well, at least you got something for your self-respect.”

“You make it seem like I had some to start with.”

“Fair enough.”

I pick up my phone off  the floor and press Rob’s name. It rings, and rings, and rings again, before finally getting a “I’m sorry, but this number does not have a voicemail box.”

“Well at least he’s different,” says Edna. “Gonna leave him a sad little text too?’

“No. I can’t give Rob a sad text.”

“True. That will scare him off.”

I pull into Imessager on my phone and pull up Rob’s text. I stare at it for a couple of minutes put it away.

Edna smirks behind my shoulder. “Coward.”

“Never said that I wasn’t.” I check to see it Lynn has texted me back yet. She hasn’t.  “Did you know that Robs’ never seen an owl?”

“Nope. Did you know that I’ve never seen myself give a fuck?”

“Well there’s always someday.” I tell her.

“Not for you.” she adds.

“Hopefully.”

She looks at me. “I bet he’s fucking someone else.”

I don’t have anything to say, the words just hang in the air.

“So whose going to be your next call? Who are you hoping will save your life now?”

Now that’s the million dollar question. I’ve already used my two life lines. I could try calling Belle, my suite mate at college. But what good would she do?  After my last attempt she called the RA on me.  I had to lie through my teeth to get out of that one, not like it was hard. It’s easy to ignore problems.

“If you call her this time, she might get you kicked out of college,” Edna suggests.

Okay, so Belle’s out. Same with Raylene, my other suite mate, she would just worry.  I could try calling John,my friend from high school who was hopelessly in love with me, but I haven’t talked to him in a year and I doubt he’ll still be buying my manic pixie dream act.

“Out of luck?”

“Looks like it.”

“Well maybe you’ll get lucky and this will be the end of it. I think it took Sylvia Plath, what, four times to kill herself? You got this.”

“Maybe if you used that attitude to actually help me instead of driving me insane I wouldn’t be so fucked up!”

Edna shakes her head at me. “Baby, you have to be fucked up from the start in order to summon me here.. Live with that. Or don’t.”

“That’s not fair!” I cry out. “I don’t want to die; I just don’t want to live like this anymore.”

“Well then don’t live!” She shouts back. “I’ll let you in on a little secret, bitch.” She reaches out and grabs a fist full of my hair. “I’m going to fucking kill you. I’m going to rip you apart before I finally destroy you and there is nothing you can do about it. I want your life and you’re going to fucking give it to me, you little bitch.” She tosses me roughly against the wall and hits my stomach again.

“Fat ass piece of shit. Jesus Christ what good are you to anyone?”

“Is that why you hate me? Because I’m living and you’re not?”

“No baby. I hate you because you don’t fucking deserve to live, you Goddamn waste of space.”  Another push. “ Can’t you ever do a single thing I’ve asked you to?” Another hit. “ How hard is it to not eat?” Push. “You’re a fraud.” Hit.

She has me on the bed, her pale fingers wrapped around my throat. With my left hand I reach over to my night stand and grabbed my only hope: a knife, the knife I’ve been saving in case I needed to use it on myself. Taking the knife, in a swift swipe, I slice her right wrist. I expected to see blood coming down from her arm and ruining her white dress. What I did not expect was her smile.

“Baby” she coos. “That’s not the way to hurt me.”

I look down and saw the blood I had expected to see from Edna running down my own arm, the knife still clutched in my hand. I tremble looking at what I had done to myself. “Oh shit.”   There’s more running down, staining my clothes.

“Oh shit,” I repeat, rushing to the bathroom, the blood continues to poor.

“Oh shit,” I mumble for a three time, turning on the bathroom sink and push my arm under it. Scarlett liquid colors the sink pink as it swirls down the drain. My eyes move toward the mirror and I finally take a good, hard look at myself. My brown hair is mattered and my dark eyes looked blood shot. Apparently I had started crying at one point. My dress looks worse, the white night gown, stained in blood. “Oh God,” I whisper, my hand covering my mouth

I turn the water off and went to the closet, pulling out a package of bandages. It’s almost like being on autopilot now: cleaning and dressing wounds. It matches the band-aid on my left wrist from last week.

I finish dressing the wound and walk back to the bedroom, stopping in the doorway. Edna’s in the chair by the window.

“What have I done?”

She looks at me. “Baby, done fucked up.”

“Well that’s wonderful.”

Edna laughs, “Isn’t it though?” She’s amused until she hears the door shut. “Hey, why the long face?”

I walk farther into the bedroom. “ I need you to leave.”

There’s silence. For once there is silence.

“What?” There’s tone in her voice that I can’t place.

I take a breath and repeat myself. “I need you to leave.”

“You don’t mean that.” She smirks at me. “You’ll never mean that. For better and much definitely for worse, you’ll want me here. Do you realize it yet? That you’ve chosen this path, that out of everyone else, you picked me? Out of all your relationships, over every other available option, you’ll always come right back to me. I’m the only life you know.”

“Get out,” I tell her,  teeth gritted.

Edna gives a flick of her wrist and the bedroom door flies open. “Tell me to leave again. Tell me to leave one more time and I promise you I’ll do it.”

I freeze. I open my mouth to speak but close it again. A wave of nausea comes over me, tightening the knots in my stomach and raising the temperature in the room. I need some air.

I walk past Edna and open the window. My father had taken out the screen years ago and had forgotten to replace it. I can’t decide if that’s a lucky break yet. I place a tentative foot on the ground, feeling the snow on my bare feet. I’m holding onto the window ledge, afraid of falling. I laugh at myself for that worry. I’m going to take a fall one way or another.

Slowly, I steady myself so that I can stand on the roof. This works for a few minutes until it occurs to me that the part of the roof I was standing on is slanted, making it hard to walk. Plus, there are my parents. I don’t know if they will hear me walking around. They’ll find me anyway, but I don’t want them to find me now, not this early.

Weighing what little options I have, I sit down and scoot myself to the edge of the roof, my bare, pale legs dangling over the edge. I run a hand up and down them. “Ugh, I should have shaved.” Great, the mortician is going to have to look at my stupid hairy legs on the slab. And the open casket. I shiver.

“Just do it,” Edna says, her head resting on my shoulder, her arms wrapped around me, feeling like both a hug and a choke hold. “How hard can it be?”

Apparently really hard as it turns out. I try to slide off, to try to stand but my legs felt too shaky. I looked down at the ground below me, in the dark I could still see patches of snow and areas of dark grass. I wouldn’t fall there. I would more likely fall onto the hard sidewalk that leads to the second entrance of the house. Part of me will hit that,the rest will hit one of the bushes that lie on each side of the sidewalk, leaf less and dead. The thought of this is not pleasant.

“This fall wouldn’t be enough to kill me,” I  tell her. “At the very least, I’ll break my leg or mess up some part of my spine and become a vegetable. But it wouldn’t kill me.”

“You could break your neck.”

“While that’s true, it’s not a high enough percent that would make me comfortable enough to do this. It’s too messy.”

“Hasn’t your life gone wrong already?”

“Yes, but if I’m trying to end my life, what’s the point of making it worse?”

Edna thinks for a moment. “You can always go back into the house and get your knife. Slit your wrist and jump. They wouldn’t find you till morning and by then you’ll have already bled out. Won’t take to long if you go down the ally.

I consider this. “I don’t want to go back in the house.”

“Luckily Liza,  I brought it out here.” Edna pulls the knife out, from where I haven’t a clue and hands it to me. It’s ice cold and my blood is still shining on the blade.

I stand up, knife in hand and look down at the edge of the roof. I take a breath and then another, putting the knife in my right hand and holding out the other. This should be second nature to me, but it’s not. I trace the knife up and down my left arm, following the blue-green veins but I don’t strike.

“What are you waiting for?” she hisses, her arms are wrapped around my torso again,  getting tighter with each second, like being caught in a Viper’s grip. I’m losing oxygen fast; every breath became a struggle, a fight. “Come on. Do it. Just do it you fucking piece of shit.” she hisses into my ear and it plays on repeat over and over again until it’s the only thing I can hear, the only sound I can understand. I can’t sense of it, but I know what it is, and how it keeps getting louder and louder. The knife is shaking in my hand; I wouldn’t be able to cut a straight line if I wanted to. Did I want to? The answer is becoming less and less clear as Edna keeps shouting. “Just kill yourself, just kill, yourself, just fucking kill yourself.”

“Enough!” I shout, dropping the knife, it thumps onto the shingles and slides off the roof, landing in the dead bush.

Edna unwraps her arms and looks at me. Her faces is scrunched up in confusion. “I-“

“Stop.” I tell her, “That is enough out of you for tonight.” We stare at each other for a moment before Edna slowly nods. Carefully, I climb back into my room, and shut the window.

I pull the ruined dress from my body and walk to the bathroom, turning on the shower. I barely wait for it to get warm before I get in. I stand for a moment until my knees buckle, and fall to the ground. I stay there and cry, my tears mixing with the water.

When I finish, I watch the sunrise from my bedroom window, just like all the other times in life where I thought my world had ended. I’m both tired and comforted. I know that the sun will rise and fall without me, but I enjoy watching it for as long as I am able. Edna is next to me as a part of our uneasy, wordless truce that has no hope of staying intact. I don’t think about that now. I look her, faded but still visible. I try to picture my life without her and for a second I could. It’s only for a second, but I guess that’s something. I’ll take the little victories when I can get them. For now, my reason is to watch the sunrise and hope for a better day.

Ellen Ricks is a writer, feminist, and Hufflepuff living in Upstate New York. She has a BFA in Creative Writing which, despite popular belief, is useful. Ellen has been published in a variety of websites, journals, and writes her own fashion blog: Sarcasm in Heels. Her freelance work covers literature, pop culture, mental health, travel, fashion, feminism, and LGBTQ issues.  She was the 2nd place winner in the 2017 Poetry Matters Project Lit Prize in their adult category. When not writing, Ellen enjoys consuming pumpkin spice everything, frolicking in fancy dresses and dismantling the patriarchy.

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