Monday, May 23, 2016

Freak, Katy Comber

Old Friend
Katy Comber

“Freak.” The word was dangerous. The word was a sword; I jabbed with it anyway.
“Freak.” I whispered again to the girl... no. That’s not right, the woman, standing in front of me. I couldn’t meet her eyes. If I did, there would be hurt. Pain. Regret. I’d rather stare down an oncoming train than glance up at this… person.

“What did you say?” My eyes locked on the familiar white floors under my fuzzy slippers. The hem of my robe swayed over the fine blonde hairs tangling down my shins. The chipper voice had startled me out of, well, whatever it was that I was doing. Thinking? Inner-dialoging? This conversation is between A and B, so C ya.

“What’s so funny, Joy?” The voice was weary in it’s fake optimism. She knew better than to ask. I laughed harder just to annoy the voice. The voice sighed and was replaced by a clacking of heels. Clack away little voice.

Freak, freak, freak. The word rolled around. The boy who said it weeks ago appeared. His red backpack. I liked his coat. I stared. What are you looking at, Freak? He had asked. His friends laughed. One laughed, but his eyes said he’d rather not be laughing. His eyes leapt toward me. Hugging me with their remorse. The eye-hug stung more than the laughter. The eye-hug prickled and tugged away at something inside me. I am different from you, the eye-hug said. I feel sorry for you, the eye-hug moaned. I remember who you used to be, the eye-hug acknowledged. I put on my sweetest smile in return and flipped up my middle finger. The eye-hug ran from me. Good. Go away, eyes. Go away. Run to your normal. Run, as I cut my way here. Here, to white floors, fuzzy slippers, and no sharp objects for less hairy legs. Run.

“Joy? I see you are ready for your exercise! Nurse Bea told me you were standing here in a rare mood today. I’m usually lost in the land of Passive-Aggressiva, but I’m assuming that means something. Now. Have you looked yet? I see you shaking your head. Joy, I need you to say yes or no here. Now. Have you looked yet?”

“N-n-no. I tried. But, no.” I kept staring at my feet. My toes wiggled with anxiety. Fuzzy slippers dance on white floors. These wiggling toes are not my own. Dr. Kinder (rhymes with tender, not minder though the latter would be an accurate representation of the person) was trying to get me to look at the person I called a Freak. She probably wanted me to apologize, or--something.  

“How about it? Are you ready?” Dr. Kinder asked the woman in front of me. She had a mouth, but no voice. She studied her slippers as well, and slightly nodded. Dr. Kinder did not make her use her words. Dr. Kinder knew not to.

“Okay. Now, before you face each other I want you to visualize an old friend. Someone you want to see when you look up.” Someone. An old friend. The boy. The guy. The man. The person who laughed but did not want to, who remembered me from before, who knew why we are different now. He had been a friend. A friend before the woods, before the thing that took my voice away, before…  my eyes are stinging now. Don’t cry, Joy. Not in front of her. Focus on the friend. The friend playing tag. The friend holding my hand on the first day of school. The friend who tried to stand by my side after the woods, after the thing, after… Focus on the the friend. The friend. The friend. A memory came, and I latched on. “Ready, Joy?”

“Ready.” My voice was clear and strong. I jumped from the sound. Dr. Kinder did not laugh, but I could sense her smile.

“Okay. Now. Look up.”

The person before me beamed from the thought of an old friend. She was radiant. She was beautiful. My hands reached up to touch her smiling face. She did the same. My fingers ran over her shimmering eyes and traced the line of tears down her cheeks. I had not seen her before this. I had not known her to be a friend. Now, we looked at each other with love. We saw the person the old friend remembered.

“Joy. Meet, Joy.” Dr. Kinder’s voice cut through my reverie. I looked at Dr. Kinder, then back to my reflection. The spell had broken. The woman before me was no longer a luminous girl with glittering hazel eyes. The woman before me aged quickly with realization, but for a small glimmer of something-- love? Hope? Respect. We had survived. Freak. I mentally shot the word at her, but this time the word meant something new. We began to laugh.