In eighth grade, Donna Barrletter and I passed notes back and forth during class, and chatted on the phone after school for hours. We talked about boys, hairstyles and clothes. One evening while we were talking on the phone, I realized my parents’ liquor was out in the open, the bottles sitting on a small table in the corner of the kitchen. My parents had gone to visit some neighbors. I grabbed a Tupperware container from the closet, and poured a bit of rum, vodka, whiskey and gin into the container. Since I took small quantities out of each bottle, I knew my parents would never miss it. I put the lid on the container, so it wouldn’t spill. I concealed the container in a paper bag to bring it up to my bedroom in secret. I told Donna, “Hey, I’ve gotta go. I have something to show you. Meet me at your locker in the morning.”
When I got to school the next day, I walked up the stairs to Donna’s locker. “What is it?” she asked.
“Come with me to the girls’ room.”
As we walked into the smoke-filled room, I whispered, “Hey, look what I have.” I opened my purse, and took out the bag, and showed her the booze. She smelled it and her eyes widened. “Let’s go into this stall.”
We closed the door to the stall and I took a sip, “Eck, this is awful,” I said.
“Here, let me try it,” Donna said. She took it from my hand and took a long sip. “Oh, that is awful.” She took another sip, and handed it back to me.
I chugged a few more sips. I knew the payoff of the buzz would be worth the awful taste.
I handed it back to Donna and she finished it up. “We better get going,” she said as she handed it back to me. “The bell is going to ring for homeroom.”
I stuffed it back into the bag and into my purse. Within minutes we had a buzz. School was painless that day.
Later that night, my parents went out grocery shopping. I took the opportunity to grab more liquor from the table and refill the Tupperware. The phone rang. Donna said, “I’ll bring something to drink tomorrow,” she said.
I took the Tupperware upstairs and put it into the second drawer of my dresser, behind my books and magazines, way in the back. I’ll save it for another day.
The next morning, I met Donna at her locker. “I’ve got something today,” She said. “Let’s go.” We went into the girls’ bathroom, and drank from her Tupperware container. It was another painless school day.
Mother was waiting for me when I got home with the Tupperware container in her hand. “Why did you have this in your drawer?”
“Why are you going through my things? Why are you in my dresser?”
“I was putting your clothes away.” She placed the container on the kitchen table.
“What clothes. I don’t have any clothes in that drawer. Why are you in my stuff?”
Mother ignored me, turned and went to the stove and stirred the green beans.
Father marched in at exactly 5:45. I froze myself in place, but inside me there were cold chills, pain in my heart, and vibrations in my fingers, which I willed not to show on the outside. We all sat down and began methodically eating dinner. Mother finally spoke up. “I found something in Bridget’s room today. It was a Tupperware filled with liquor.”
Father’s black eyes bulged as he turned his head to face me. “What? Why are you hiding booze in your room? After supper, you’re going to get a beating.”
Sure enough, after supper I was lead to my bedroom. My father instructed me to lie down on the bed. He picked up my orthopedic shoe, the one with the steel inside of it and hit my butt over and over and over again.
When he finally felt satisfied he asked, “Are you ever going to defy me again?”
“No.” I lied.
“Are you ever going to drink booze again?”
“No.” I lied.
Father walked out of the room.
I swore a solemn oath to myself that day I would never forgive him.
Stomp, stomp. It was 5:45 pm. We took our assigned places at the table.
“I’m not going to wear those pants,” I told my mother.
Father looked up from his dinner. “What’s going on?”
“Ann Walsh gave us a big bag of clothes today,” Mother explained. “Her kids outgrew them and she gave them to me. There is a pretty pair of red pants for Bridget.”
“I’m not going to wear those.” I pictured the bullies at school pushing me into lockers for wearing bright red polyester stretch pants.
“You’re going to wear them,” Father said, as he reached across and smacked the top of my arm.
“I’m not wearing them.” I jumped up from my chair and ran to my bedroom, slamming and locking the door. I grabbed the pants off the top of my dresser and took a pair of scissors out of my dresser drawer. I cut from the bottom seam, right up the leg. Then I sliced crosswise, chopping the polyester into small pieces. I put the pile of red scraps into the back of my closet, and covered it up with an old blanket, and some shoes, and closed the closet door.
My reflection in the mirror revealed tears running down my red face, and reignited my anger. I hate him. Whispers penetrated my ears. Why don’t you cut your hair off? That will make him mad. Another explosion of tears welled up in my eyes, and my face grew darker red. I inhaled in a failed effort to keep the tears from falling, but instead sobbed loudly.
Cut, cut, cut. The whispers cheered me on. I couldn’t tell if the voices were outside or inside my head. As if someone else guided my arm, I watched in the mirror as the scissors cut my hair.
After chopping my hair all the way around, I stopped and looked at myself in the mirror. I groaned lowly, trying not to let anyone hear me. The voices jeered. You’re so ugly. Why don’t you die? You’re no good, you’ll never be anything.
Fury surged within me, driving me to stand up, go to my jewelry box and grab Nana’s cameo pin. I unlatched the back, exposing the sharp end. I sat back down on the floor in front of the mirror and watched my right hand cut my left arm with the pin. First, it was just scratches and it drew blood, but the voices taunted me, guiding me to do more.
Kill. The word appeared on my skin at the edge of the pin. Blood seeped from the letters carved in my arm.
Rot. I carved it next to the word Kill.
I wish I could die. I wish I could go away and not have to live here. I hate it here. I hate him. I hate myself. I stopped and looked at the artwork on my arm, watching the blood clot around the letters. I felt strangely calm.
The next day I wore short sleeves to school. But I wore long sleeves at home for the next week.