“No. I ain’t tellin’ her either. And don’t you tell your Momma. Cricket me you won’t tell.”
I am so tired of her makin’ me cricket promise all the time. She read in some book that crickets tell secret tales and if you betray the cricket by tellin’ the story then you die. And ever since she read that, we been cricketin’ to everything.
Promises made and kept. In Eve’s life, cricket promises between her and best friend Rachel mean everything. Eve is an expert at keeping secrets from herself…secrets that would allow her to fully embrace who she is. But eventually the cricket promises that hop around in her head eat away at her reality until she would rather die than keep them.
In this coming of age tale, Author Keturah Israel weaves a masterful story—in three different perspectives—of love, awkward teenage relationships, and the unimaginable fear of living with a personal demon.
I was fourteen when I tried to kill myself. The morning before it happened, I remember waking up and staring at myself in the mirror, a demon staring back at me. Her hair is uncombed, her teeth are unbrushed, her body is unwashed. She no longer cares. She’s ugly, and I wish I had a knife to slice her up, kill her spirit, stop her from staring at me, but my mom is in the kitchen fixing her coffee. She’ll never let me leave the kitchen without questioning me . If the demon can’t be sliced, then she’ll have to be burned. Steam creeps up from the curling iron as its handle meets my trembling hand. My face is the most logical starting point, but instead the curling iron strikes my neck. It doesn’t burn. She continues to stare, haunting me. The door opens. It’s my mother. She sees me—never the demon. My mother grabs the hot curler. A single tear drops from my right eye, travels down my cheek, and then rests at the corner of my mouth. A dark pulsating bubble forms on my neck. But, I am okay, the lies rolling eagerly from my mouth. My hand slipped. I’m sleepy. You startled me when you came in.
Afraid to take off my pajamas and see the rest of the dreadful demon, I slip a pair of baggy, black sweat pants over my pajama bottoms and pull a dingy black t-shirt over my matching top. Noticing the school bus approaching its stop, I empty the huge lump of books out of my book bag and stuff my bedroom pillow inside it. I slowly walk towards the school bus, hoping the driver will get tired of waiting and pull off. He doesn’t. He waits patiently for me to board. On the bus, people are present, but for the moment, all are unknown to me. Loud noises momentarily interrupt my thinking. A headache begs. I curl myself in a corner and sleep. At school, in a restroom closed for repairs, I hide from my teachers and my friends. On the restroom wall, on the sink, on tissue paper—I write, expressing my loneliness, anger, hatred, confusion. My finger begins to ache, and my heart deadens as I collapse to the floor. Head on my pillow, body pressed against the cold piss-infested floor, I remain until the bell rings.
At home, locked in my room, pretending to do my homework, I bang my head against the wall. Steady beats until my head is sore from hitting it, my nose running, but the external pain feels better than the pain inside. Eventually, I fall asleep, forgetting about the pressure pump controlling my thoughts, my feelings, my mood. A familiar nightmare visits me in my sleep. Only this time it’s different. It won’t leave. It reappears over and over, toss after toss, turn after turn. Its details imprinted vividly on my mind.
Asleep three stories high, I tumble out of bed. The floor comes alive and envelops me with its hands and feet. Upward, forward towards its mouth, suddenly without any warning, it swallows me. It swallows me whole. Then I fall. I fall rapidly…falling, falling. I shout. Please someone rescue me. No one ever comes. Falling, falling, falling. Then out of nowhere, I stop falling, and I freeze. I freeze like rain drops do in bitter air, developing different formations of icicles, lying on rooftops lifeless, only on occasion releasing a single raindrop, a single tear. I’m frozen in the air, unable to understand my thoughts. Then after several attempts to open my eyes, they open. Strangely they sting sharply, almost blinding me and then I see as clear as day, a silhouette of myself. She is cradling her body, as if she is cradling her own child. I am child and mother of myself, and I cry. Both of us cry, the demon and I.
I awake Sunday to find that the demon has grown. She’s bolder and more confident than she’s ever been. Pretending to be my friend, she manages to make me feel caged, locked up, held prisoner in my own space, in my own world. My family left me alone with her, to fight her by myself. A bottle of Aleve sitting patiently on the table tempts me, promising to relieve my pain. The answer to my problems revealed. And so, the invasion of my life begins.
12:33pm. Nine pills.
12:43pm. Nothing is happening. Three more pills. I probably should take
some more. Speed things up. Stop her. Now.
12:45pm. Not dead. How many does it take? Four more pills.
12:48pm. Three more pills.
12:52pm. Four more pills. Twenty-eight pills. Lord, why are you doing
this to me? Leave me alone. She must die.
12:58pm. Ten more pills. Thirty-eight pills. Fuck it. It’s not fair.
The door opens. Grocery bags hit the floor as my mom walks towards me. Should I tell her? An empty bottle of pain relievers, the room dizzy, faintness approaching, but finally, a silent demon.
“I tried to kill myself. But nothing happened. I’m scared now. I’m not supposed to be here.”
She notices the empty bottle. The anger and fear show in her eyes. She trembles slightly and then captures her balance.
“We gotta go,” she says as she ushers me to the car.
In silence, like the demon, we sit, we stare, and we wait, the speedometer reaching well past the speed limit until we meet the sign reading “Emergency”. Through the sliding doors we walk, never meeting each other in the eyes, never touching.
“My daughter took a whole bottle of pills.”
Unaware of the urgency, I’m surrounded by doctors and nurses. My hands and feet are tied down. My stomach is pumped. There’s red and then nothing at all.
A lady in a suit wakes me, carefully whispering a million questions in my ears. What would make you want to kill yourself? Is it your parents? Are you ill? Has someone been bothering you? She doesn’t notice the demon. My father arrives. He’s angry. I can tell by the way he’s standing next to my mother, arms tightly crossed, lips pressed firmly together. The blame, the hate, and the disappointment show in their eyes. Surely they see the demon towering over me, laughing at me, singing in my ear: Stop feeling. Stop thinking. You’re a disgrace, a waste, disposable and unwanted.
“I don’t want to go home,” I say.
My eyes close.
Copyright© Keturah Israel. All rights reserved.