by Rose Martula

In due time, I know that I'll pay for all the bad things I've done. When I was eight, I was convinced that I was going straight to hell. I could feel the awfulness within me just seeping around in my veins. I would tell my bright-eyed, pony-tailed friends this, and they would say to me, "Well, if you're going to hell, at least it won't be for a very, very long time." Which led to many nights of tossing and turning in bed until one night I got out of my bed, crept down the dark hallway that scared me so when I was young, and had a nervous breakdown - as much of a nervous break- down that an eight year old can have. My parents were quite taken aback seeing me lying on the floor, crying hysterically and pounding my fists against the wooden floor. They sat me on the toilet seat lid and tried to calm me down, but I was so scared. I was trying to be the best that I could be, trying to do good things for people and the world, but I felt like I was failing. Soon, my hysteria passed and I was on my feet again, being the tomboy that I was, playing baseball with the boys and sneaking chocolate that my mother didn't allow into the house. We weren't even allowed to eat white bread in my house, only whole wheat and organic foods of all sorts which I hated. It made me crave junk food. But at night I'd still think about hell and what was in store for me when the end of my life came. I thought about how everyone I knew was going to die some day, and how much it frightened me. I came to the conclusion that since I was going to die anyway and probably go somewhere horrible, and since this awfulness inside of me was here to stay, that I might as well just forget about it and live my life. There was no changing what I was.

My dad seeped with awfulness, too, when I was young. He'd come home drunk, hating his job, hating his life, and could actually bring tears in half a minute in the way he'd yell at me. Then he'd grab me, kick open the door to my room, throw me on my bed, and give me a hell of a spanking. Then he'd drink and drink until he'd feel like shit, and neither me nor my brother would leave our rooms on nights like those. One time, me and my brother begged him to buy us fast food when our mom was out of town one weekend. He said that if he bought us fast food, then we'd have to do all of our laundry by ourselves that night. Well, I hated doing laundry, so I gritted my teeth and showed willpower and held back on the food while my brother gave in and ordered greasy cheeseburgers and fries. I ate carrot sticks and water for dinner instead, and I made a point of telling my dad so that he'd see I was being a good kid and eating healthy. I sat at the table and munched my carrots and said, "See, Daddy, look I'm eating healthy and I like it." He gave a faint smile and walked away without saying a word. I ate the rest of my carrots in silence and then planned to go upstairs to watch a movie while my brother went and did his laundry. But not even five minutes into the movie, my dad tore into the room yelling at the top of his lungs, his eyes blazing with rage, his breath smelling.

"I thought I told you that you had to do your laundry tonight!"
"But . . . but-"
"Your brother's being a good boy and doing his! But look at you, you're sitting up here watching TV!"
"But you said that if I didn't get fast . . ."
"Get down there now, goddamnit!"

And I burst into tears at having been cheated and ran downstairs into the bathroom. My brother's clothes were already in the wash. I cried and cried and ran the sink water so that my brother couldn't hear even though I knew he could. After a little while, I dumped my laundry on the floor and whimpered and sorted my clothes into whites and darks. My nose wouldn't stop running no matter how many times I wiped it with the back of my hand. And my dad vanished into his bedroom with a bottle of hard liquor, slamming the door behind the way he does so that it makes you jump, never to be seen again for the rest of the evening. I wanted my mother so bad in times like those.

So I figured the awfulness ran in my family. As I grew up my father got softer, quieter, stopped drinking, got gentler. But that makes me nervous sometimes 'cause is he trying to redeem himself? Is he trying to make up for everything? I just didn't know so I decided not to think about that much, either. It makes my head all crazy-like.

Last night, I got five different boys' numbers without even trying. One of them gave me his written on a styrofoam coffee cup, while the two others joked about who would take me home that night, another rubbed up against me, and the last just stared at me like I was something with these pale blue eyes he's got. And I didn't do nothing. I just looked good, I guess. All I did was stand there and be me, but I guess that awfulness attracts. But I feel bad 'cause I won't ever call any of 'em because I don't deserve that attention. If I did call even just one of 'em, I know I would end up having sex with all of them in the end. Because if you're gonna go with one, why not just go with 'em all? It was a cold night, colder than usual and I was wearing these open-toed shoes. They kept getting me coffee to keep me warm and just said my name over and over again. A cold night, and my name just being repeated and repeated, over and over, into the brisk wind. Nice.

When people look at me and ask me if I have a boyfriend, and I always say no, I hate when they say like in pity, "Oh, I'm sorry. Why not?" And I'm, like, "Why would I?" It's good to get used to being alone and sleeping alone in bed. It's bad to get too dependent. I feel much more comfortable, much saner when I'm alone. I'm meant to be alone. I'm meant to be this way. Even if it means hurting people, 'cause I don't want none of that. Maybe it was just the way I was brought up. Maybe it was the way my father taught me how to be alone, taught me that people are going to be mean to you no matter how beautiful you are or how much money you have or how good of a person you are.

But my dad's different around me now. He doesn't hug me much or wanna touch me much 'cause he sees I probably haven't done the best things in my life. I think he doesn't say much 'cause he feels guilty now, and he's just my father. He's someone I'm related to. But I think it makes him sad, too. Sad the way I don't wanna get too near people, sad the way I might flinch from someone's touch, or how I don't treat myself in the best ways. Take care of yourself, he always says to me, but I don't. And I can see how it makes him sad. I can see it in his eyes when he thinks I'm not looking. But I would never tell him that and he would never tell me. So instead, we walk away from each other with our shoulders slouched and our hearts heavy and our minds full, and look away to the sky.

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