HER

Atwood Inspired Piece

By Cecilia Nakao

A bedroom. White tall walls, white ceiling, the smell of a clean home, a clean soul. Mine or hers? Thick glass windows, a grand door and more walls. The smell of an opulent life. I feel dizzy and sick. I am falling. Walls in the room, walls in the house, walls between us. Pictures in a frame, no, paintings in a frame, on the wall, old and forgotten. I am falling like Alice in this feigned grandeur. I have lost myself. Or am I more myself than I have ever been? Is she dead? Has she been forgotten by everyone, including me?

The flowers in my garden give me hope. They are alive and unchanged amidst all the chaos.  They say we have freedom, but free are the flowers, which grow without interference, who share space and breathe the same air. They say we have freedom to be, to want, to have. She tells me this is a lie. The flowers seem to be free without wanting or having. I don’t understand. I believe them, I try to, at least. Should I not? They take care of me. They give me what I need. Or do they? Maybe her voice is of a mare, an evil womanly spirit, in the nightmares we meet. Maybe she is not real. Maybe she never was. 

I look around for an answer, hoping for a sign, hoping to remember her. The pictures. I gently, but hurriedly, open the drawer. Nothing. I hold my breath. I open all the drawers. I am silently screaming. A string is just about to rip apart inside me. I found them. On the last of the twenty one drawers I open. I go through the pictures. They are old, but they are not hers. I don’t recognize that smile, the other faces in the pictures. I don’t recognize any of it. I don’t want my pictures, I want hers. I am spirling. Everything is moving around me, and I am in the dark, in silence. I feel warm petals falling from a white rose and running through my face. I can’t stop. I’m out of breath. I wake up. 

My body hurts. I must have fallen out of bed, or maybe I was never in it in the first place. I see pills. Pills spilled from an open bottle. So round and tiny, harmless, like the muzzle of a gun. Are they my sleeping pills? They say I shouldn’t take pills, though they still give them to me. The bottle says you should take one pill at a time. Wait. They are not sleeping pills. They’re focus pills. They say they are the best thing to help you be successful. She tells me that is a lie. Why was I asleep then? I don’t remember and I can’t tell. The bottle is tinted black and has no labels, like the one you would imagine Rafael got from the apothecary. No, not Rafael, Roberto. I can’t remember. There is your gold. Money is a worse poison, he said. I could get punished for having memories of this. We are not allowed to read that sort of thing anymore. I don’t remember how many I took. Maybe I never took any, the bottle simply fell and opened. My head hurts. I sit at the edge of the bed and look for the gadget. Eleven thirty AM. I should go downstairs. 

Just as I opened the door, I hear screaming. I hear the voice of a woman. My mother. Screaming at the cook. Or, is she whispering? Is there a difference? She is mad, I can tell. That isn’t allowed. The woman does it anyways, sometimes. I feel sick already. Why is it that this makes my stomach churn? One foot after the other, one foot after the other, what feels like burning four hundred fifty one steps, 451 steps that are burning. My hands are tied, so are my legs, so is my mind. I don’t have a way out. The woman is still harrowingly speaking. She knows she shouldn’t. She is angry, she is furious. She shouldn’t be. It isn’t allowed. I know she is not a bad person, but in the heavier prohibition of good, the only thing she has found to cope with is being bad. They say it is an adaptation. Oh hi Daisy, the woman says. Daisy. That is not my real name. At least not at night, when I close my eyes. It is not her name. I start eating. 

I feel the taste of money. 

I remember trying to ask them, my parents. They looked down, changed the subject. But, she knows. Maybe I remember my old life, the life of those that live outside the walls, the life of those who know the ugly pain of a growling stomach. Maybe I still remember the feeling of fresh air, of being alive, of being free. Maybe I was taken away, without a goodbye. But, maybe that’s all a lie, part of a twisted dream. It’s all a blur. 

I hear her mother’s voice. I love you, she says. I remember what that is. It’s one of the few things. We are not allowed to think about it, nor talk about it, though. Relationships are not allowed anymore and neither are parents supposed to demonstrate any sort of affection. 

I lie on the bed. I see her father. Maybe he’s my father? No, my father is rich. Her father is dead. Perhaps not, but it is easier that way. There is no expectation then, nothing to hang on to. Nothing to breathe for, except what they want. Except for what they expect. He is reading a book. It is red. That is all I remember. I swear. This one has been put into flames, as well as all the other ones he used to read. 

Here, I am told I have power. Power to do whatever I want. Power to change the world. What world? Our world? My world? The world of those who, like us, like them, live inside cages, within infinite iron bars. Bulletproof glass. And bulletproof souls. A clean soul though, or so they say. Clean and pure, focused. The soul destined to success. Isolated souls. But, successful. Rich. 

I go up the four hundred fifty one steps again. I enter my room. No pills. Was it all my imagination? I sit down in the corner. I can’t breathe again. This time I open the bottle, I’m not sure which. I open it and put some in my palm and throw them into my mouth. I want to sleep again, as only in my dreams I can remember her. Only in my dreams can I remember the feeling of the soft touch of another hand. Only in my dreams can I remember the sound of laughter, the sound of tears, the sound of truth. My eyes are starting to shut, uncontrollably, like a child who doesn’t stop crying. I black out. 

I see her. 

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