‘If I lay here
If I just lay here
Would you lie with me
And just forget the world?‘
The lyrics play over and over on the radio as I lie next to it, the beat of the song not matching the beautiful, young girl’s quick breathe and quiet moans as she lies on the bed across from me. My hair is still wet from the warm hot tub we had been forced to quickly exit. Her father’s caring and trembling hands had reached in to pull her out of the whirring waters and then carried her up to her room, with me following closely behind. Unsure if I should be there but also knowing I couldn’t be anywhere else. He leaves us alone and I wrap myself in a towel and fold myself against the wall, trying to make myself as small as possible. Leaving her as much space as she needs in the large room to fight what we’ve learned, may be a losing battle.
I think back to earlier in the day when I first arrived. Excited to see my friend but nervous that the time together would seem to stretch on into forever. That there would be too many minutes and not enough words, unlike all the other times we’d spent together. As I greeted her smiling face I first noticed the wig sitting atop her head, hiding the patches of bright blonde underneath, and that her clothes hung off her body, like she was a child trying on her mother’s clothes, but when I held her close she still smelled the same. Like hope. I had never known that words could have their own smell until I met her, and it was a word I always breathed in deeply when she was around so as to fill my own being with as much of it as possible.
Watching her frail body heave up and down, too disoriented to even remember that I am in the room with her, I think back to the summer before when a trip away together had taken us to an island that turned into, as silly, young girls, the scariest thing we had thought we’d ever face.
The island we went to set a fire deep inside of us that the mainland had never before released. Suddenly we were curious. We were always the good girls, never daring to take that sip of liquid our friends had started tasting and we had certainly never kissed boys for longer than a few seconds at a time. But in that trip away from reality our inhibitions broke down and just for that one night we wondered what the unknown could bring us. We felt as Eve must have, as she stood there contemplating taking the fruit from the forbidden tree. And like Eve, the temptation was too close within our reach and we couldn’t help but find out how it made us feel.
So later, after the curtains had been drawn, goodnight kisses given, and the doors locked, we held tight to each other and wandered into the darkness outside of the comfort we had found in the little island house. We were looking for a form of trouble we could finally touch and feel. Hoping it would give us life. As we wandered we smiled and joked about our lives being short, never guessing that the eighty more years we guessed we had could be so much shorter. We knew, that as our teenage selves, we needed to feel every crack and bump life had to offer, no matter how uncomfortable it was. As though it was a rite of passage we had to go through; a quest we couldn’t turn down.
What we found as we strolled along the darkened road with only the moonlight to guide us was headlights full of hands that were more than eager to help us on our road to discovery. Those faces with smiles that turned up just a little too much took us to exactly what we wanted; a crowd of people searching for the same thing we were, life as we thought it should be experienced. As we stood in the beach we felt the coarse sand beneath our toes, reminding us that even the most beautiful things in life could still bring pain and we were suddenly scared. Her hand wound its way into mine, weaving our fingers, as if locking our bodies together would somehow make us indestructible against this sudden danger we realized we had put ourselves in. As her hand shook in mine I watched as the excitement of new adventures suddenly morphed into what it truly was, fools dancing around a fire, boys trying to be men and men trying to be boys. And we knew we didn’t belong.
I forced a fake bravery on the outside of my shell, letting her know that no matter what came, I could handle it. The unknown became scarier than we had imagined so we held tight and left. We ran back to the comfort and glow of the old television screen and the snoring caretaker on the floor above us and we felt safe again. As we sat cuddled on the couch we forced laughs at what we had done, pretending it couldn’t have been a lot worse than it was. “This,” we thought, “this is the scariest life gets.”
Now, as I lay in the room at the top of the stairs listening to the music pouring out of the radio, watching her body move slowly up and down I wonder if maybe I reached out and lace my fingers through hers again we could just run. Run away from the danger she faces and the fear that I have. Our demons are no longer figures dancing around a fire, standing too closely to our young bodies, instead they’re forces we can’t even begin to control and that is a monster that rocks me to my core. I continue to watch her as she lays on the bed, strapped down to it by the pain buried deep inside of her, causing involuntary moans to escape her cracked lips. The poison inside of her tries to fight a greater evil making its home inside her delicate frame. And though it is just the two of us in there, the room feels suffocating, as though all of the oxygen is being replaced by the overflow of pain coming from her small frame, and I’m scared again. So I follow the pleas of the music and I just lie there, reaching out to touch what locks she has, faking a strength and bravery I certainly don’t feel. Just like I did that one summer night. And I pray that it is enough.