The only thing I have ever been afraid of is pain. Some people see pain as a powerful weapon to use to their advantage, but pain is something that breaks you down farther than you ever thought you could go. Today I ran away from home. I only went down one block, but I wanted to go more. I wanted to take refuge in an older version of myself where I was finally rid of everything that weighed me down.
A person’s actions are never from just one incident. They are a build-up of human inflicted hurt from every possible angle, leaving the feeling of having nowhere else to turn. Can you really blame them for acting out? For me, everything began with waking up in the morning.
As I looked in my closet, I remembered the sacred rules of Terrier Burke High school. Wearing shorts during 60-degree weather meant I was a slut, but not wearing shorts in 65-degree weather meant I wasn’t bold enough to show some skin. Too many jeans meant I was a lesbian, but too many leggings meant I was a basic white girl. Heels attracted too much attention and made me a target, but in flats, everyone could glare me down if I had other fashion mishaps.
After agonizing over my outfit, I pulled on my blue tie dye t-shirt and black lululemon leggings with boots. Then I slipped out the back door to avoid my family. Once I arrived at school, I was a different person. If I was punished here, there was a rationale behind it. It was because I had done something wrong, not because of how drunk my father got. It wasn’t great, but it was an escape, and that’s what I needed to be okay for now.
As I walked through the halls of my school, a couple of my friends waved at me. I waved back, but I was scanning the halls for the one person who made me feel better than okay, Dylan Ramirez. How I longed for his hands to be on my waist and his lips to say my name like it meant more than it did. Right at that moment, I felt a hand grab mine. It was him.
“Hey,” he said sheepishly. It felt like the whole world revolved around what I would say next.
“Hey. What’s up,” I asked, trying not to blush.
“I was just about to go to the gym. Do you wanna come with? We can… talk there,” he said. I didn’t want to do anything with a guy I barely knew, but the average age for a first kiss is fifteen. In another month, I would fall behind.
“Sure,” I said. When we arrived, he grabbed my hand and shoved me into a locker room. He wasted no time. He swept his hands through my dark curls and whispered my name.
“Raina, I want you,” he said. I didn’t object, so he put his lips on mine. I felt like I was sucking on a marshmallow since it was so soft and tender. Then, he started to go harder and harder, and the marshmallow began to burn my lips. This wasn’t right. I pulled back, but he kept coming towards me and bound my hands behind my back.
“No,” I whispered. It seems like a cliché, but once I looked into his eyes, I knew what he wanted. Not love, not a relationship, not even me. As I tried harder to pull back, he rammed my head against a wall and my pain became mental, emotional, and physical. I kneed him as hard as I could with my scrawny legs, which gave me just enough time to open the door and run out to the main gym.
I scanned the gym, and that’s when I saw them; the “popular girls”. They eyed my untidy appearance, and saw Dylan coming out of the locker room, looking like a predator who’s prey slipped through his paws. A beast inhabited him, and I knew I had to escape it. I slid into the crowded hallway and tried to find my class.
As soon as I arrived with my unkempt hair and goopy make-up, everyone was staring at me. It was as if the high school queens had spread the rumor as effortlessly as they flipped their golden locks. I sat with my head down, waiting for everything to be over. I couldn’t report him. Everyone would know I got the golden boy in trouble and then three more Dylans would take his place.
“Hey, some girl named Raina Shapiro did it with Dylan Ramirez,” said a girl behind me in the hallway.
“Doesn’t Dylan have an STD?” gasped the other. Simultaneously, they all grabbed their phones out of their pockets and let their fingers fly over it. With every one of their clicks, I felt like I was taking a step into an open sea when I didn’t know how to swim. My heart pounded, and the back of my head was throbbing. I knew I could turn to my friends, but their words could not repair the damage other people's actions had caused. Maybe it was better if I wasn’t part of this world.
Usually, my school was my safe haven from home, but now even with my screwed up family, the situation was reversed. I walked home, dragging my boots through puddles of murky water for what seemed like an eternity.
When I finally arrived at my porch, I fixed my posture, dusted off my make-up, and put on an oversized sweater. What else could I do but deny everything that happened and fool myself into thinking none of it mattered. I pretended that once I walked through the doors, all my troubles from school stayed outside; however, it did not change the fact that when I walked in, my biggest fear was sitting on the couch with a pile of tissues over his beer-belly.
“Hello, dad,” I said cheerily. “Would you like me to get you anything?” I said trying to mimic my mother’s sweet and sympathetic voice.
“No,” he said coldly. Tears started trickling down my cheeks. I couldn't hold it in anymore, so I ran upstairs to my bed and cried.
The thing I love about myself is I have an auto-pilot. I turn it on when my life is not what I want it to be, which is very often. I stopped paying attention and performed my tasks like a mind-numbing zombie. I didn’t let myself feel anything. I proceeded through the day with my auto-pilot on.
I would have loved to stay in that state of mind, but when I went downstairs to eat, my father casually asked,
“Raina, you know you are a selfish bitch right?”
My heart started racing. I knew what was coming. More and more words spewed out of his mouth. He said I was selfish because I had neglected my duties as a daughter and he had to force me to come back and care for him. That's not what happened. He stuck up his large beast-like paw and struck me across the face leaving me trembling with fear. Sometimes, the beast whispered things in his ears and plagued his memories with a tint of every negative emotion he had ever felt. I had been a good daughter by stroking his head and checking for a fever, even though I despised him. Then, right as I was about to bite into my tortilla, he changed. He morphed into an old foe of mine. A beast that I had seen throughout the years. A beast that slept in the slimy insides of my father’s subconscious. That’s when he cursed at me, and I burst into tears.
After everything I had worked through, I knew that I was a good person, but the beast was tethered to me. It knew me. Once it whispered from its gaping maw that I wasn’t worthy of living, I felt like a dead girl walking. As usual, I tried to fight the tears, but that was a failure. As usual, I tried to fight the rancid words he so horribly uttered, but I couldn't. Instead, I did something I had never done before. I attempted to escape the beast.
In my sweatpants and fuzzy bunny slippers, I bolted out of the house in the middle of January, with nothing but my laptop under my arm. I felt the presence of the beast more than ever as it chased me down the deserted street of my suburban neighborhood. It spilled thoughts of doubt into my head. I knew it was trying to possess me as it had done to my father. Unlike him, I tried to fight it. The beast then took its carriage of despair and chased after me. It rolled down the windows of our old sedan and yelled,
“Get back here girl, or I’m going to make your life a living hell. Melodramatic little whore!” I began to run. As I looked around, I was thankful no other houses seemed to have their lights on. I didn’t want anyone to know. I knew I could run to the river by the old elementary school and go somewhere where I wouldn’t be found. That was when I realized that the beast wasn’t behind me. The beast had slithered into someone else. The beast lurked within me. No more running. Every drop of fear in my blood transformed into power. As my father got out of the car, I rammed him over the head with my laptop. Then I got into the car and ran him over, leaving his corpse on the intersection of Anchor Lane and Raven Road. Next, I went to the nearest bar.
If they refused to serve me, I knew the beast was in the mood for another snack.