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The Coffee Table

“I’m not crazy,” I say, hopelessly coming to terms with the fact that my statement further confirms to these doctors that I probably am.

I sigh and slouch back in the uncomfortable plastic chair as the doctor ignores my statement and continues to make notes on his clipboard. My eyes are sore and stinging from the crying I did earlier in the night. At this point I just want to get out of this place and go to sleep. My eyes start to close, and for a moment my head slouches to the side, but the doctor speaks, interrupting my half-asleep brain with a question.

“Anne, why did you do it? Why did you send your mother that text?” He is looking at me calculatingly. I don’t open my eyes.

“Honestly? Because I knew it would stop the fight. I swear I honestly had no intention of actually doing it. I just knew that she would stop being upset if she was worried about me. I’ve told you this. I’m sorry that I did it. Obviously it was not worth all of this trouble. Can I please see my dad?”

“Soon, maybe,” he says as he gets up and leaves me alone in the room.

I try to find the bearable position I was in a second ago so that I can dose off again, but after a couple of minutes of fussing around, I give up and grudgingly open my eyes. I think about what I just told the doctor. I honestly don’t have any intention of taking my own life tonight, I think.

I think.

***

            It was a pointless fight, as most fights with my mother were. We both had short fuses and we both knew how to set the other one off. We always laughed about our French blood. I hated fighting, and ever since my dad left we were constantly getting annoyed with one another. I spent the majority of the summer before my freshman year in high school locked in my room, reading. I was in the middle of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban for the 6th time, when my mom knocked on my door.

“Honey, I’m having some guests over, so would you mind tidying up your room a bit? I want to show them how nicely you decorated it.” Her voice was cautious and courteous as it always was when she knew she was asking me for something that might annoy me.

I stifled a sigh, “Yeah, I can do that once I’m done with this chapter – I have three pages left!” My voice rose as I heard my mother let out an aggravating breath of air. “Plus, you know that I don’t really want anyone in my room, mom.”

“Fine,” she snapped. “I’ll be back in ten minutes and I expect you to be cleaning by then.” She turned and started to close my door.

“Okay, fine.” I said, not looking up from my book.

“Can you acknowledge me when I’m talking to you, Anne?” She yelled.

“I’m trying to finish these three pages so I can do what you want, mom!”

She slammed the door and stormed off. I rolled my eyes and kept reading, attempting to finish the chapter I was on before time was up.

I did finish the three pages, but it left me with a cliffhanger. I paused for a second, deciding whether or not I wanted to keep reading.  I knew if I did it would cause a fight.

When my dad was home, he used to defend my reading. He would turn to my mother and say, “It’s fine, honey. She’s reading.  At least if she’s going to disobey us, it’s in a smart way.”  My mother would give him a stern look, but the corners of her mouth would role up to a smile. I’d always get at least another chapter.

I thought about how my mother would look at him. Her eyes would soften and her cheeks would redden when they made eye contact, even though they had been together for years.  When he would leave for his annual trip to Boston, my mom would be in a somber mood until he came back. When he did, her face would lighten up again.  This happened until the year that she went to the airport to pick him up and no one got off the plane.

I remember her face that night. Her eyes were either downcast or rapidly moving around the room. Her mood switched from confused, to terrified, to calm until she got the phone call from my aunt at two in the morning. That’s when she got angry. Her French side came out as she screamed at the phone, cursing my father and every single-family member that encouraged him to go to Boston every year. She came out of her bedroom and saw me sitting in the living room. Her face was red and her eyes were wet. “Go to your room!” she yelled as she stormed past me grabbing her coat.

I never found out where she went that night, but the next morning she told me my dad wasn’t coming back. Her face became emotionless, but there was still a sense of longing in her eyes. Three months later, when my dad finally did show up to grab his things, my mother didn’t greet him with the blushing smile that she normally did.  Her lips were pursed and her eyes were hard, and they stayed that way.

I quickly flipped the page of Harry Potter, wanting to forget my thoughts. Ten minutes later my mom opened the door and saw me in the same position I was in before.

“This is it, Anne! I ask you to do one small thing and you can’t tear yourself away from that damned book for a couple of minutes!” She stormed across the room and snatched the book from my hands. It gave me a paper cut.

“Ouch! What the hell, mom!” I yelled as I threw off the covers and followed her to the other room. “Give me back my book!”

“Not with that tone young lady! How dare you speak to me like that! I’m done. No more reading until you do what I ask!”

I managed to catch up to her and attempted to grab the book back. She yanked it away from me.

“Mom! Please! It’s the only thing that keeps me sane in this house! I hate living here!” I felt my nose start to get hot and tears started brimming on the edge of my eyes. I clenched my throat in an attempt to hold them back. She turned to face me, her eyes watering and her lips thin.

“Then go live with your father. I am sick of this.”

I grabbed for the book and gave it one good tug. I was crying now, and all I wanted to do was go back to my room and escape back into the world of Harry, Ron, and Hermione where a mass-murdering lunatic became the good guy at the end. I fell onto the couch behind me. My mother made a lunge at the book, missed, and hit me in the arm. After that I felt sharp pains all over my body. My mom’s arms were swinging over me, and when our tearstained eyes met, I couldn’t see anything but anger and hurt in her eyes. I tried to curl up, holding the book tightly to my chest. She hit me in the side of my abdomen and my leg kicked out, connecting with her stomach and sending her flying across the room into our antique coffee table. She lay on top of the broken table, stunned about what had just happened. I dashed into my room, slammed and locked the door, and slid down against it, hugging the book to my chest. I could hear her stifled tears through the door. After a couple of minutes, I heard her get up and walk through the kitchen to her room where she slammed and locked the door.

Shaking, I got up and found my cell phone buried underneath the covers of my bed. I found my dad’s number and hit send. I put my ear to the phone on the bed, unwilling to pick it up in fear of dropping it. I was terrified that if I put it on speaker my mom would hear the call and try to stop me. It rang three times before I heard my father’s cheery voice telling me to leave a message. I hung up before the end of the voicemail greeting. I should’ve known better than to call him. He never picks up. I dropped the book and clutched my sides, rocking back and forth next to my bed. This was typical of him. When I needed him the most, he wouldn’t answer. This was an emergency! I could be dead and he wouldn’t even know.

I could be dead.

I started imagining the look that would be on my parents’ faces if they received the news that I had died; my mothers’ guilt ridden anguished sobs and my fathers silent shaking as he looked at his missed calls and saw my number. Without hesitating I got up. Suddenly thinking clearly I tiptoed towards my door. I opened it quietly making sure to turn the knob all the way before pulling it open. When I got to the kitchen drawer with the knives in it, I had stopped crying and shaking. I grabbed the knife with a black handle and ribbed sides.

That would hurt.

I put that knife down and grabbed the one that was next to it with a worn wooden handle and a smooth blade. Smooth entry. I held it next to my arm, concealing it and went silently back to my room.

I sat for a long time holding the edge of the blade over my stomach. It was sharp, and every time the cold metal touched my skin, I freaked out and pulled it away. I thought of the reactions of everyone that I knew, but focused mostly on my mother. I could see her tear stained face in front of me at my funeral dressed in black. I put the knife down and sent her a nine word text message:

 

It was your fault that I killed myself.

 

I picked up the knife, held it over my stomach and waited to hear my mothers’ footsteps. They came exactly thirty two seconds later.

***

The rest of the night was a blur. I remember my mother crying and making two phone calls; one to my dad, and then one to the police. I remember riding in the back of the police car in handcuffs and being told it was for my own safety. Then, I remember this room and the constant flow of different strangers dressed in scrubs asking me questions. When I heard my dads voice outside of the hallway, I sighed in relief. I refused to talk to my mother.

After lots of yelling and complaining, the door opens up and I see the tense face of my father. It relaxes as he takes three strides towards me and pulls me into a hug. I feel myself stiffen. This surprises me.

“Anne honey, please don’t ever do anything like that again. Lets go home.”

“Uh, okay.” I say, perplexed. I was still trying to understand my mood. I thought that I would be excited to see my father, but when I finally did, I felt my mother’s old reaction cross my face.  A warm feeling was building up in my throat.  The anger was bubbling to the surface. I hold it in as I walk out of the hospital, passing my mother on the way. She reaches out and strokes my arm. Her fingers feel like ice. I continue walking, but my whole arm breaks out in goose bumps.

“Back away Marie. I don’t want you near our daughter,” my father snaps at her.

“Don’t talk to her like that after what you did.” The words come out of me like parletongue. Uncontrollable. “This is just as much your fault as it is hers. You left us. If you had been there, this wouldn’t have happened.”

Dad, shocked, opens his mouth, thinks for a second, and then closes it again. He looks down and continues walking, cautiously placing his arm over my shoulders. I follow less than willingly.

I glance back at my mother, and the guilt-ridden expression that I had pictured earlier was now on her face. I feel my expression mimicking hers as I realize that after I spoke, my parent’s eyes met and for a moment hers lit up again.

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