students collaborate: liz johnson and tait hanson

Photo 3- Liz Johnson

The Friday installation from JH Community School students. Today’s photo by Liz Johnson, with story by Tait Hanson.

Photo 3- Liz Johnson

photo by Liz Johnson

White Pearls of Rescue

by Tait Hanson

My legs feel like jelly, as they say. Or I think they do. I can’t think clearly. I can’t control my mind. The only control I have is over my quivering fingers, popping pill after pill between my dry lips. I couldn’t decide between Ibuprofen, the prescription bottles by my mom’s bathroom sink, or the disgusting burning liquid in my dad’s liquor cabinet, so I take turns alternating between my saviors. At first I don’t notice a change. I am frantic, pushing for some kind of difference to my pain. Shoveling beautiful white pearls into my mouth causes many to clatter to the floor. I’ve never tasted liquor before this—I hate it and gag between desperate gulps. My throat is in flames with the slow burning, like ashes to my grave. But it doesn’t matter.

My legs give out under myself, and I collapse into a sea of dizzying tiles and puddles of brandy at my right cheek. I hardly notice the chilling wooden floor as my swooning body absorbs shrieking stabs to my fragile, bruising knees, elbow, and head… I gaze into the mirror on the opposite side of the bedroom. It gives me the strength to continue the cycle of pills, downed with whiskey, and more pills. I glare at my hateful body, my overdone hair, my makeup streaming—I always wear too much. I used to think that makeup made everyone more beautiful, but no matter how much I coat onto my pale, chalky cheeks, it changes nothing. I am the same Megan Harris: eyes of a cold icy blue, the perfect designer clothes, custom-made, and the 14 year old who is eating dinner alone and staying home alone.

The longer I stare at the ugly beast in front of me, the more hysterical are my silent sobs and the more panicked are my fingers wriggling into the small hole of the bottles, scraping for satisfaction but coming up with nothing.

The pain ebbs, and lovely solid black rings itself around the contours of my room, as my view gets smaller and smaller.

I am unconscious–separate from the world and it’s constant buzzing, buzzing like a massive hive of bees harassing me in nightmares. I am too detached to greet my parents with a distracted yell as they step through the massive oak front door, too disconnected to calm their curiosity when they trek up the marble staircase to my grand bedroom entrance. I can’t stop their shrieks of terror as they take in the strewed tablets, the pungent stench of spilled alcohol, and a beloved daughter, eyes rolling as she splays in a vulnerable clump across the floor.

The ambulance rushes across the city; it skids into the brick driveway of a southern mansion. Neighbors peek from the curtains of their nearby four story houses, wondering what new drama is arising in Tranquility Lane. I am hauled downstairs, through the massive entry hall with the crystal chandelier and the golden countertops. The perfect roses weep with wilting petals as I’m carted away under the watchful stare of every gossiping southern belle and the howling of sirens to the hospital.

I do not awaken. I am linked to a jumble of wires and machines all tangled together and complicated. The bed is like all others in the hospital, in a room like every other. The white sheets are rough and itchy, covered by a dreary dark wool blanket. The bed is suspended on squeaking wheels, ready to be carted off to the morgue. The walls are whitewashed brick, the curtains encompassing sickly patients are a depressing gray, and the aura is helpless.

For days, doctors work on my recovery, giving me fluids, pumping my stomach, using machines I could never understand how to work… My parents remain by my side for two days. Their faces are etched with grieving grimaces, and they play the role of distraught parents well—except for the glances at their iPhones, checking their emails frantically, and trying to keep in time with the working world. But it’s impossible, and after those days, they choose work over daughter.

I am abandoned to strangers in sterilized, itchy bed sheets and needles wedged into my pale, sickly skin.

I am the same for one more day—still in a swarm of frantic nurses and operations. And then I am gone.

My lifeless body is so serene on the hospital bed. But my parents do not know. They never saw the depression drowning their daughter for months. And still, they are unaware of how to handle their busy lives, let alone mine.

They are back at work, intent on their next meeting and focusing on business success. My parents are giving sales pitches and yelling at employees from their executive offices, too busy to notice the absence of a 14 year old life.

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