“What? What do you want me to do?”
The mother shook the baby. She had been crying for the past ten minutes with no sign of letting the tears stop their sliding down her smooth cheeks. Her nose was running, but all the tissues had been used up by her mother the night before, when something, only God knows, made her cry just as much.
So while the mother cursed the ceiling for conjuring a life of pain and confusion for her alone and screamed at the flesh and blood that stole her smooth skin, the universe listened to the sound no one could hear- the churning of a baby’s empty stomach.
“I something in something? What does that mean, Emma? What are you saying?”
The girl fidgeted in her feet. She mumbled and stared at the lines between the tiles on the floor and thought about how they’d make perfect streets for ants.
“What are these marks on your arms? Huh- I guess you just need a bath to scrub them off.”
My teacher is weird, the girl thought to herself. Purple was her favorite color, mommy said so. She even liked purple more than the color of the sky. Emma couldn’t wait for purple day. That’s when she got to go home from school and stare at the ceiling that mommy painted purple while mommy painted her with purple polka dots. Mommy makes the best polka dots, Emma thought. The universe thought so too.
“Are you okay? I love and miss you.”
Emma opened her phone and read the message on the screen. She got one just like it almost everyday from her new parents. They were really her aunt and uncle, but the social worker explained that every family is a royal family; when someone is done with the job, they pass it to the next person in line.
They didn’t like it when she didn’t respond correctly. It was never enough to say okay. Everything must be explicit, they say. Who, what, when, where, why, how, and then some. It is never enough to not know. You must always know Emma. You must always know.
“It looks like it says ‘I breathe in…’ but I can’t figure out the rest. What happened? Do you want to talk about it? I’m here for you.”
She had gotten used to seeing these similar words pop up on her phone. Ever since she stopped talking, Emma carried around a notepad and pen and left scribbles she called notes for people to read her thoughts rather than hear them. It didn’t really sacrifice the clarity of her messages, although that’s how people perceived it- since they couldn’t read her chicken scratch. Just because she was audible before doesn’t mean she was clear to begin with, she thought to herself. She felt confused like the eyebrows that twitched when they read what she wrote. It doesn’t make sense for a mouth to speak when it doesn’t know what to say or what it’s saying.
“Eh. I don’t really care.”
Sometimes Emma purposefully made notes difficult to read. She felt that the ones that took the time to understand her lines rather than glance at the notes were worth her time. That’s why codes exist. Some messages are only meant for certain eyes. The people who cared not to bother with her words didn’t worry her. In fact, it eased her mind knowing that she could easily sort the seedlings from the weeds.
“Does that say I believe in sadness?”
Emma didn’t know who this was. Her rule was to only give notes to people she knew, and this was a random number. Was it an old friend? Someone playing detective? Either way, it didn’t matter. The unfamiliarity, strangely, lifted away the vulnerability that texting gave her. She didn’t mind if a stranger was able to read her thoughts. The universe knew her mind and more.
“So what if I do? What if I’m wrong?” she asked in return.
“Then I am too,” replied the stranger.
“Can I ask you something?”
“If the mind confuses a burden for an inconvenience or anything other than what it truly is, is that wrong?”
“So then it doesn’t matter? You just go on?”
I recently experienced a period of confusion and uncertainty within myself. However, despite feeling the inability to see in the darkness, there was never a moment in which I was alone in the abyss. The quotes in this story are all quotes from the people who reached out to me at a time where I felt blind but decided to reach out for something, even though I didn’t know what exactly. Thank you to everyone that was willing to support me or just ponder along with me. Although I didn’t have any answers to give or didn’t know how to give them, I’m grateful for every question asked.
**Disclaimer: The story itself is fiction.