by Elizabeth Arlen
I had a plan. In my eyes, then, it was perfect; I found the escape route to this hell on earth. I'm not sure why it took me so long to think of, but I was glad I finally remembered. I lay down in the grass and let then sat up and carefully began. The razor was poised delicately atop my wrist, my eyes clenched shut. My classmates' words floated through my head, "Down the road, not across the tracks," they would jeer loudly while walking by me. Good advice, I thought, quickly changing the position of the razor blade pried out of a disposable. Once again, I clenched my eyes shut and this time I did it. The white hot pain was replaced by an overwhelming euphoria. I opened my eyes and breathed in the smell of the rain before the clean smell was overcome by the coppery smell of blood. I changed sides, but felt no pain the second time. Then I lay back down, closed my eyes, and prepared myself for death to take me.
To this day I don't know who found me. Perhaps it was one of my parents or sisters. Maybe a neighbor had seen me out the window or through the gaps in the old fence. I woke up in a downtown hospital. Apparently, suicide did send you straight to hell; my parents were standing over me and I was back in the spot I'd desperately tried to run from.
"Oh, honey, why?" My mother asked in a sticky-sweet voice, her eyes warning me to watch what I said. I noticed the nurse in the room.
"Sorry mom." I muttered glancing around more. My father glared at me from behind my mother while my two sisters were sitting against the wall, Natalie, the youngest, nodding off on Carly's shoulder. There were big, white bandages wrapped around my wrist and I just wanted to cry. I began to peel at the edges of them as a distraction from all the tension in the room.
The nurse left, with promises of the doctor being with me shortly. Great. My father closed the door behind her calmly and he, Carly and my mother stared at me with what I would only describe as pure hatred.
"Fucking idiot." Carly said rolling her eyes. My mother slapped me.
"What the hell were you thinking?" My father inquired quietly. Of my parents, my father was the quiet one, but unlike Carly and Natalie, he scared me much more than my mother did because of the way he conducted himself, one couldn't guess what he was thinking at any given time, whereas my mother consistently made it very clear what she felt.
"I said I was sorry."
"Huh." My mother grunted turning away and locating out the window. I knew there was nothing I could say to repair this, so I said nothing. It had never crossed my mind that suicide might not work or that someone would find me. I was so damn stupid. I laid down that day happy that I never had to see any of these people again. I bled on the ground knowing that I was going to die. And it was going to be wonderful. I came to the conclusion that Carly had come to when I was eight; I can't do anything right.
We sat there in silence. What next? I wondered. How much worse have I made life for everyone in this house? What's next? How did it come to be like this? How had it started? Have we ever been a happy family? Do they even care? As we sat there, I think it was the longest we had gone without a fight or glass smashing on the floor or crying.
Carly stood up and Natalie crashed onto the tile, confused.
"I'm going to get something to drink." She announced. Natalie, like a puppy, followed her obediently out the door, and I didn't blame her; if I was 8 years old, I'd be scared by these depressed, violent, moody people as well. My father moved from behind my mother to the other side of my bed. I was scared.
"What are we gonna do with you?" My mother shook her head, "You better be damn well-behaved when we get home." I nodded, thinking of the alcohol I'd have to get in the months when I returned home; in my house, whoever had misbehaved the most got refills for our parents and then we had to clean up the mess the next morning.
"No, she's not coming home." I looked up at him, hopeful and scared at the same time.
"What?" My mother asked. My father stroked a hand through my hair.
"You're scaring me, lately," He said, "The way you've been violent toward Natalie and yourself; it really worries me. So I've been talking to some people, and they agree that it's best if you go to - Juvenile Hall for a while." Oh my God.
"What?!" I protested quickly, "That's not true, I don't wanna go there!" Inside I was rejoicing, in fact, I couldn't remember the last time I'd been so happy. I knew I hadn't ever been violent to Natalie, the reverse was true; she was a little devil due to the fact that she was with Carly almost 24/7.
"Why didn't you tell me this before?!" My mother demanded. My father ignored her and just clenched a fist in my hair and pulled a little.
"You're going." He said. Then he released his hand and proceeded to let my mother scream at him for several minutes about including her in major decisions and was he sure about this? I don't know why she bothered asking; once my father's mind was made up, it was made up. I could only pretend to be upset about it. Carly went through a phase a year and a half ago, shoplifting and getting into fights at school and even got involved with drugs in a desperate attempt to get arrested and go to jail. Anything to get away. But my father always convinced whoever he had to let him take care of her. I don't know what put this decision in his mind, but I was happy. I could go somewhere else, anywhere else and be happier, I was sure.
When I arrived at - Hall, I passed through two metal detectors and a quick pat down. I was given a uniform that was a green jumpsuit with sleeves and legs too long for me, so I rolled up the ankles and pushed the fabric up my arms. It wasn't anything like I'd ever imagined. I'd imagined and endless hall with concrete cells and iron doors and a small window. There were several buildings, including a school, and a big, fenced in area for recreation. The rooms were nicer than concrete, with regular doors and regular beds. I had a roommate named Jamie who was very tall and very enthusiastic.
"Have you ever been here before?" Jamie asked making her bed up.
"No, I haven't." I replied.
"Well, it isn't too bad once you get used to it. I'll teach you what you need to know, if you want." Sad, brown eyes stared at me, trying to comfort me. You have no idea, I thought, I'd rather be anywhere but home; I'm happy here already.
"Okay, thanks." I said. Jamie was a nice person.
"So, what are you in for?" I laughed nervously. Should I tell the truth or should I say what my father told me to when anyone asked? How would he know? Stop being afraid; it's safer here.
"I tried to kill myself." I finally replied rolling up my sleeves to show the white bandages.
"Yeah. Me too." Jamie replied sitting down on the newly made bed and looked down dejectedly at the floor. Jamie intimated to me that she and her boyfriend, -, had decided to kill each other in a double suicide type thing. They had guns to each other's heads and on the count of three would pull the trigger. 1, 2, 3-bam. Jamie pulled the trigger just as promised, but found out a second later that - had no plans to kill her at all. She sat there covered in blood when her parents found her and she had been sent here shortly after.
"I'm so sad for you." I said quietly when she finished her story.
"I'm okay," Jamie replied, "Why did you…?" I shrugged. I didn't really want to tell anyone the full reason why I wanted to die. It was so close.
"My parents are alcoholics and my sisters are raging bitches. I just couldn't take living in that place anymore, it was awful." I replied. Jamie nodded.
"Why didn't you run away?"
"I tried all the time when I was a kid. You can't run away from them." I said. As far as I knew it was true. Carly and I had both run away countless times and somehow somebody always found us and would take us back to our parents. She shrugged and we turned away from each other. I wondered if we would be friends. I wondered if the outside world was as wonderful as I'd made it out to be in my head. I hoped so.
We went to school every day, except weekends, "like real life," Jamie explained. School was required. I enjoyed it a little, but what I enjoyed more was Jamie pointing out who was who; the people I could talk to and the people I should avoid, what they were in for and for how long.
"See that guy?" She'd whisper behind the teacher's back, "That guy got in for bringing a gun to school. And over there, that's the guy I told you about last night, remember?" I found it fascinating to hear why everyone was here and what they were like. I wasn't much of a socialite and I didn't have any plans to make friends here, but I liked to people watch.
One day, I was sitting out in the yard on the side lines, people watching as usual when a boy sat down next to me. I glanced at him, but he didn't seem to really be interested in me, so I returned to watching Jamie and the others play a game of soccer.
"Hey," He said quietly after a while, "Could you give this to Jamie for me?" He handed me a folded up piece of notebook paper. I hesitated, pretty sure that it was a bad idea, but he didn't seem like a bad guy, so I took it and slipped it up my sleeve.
"Yeah, okay." I said trying to smile a little. He smiled back and squeezed my hand, which made me uncomfortable, before getting up and walking away. When I looked back into the yard, I saw Jamie walking toward the boy. They talked for a moment and then she glanced at me and smiled big. I smiled back, unsure of what I'd gotten myself into.
Back in our room, I handed the paper to her, wondering what kind of message was inside that he couldn't just tell her in person. She unfolded it away from the window in the door.
"This'll do." She said. The paper was blank, I saw, as she threw it to the ground. Inside the paper had been three thin razor blades. My heart jumped.
"Are you gonna try to kill yourself?" I asked quietly. She laughed.
"No, it'd be pretty stupid to slit my wrists in here." She said, "I'd be caught in two seconds." I hadn't thought of that.
"Then what do you want them for? Are you gonna swallow them?" She shook her head, rolled up her sleeve, checking the window and lightly sliced her forearm, a thin trail of blood pushing up in little blots.
"You wanna try?" She asked holding a clean razor out to me as she put pressure on her cut. I hadn't even heard of this kind of thing before. Was it okay?
"I don't know." I said. She sat down next to me and rolled up my sleeve.
"I'll help you." She said. She cut me lightly near the bend in my arm and I felt a similar euphoric feeling that I did when I had tried to kill myself. But…was it okay to feel like this? Was think kind of behavior safe or allowed?
"Jamie?" She had this wild expression on her face and after showing me the one time how to cut, left me with my razor and sat back down in her corner to continue her own cutting. She didn't answer me, so I tried to do it to myself a few times. It did feel good, which surprised me, but the motions scared me so much that I threw the blade under my bed and laid down for the night.
A month after I'd been in, one of the guards came to our room. Jamie had been cutting, so she crawled under her covers and pretended to be half asleep, afraid to get caught. But he wasn't there for her.
"Your dad's here to see you." The man informed me. I noticed Jamie perked up a little, interested.
"Oh," I said. Great, just what I wanted. "Do I…do I have to see him?" I asked quietly. He looked at me, puzzled.
"Don't you want to?" He inquired incredulously. Of course not! My mind shouted. I weighed my options in my head. As far as I knew, there wasn't really anything he could do to me as long as I was here. And I liked being here. I didn't want to see him, or my mother or Natalie or Carly. Not at all.
"Not really." I replied. He shrugged.
"Okay. I'll tell him you're busy." I liked this guy.
"Thanks, but you can just tell him I said no." I replied. I liked this guy, but I didn't need him to lie for me. For once I could communicate to my father that I didn't like him, that he was a jerk. The guard shrugged and left, closing the door with a soft click.
"Hey," Jamie said after a while, "What did he do to you?"
"I don't wanna talk about it," I replied. I wondered what she thought of me as we laid there in the dark, trying to sleep. I could hear a ruckus outside the room. How strange that the Juvenile Detention center was my place of refuge. What better place to be kept safe? I wondered what I would do and where I would go once I was released. When would I be released? Just don't make me go back, I thought, I'll do anything but go back there.
Jamie's arms were in pieces. They were cut to hell, and it had only just occurred to her that someone was going to notice soon. She was in a panic about what to do, how to hide it. I didn't say much, other than she should stop. But she didn't.
Late at night, if I was thinking too much about "home," I'd fish my razor out from underneath the bed and do a little myself. But unlike Jamie, I didn't pick at the scabs and make it worse. Her scars were bright pink whereas mine almost blended in with my skin. We had medical examinations coming up and I was pretty confident I could explain mine as past scars. What would happen to Jamie?
Two days before the medical exams, there was a routine room search. Jamie was very confident that they would not find the razors. She had hidden her two inside a pillow, and mine underneath my bed in the mattress itself. I didn't feel as confident as she did, but I didn't say anything. They weren't logical places to put something sharp and painful, and I didn't really see the guards looking underneath a bed, or ripping a pillow to pieces. Then again, the catalyst behind the search had been drugs in a room, so maybe.
The two guards came in, searched the room and left. As far as I could tell, they found nothing deemed hazardous, illegal or forbidden. The next day one of the guards returned just before lights out.
"Roll up your sleeves please." He requested of me. My heart jumped in my chest and I could feel Jamie's panic across the room.
"Why?" I asked. I don't know why I stalled for time at all, there was no way we were coming out scot free in this one.
"Please roll up your sleeves." He said again. I did so, and he examined my arms. "Have you hurt yourself at all recently?"
"No," I lied. He frowned, but I think he chose to believe me, because he moved onto Jamie. Next thing I knew, she was being carted off to see the doctor and then to see a psychiatrist. Mandatory counseling. I was asked a number of questions as well. Did I realize that Jamie had been self-mutilating (that's what they called it)? Why didn't I choose to report it? Did I know where she got the razors? I gave ambiguous answers, and I didn't get in trouble. I hoped Jamie wouldn't give me away, but I doubted she would. I don't know if she was moved to another room or solitary, but I didn't see her often enough to ask. We were on different schedules now, and I was given a new roommate. Her name was Angela, and I didn't like her very much.
With Angela, I was initially a little excited and I tried to be like Jamie, showing her the ropes and pointing out the various people. I tried it just like she had said it to me; "See that guy," I'd say, "He was drinking and driving and hit four people." Unlike me, Angela didn't have much interest in me or anyone else. "Uh huh." She'd reply and go back to doodling hearts and flowers on her notebook paper. We got to the point so that we'd talk to each other for the sake of just talking. Angela liked to complain.
"And he pushed me, can you believe it? He actually pushed me into the room. People just don't do that." Most of her stories ended that way. People just don't do that. They don't cut in line or take longer than fifteen seconds to wash their hands. They just don't. "Yeah," I'd reply, "That's right." I continue to wonder what she was in for; I was too scared to ask her and serious information was never forthcoming with Angela.
It was almost a year that I'd been in when I was told that my father was here yet again to see me. I liked it a lot there, despite my lack of friends or family; in that respect it was no different from my "home" life. This time I agreed to see him, just to know when I would be leaving, if I was leaving. How long could one stay in Juvie Hall?
We sat in the room in silence for longer than I care to remember. I hated being there with him staring at me, scrutinizing me with a look that said I was a bother and a nuisance and nothing but a waste of life. But we sat there.
"Have you had enough?" He asked, "Now that you see what the world's really like, are you ready to come home?" This still puzzles me. He said it as if home was some sort of sanctuary. I remembered Jamie asking me, "What did he do to you?" And suddenly I wondered, what had happened to him to make him this way? My entire life, I just assumed that he had come into the world inherently evil. I'd never thought that maybe something happened to him as well. Maybe it was just an endless cycle, we were hurt and we had to cope somehow so we hurt others or ourselves. I shuddered and hoped it wasn't true.
"Yeah," I replied, "Okay, I'm ready." He nodded and got up. I stood up as well. I saw the guard outside the room, not looking in but talking to a fellow guard. My father stroked my hair and softly. I felt nauseous.
"Okay then." He said. When he "hugged" me (it felt like more of a headlock), I regretted what I'd said. What had even made me say it in the first place? Just one moment of sympathy? I couldn't go back there! I hated lying awake in my room late at night wondering if the door was going to open. I hated the sound of breaking glass and the smell of gin. I hated Natalie's crying in the next room and Carly's screamo music blaring. Anything to forget. What was I thinking? My father walked out of the room and as I watched him leave, I truly wanted to kill him.
Two weeks later, I returned my uniform and was given back my clothing. It fit tightly on me and I realized I'd gained some weight. He was there waiting for me, with Natalie by his side. She looked pale and tired and when she saw me she glared at me. I knew she hated me for getting away even if just for awhile. I knew Carly hated me and that's why she wasn't here as well.
"Let's go," My father said. We left together. It was raining outside, the sky the color of dirty snow. In our old, wobbly car, in the back seat, I picked at the rips where the stuffing was poking out and thought back. How long had I even been in there? A year? Nothing had really happened, not much anyway. It wasn't like I pictured my adventures in the outside world; I pictured my life away from "home" to be exciting and happy, but it was neither, it was just bland. And still, it was the happiest I've ever been. Nothing happened. It was a little loud, but it wasn't noisy all the time. There was violence, but mostly toward ourselves, at least in my case. The blessed peace…Maybe I didn't make friends or have exciting, fun things to do, but I was away from that place.
I looked at the rain outside the car, gathering in puddles where the drains were clogged up. I was okay. I would be okay. Just retreat back, I thought, when you're sad just go back to Juvie Hall, and you'll be okay. People view jail as something to escape, a place you can't stand and all you want is to go home, to go to the real world. Not for me. For me, it was a place of refuge, it was my escape. Prison was my reality.
AN: Well, I hope you liked it. This was written for my Prison Writings class and I figured I might as well add it up here. A few notes about this. When you see dashes like so '-' it means that I have decided to blot out that name. Or in my case, I couldn't decide on a name, so I left a blank. I have never been to Juvenile Hall so please excuse me if there are factual discrepensies, as I was going off basic research and my own imagination. Please review, and remember that for those who review there will be reviews on their stories soon in the future! I like to reciprocate.