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This Too Will Pass

April 21, 2013

by Sean Michael, September 2012

On April 18th, 2010, I was in my room listening to music. A shrill cry broke through the sounds of MXPX. I turned off the radio and opened the door. I could hear sobbing. Sounded like it was coming from the bathroom at the end of the hall. Priscilla lamenting over a lost love? I made my way down the hall to tell her that it would be okay because she was only thirteen. Next year she would begin as a freshman in high school, and all the boys would fawn and swoon over her. I’d have a job keeping them away from my little sis.

As I neared the bathroom I hastened my step. This wasn’t the weeping of teenage angst. It sounded as if something were seriously wrong. Worried, I pushed open the door.
My mother was sobbing heavily and stuttering into the phone. My sister was lying in a bath of vermillion. My Mother was holding her head above the water with her free hand. I snatched the phone from her. I heard the 911 operator telling her to calm down and speak clearly.
“Send an ambulance to 1919 Cottonwood Road now!” I dropped the phone and it skittered across the tile floor.

I helped lift my sister’s flaccid body from the tub and laid her gently on the floor. I pulled off my shirt and tore it into two pieces. I knelt by my sister. Her breathing was labored. I wrapped a piece of my shirt snugly around her heavily damaged wrist. My mother had retrieved a robe that was hanging from the door and wrapped it around Priscilla. I lifted my sister up into my arms and carried her downstairs with my heartsick mother in tow.
The ambulance arrived quickly and took them both away to the hospital. I called my father at work and conveyed all that had transpired. I hung up the phone. Tears flowed free and silent from my eyes as I looked up and watched a ghastly assemblage of clouds march across the cerulean sky and cover the sun, casting a long shadow and threatening a spring rain.

I went inside and back upstairs. I drained the bloody water from the tub and found the razor blade that my sister had used to slice herself, and flushed it down the toilet. In the sink I discovered the bottle of Vicodin that had been prescribed to me after suffering a compound fracture in my leg during a high school football game. I hadn’t taken any of the pills but none remained in the bottle now. I called my mother at the hospital and learned that Priscilla was alive but still unconscious. I told her about the Vicodin, and she said the doctors were flushing Priscilla’s system using I.V.’s. After hanging up, I spent another hour cleaning the bathroom.
My sister remained unconscious for a week. My mother had taken up residence in the hospital, my father went back and forth from work, and I had visited only once. It was difficult for me to see my sister in that plight. So I went to school, came home, and called the hospital each day to see how she was. I prayed harder than I ever had in my life that she would wake up.
I was in the living room reading William Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury” for my Language Arts studies; I was 46 pages in when the phone rang.

“Hello?” I answered.

“Your sister’s awake,” my mother nearly shouted. “She regained consciousness a couple of hours ago. She keeps asking for you; we need you here. Your father’s on his way to pick you up.”

“I’ll be ready,” I said and hung up the phone.
Priscilla looked up when I walked into the room. Her hair was in disarray and the pallor of her flesh was ghost-like. Her wrist was wrapped in gauze and heavily bandaged. I.V.’s invaded her arms.

“Hey, bro,” she said meekly.

“Hey, sis,” I said and sat down in the chair beside her bed. I extended my palm, and she tenderly placed her hand in mine. We sat silent like that for quite some time.

Finally, I said, “Are you alright?”

“Better, I guess, but I still don’t feel well.”

“I bet. What the hell happened, Prissa?”

“Don’t cuss at me. That’s mean.”

“That’s what I don’t get. You’re such a sweet girl. What would cause you to try and take your own life? You’ve got us all going crazy, you know. Mom’s been living here the last week, Dad’s trying to be the rock upon which we all may stand, but he’s crumbling, and I can’t even focus on the book I’m reading for school or anything else. What happened?”

“What book are you reading?” she deflected.

“‘The Sound and the Fury’ by William Faulkner.”

“That’s just a difficult book to follow,” she said. “Faulkner’s style can be discursive at times. ‘Go Down, Moses!’ is a better book. It holds his greatest story, ‘The Bear’.”

“Sheesh, little girl! You’re brilliant too! Now quit stalling and tell me what happened.”

“I don’t know if you would understand. And I’m embarrassed.”

“That’s absurd, Prissa! There’s no reason for you to be embarrassed. I lifted your naked, dying body from the tub and carried you to the ambulance. We’re way beyond embarrassment. Besides, I’m your big brother, I’ll love you no matter the mistakes you make and I promise I will always do my best to understand.”

“Promise times a thousand?”

“Times infinity.”

“It’s just… problems at school.”

“What sort of problems? Boyfriend problems? You’re only –”

“Not exactly. Not just that. There’s more.”

I waited.

“Well, spit it out already, sis,” I said not unkindly.

“Kids at school have been picking on me,” she said.

“Who and what happened? Why haven’t you told anybody before now?”

“I didn’t want to tell anybody and I don’t want you to either,” Priscilla said quickly. “I’ll be in high school next year anyway, you can protect me.”

“You’ll be a freshman and I’ll be a senior. I won’t be there with you very long but whoever’s bullying you probably will be.”

“They’ll grow up eventually.”

“You’d be surprised,” I said. “Tell me what happened.”

She was mum and I did not persist. Finally, she told me the story.

“We were playing soccer in gym class. I had to use the bathroom really bad, but I was so caught up in the game that I didn’t even realize it until it was too late and I peed on myself. Ever since then everybody, and I mean everybody, has been calling me Pissilla instead of Priscilla.”

“That’s stupid.”

“I know but it gets worse. There’s this boy I thought I liked named Bryan and last month at lunch he asked me to be his girlfriend…”

“What happened?” I asked gently.

“Bryan asked me to meet him behind the gym… He said it didn’t matter what other people said about me, he liked me… But when I got there, he was with the other kids who had been making fun of me. They surrounded me and one of the girls pushed me on the ground. She said that Bryan was her boyfriend and I was stupid to think that anybody would like me. Then they started chanting and calling me Pissilla and a girl even spat on me! They say stuff about me on the internet and send me mean messages that say I should just die and get it over with, and they just won’t quit. It feels like it’s never going to end!”

My mind spun in a whirlwind of rage. “I’ll beat their shitty faces in,” I said sincerely.

“No,” Priscilla sobbed. “That’s stupid. And don’t cuss.”

“Mom and Dad have to know about this, Prissa, okay?”

“No, I don’t want them to know.”

“Doesn’t matter, they have to know. And so do your teachers at school. Maybe they can talk to those kids or suspend them or something, but we can’t just pretend that nothing happened or it will never end. They say ignore it and it will go away, but that’s not always true. We have to do something about this.”

“It doesn’t matter. It will never end.”

“This too shall pass, Love,” I promised her. “ In one, two, five, ten years none of them will matter in the slightest. And one day they might even realize how stupid they were.
“You, on the other hand, aren’t stupid. You’re intelligent, kind-hearted, and pretty. And strong and determined. Should I keep going? You’re a great friend and sister and an excellent soccer player. I wouldn’t be surprised if you got a scholarship. But you can’t be doing this,” I gestured to her marred wrist. “You can’t, Prissa! Promise me, you will never ever, ever do this, or anything like it, again.”

“I promise you,” she mumbled.

“Huh?”

“I promise,” she said.

“Okay,” I said, rising from the chair. I kissed her on the forehead and reached into my pocket. “

Look at what I brought for you.”

“What’d you bring?”

“Your iPod and a handful of Hershey Kisses. A couple of your favorite things.”

She began to laugh as I sprinkled the candies across her bed.

“That’s more like it. Hey, I downloaded a few songs on there for you, hope you don’t mind,” I said.

“Which songs?”

“‘Ships in the Night’ by Mat Kearny, ‘Drifting’ by Plum, and a few others. Check it out.”
She put the earbuds in her ears and as I walked from the hospital room I looked back to see her listening to the music with her eyes closed, a wry, almost melancholic smile on her face.
“This too shall pass, love,” I said to myself.

When my sister returned from the hospital my mother convinced her to finish the last few months of the school year from home, but Priscilla was adamant about beginning her freshman year in public school. I assured my mother that she would be alright with me there as a senior.

Now, as a sophomore, Priscilla holds a steady 4.0 GPA. Her favorite studies are animal science and she aspires to be a veterinarian, if not a professional soccer player. The bullying and humiliation she suffered in eighth grade has been nearly forgotten, but the deep scars on her wrist will always hold as a reminder.

It’s a grave story that the scars tell: things don’t always go as they should. Sometimes it hurts so damn bad that life doesn’t seem worth living.

The light in her eyes tell another: if we hold on and we fight, it is possible to get through, difficult though it may be.

And as the tattoo on her forearm reads, as a reminder.

This too shall pass.

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From → Short Stories

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