Anger, Fuel Connected

A flash of sky runs across my eyes as the blinds are reeled open by my mother’s long, spindly fingers. I can feel the taste of morning dance across my tongue, swimming into the back of my mind—a glimpse of the obligations I have set out for me in the later hours; and it tastes terrible. This is why my breath reeks in the morning: I’m too tired. So I pull the covers back over my head, and my mother—again, with those spindly fingers—is quick to peel them off me.

“Get up.”

I turn over. My face is now against my pillow, and it’s hard to breathe; but at least my eyes are closed this way, and at least I can’t see the sun—bright and obvious in the way its light takes up space—or my mother’s face, written in wrinkles and sunspots, with anger flaring each crevice up like a small bit of burnt coal lights up a whole stack of firewood. 

My body is quick to turn around right side up, however, for the sharp slap across my the elbow forces me first to my side and then on my back. “Get up!” she yells again, and it is only once she jabs the alarm clock in my face when I feel the weight of her words. 8:05, the digital numbers read, red and blinking under the time’s urgency. 8:05, 8:05, 8:06—and it is then when my mind can decipher how exactly late I am this morning, and how much I really do need to get up.

I am instantly awake. My mom watches as I bounce around the room, first to my dresser and then to my mirror—outfit check, outfit check, 1, 2. She scurries behind as I whip the door open, cussing under my breath as it bounces back off the wall and into my bad knee, and when I’ve finally made it out the door I realize that it’s been 10 minutes—10 whole minutes—since I’d read the clock last, and that now it is 8:15, and that I am really, really late. A cold sweat leaks first from my temple and then drips down my arms, my sides—the very thought of my teacher marking me Tardy puts me in a panic, and I can already feel the glares of 1000 eyes plastering themselves onto me and my red, red face as my backpack bumps against my back. My bag and the things within it (feeling heavier than they normally would) ricochet off the desks that line the narrow walkways until I finally flounce into my desk—the back one, there, in a corner—the seat meant to keep me invisible but now keeps me all too present. Everyone watches me slump. My bad posture—made habitual over the years—is no longer a part of me, the mere act of my body relaxing in its lazy, slouched nature, but evidence of how pathetic I really am. 

30 minutes later I am still settled with the dust bunnies and watching, hopelessly, at the minute hand on the clock above the teacher’s desk, ticking slowly and painfully despite my many prayers to God, each “Amen” spoken at the last second of every 60. 

It takes me a while for the embarrassment to sink in, or at least disappear. Everyone is over it now, and I know that—but why is my face still red? I press the backs of my fingers deep into my cheeks—why is my skin still warm? 

I want my dignity back. 

I know my classmates aren’t looking. 

There’s a movie I watched a couple of weeks ago. Diary of a Teenage Girl, I think is what it’s called—and there’s this bit I like in particular, a really good bit, when Christopher Meloni goes: “When you shake hands with someone, look them in the eye and say to yourself, “I’m better than you, you son of a bitch.”

I sit up straighter.

Still no one can see me. 

I fold my hands together, tightly clasping finger with finger so that my own hold cuts off the circulation to my fingernails. Control.

Everyone faces the board. There is only a sea of hair; no eyes meet mine. 

So I stare at blonde-haired Rita sitting by the door, the same girl who snickered as my bag made music against wood and plastic. My eyes meet the braid that runs down her back.