SilencedBy: Leddy Harper
I hated school nights. Mom always made me go to bed early, even though I wasn’t tired at eight o’clock. She said I needed to get sleep so I could focus in class, but it didn’t matter how many hours of sleep I got, I could never pay attention the way all the other kids did. My teacher complained because I’d spend too much time doodling on my paper instead of doing the work.
Mom would get frustrated with me.
Dad would lose his patience.
But I couldn’t help it.
I remembered everything I saw, like a picture in my head.
Sometimes I’d draw the milk carton, the one that always sat on the top shelf in the fridge. Next to it, the bottle of wine my mom used to cook with and a two-liter bottle of seltzer water. I’d add the labels exactly the way they were—sometimes turned, other times only the backs of the bottles showed. There were times I’d sit in front of a test, and instead of giving the answer, I’d draw the page of the textbook the information was on. I’d sketch the photo on the top right, and then add in squiggles beneath it, where I knew the answer was, but I couldn’t remember the words.
The school counselor said I had a photographic memory.
I could physically see it in my mind, but rather than the information, I was left with images.
They tried pills.
Medicine made me feel weird. Mom told them I acted like a zombie. I was given several different prescriptions—again, nothing worked. One of them made me even more aware of my surroundings, adding more images to my mind I had to get out with a pencil and paper. The day I drew my mother’s jewelry box, exactly the way she had it with every ring, necklace, earring perfectly in place, she stopped giving me the pills.
I’d only seen her jewelry box once.
She said it wasn’t working.
Now she made me go to bed earlier, hoping more sleep would help.
But all I did was lie awake and stare at the ceiling. The muffled vibrations of the TV hummed through the wall. I pretended I knew what they were watching and created the entire movie in my head. Tonight, my parents were quiet, so I knew it must’ve been a movie about bad guys. Those never scared me, even though Mom and Dad wouldn’t let me watch them.
When the house went quiet, I turned to the digital clock on my nightstand. The red numbers told me it was just after ten. I’d laid there for two hours when I could’ve been drawing. Or reading. Or watching TV.
I closed my eyes and pictured the container of Legos in my closet. They sat on the top shelf right next to a barrel of Lincoln Logs. My clothes hung beneath them, organized by school clothes first, by color, and then my nicer clothes for church. Everything else was folded neatly in my dresser. Thinking of those, I pictured each drawer, each T-shirt and pair of shorts. I conjured an image of my Transformers shirt—the one with the mustard stain near the collar. Mom had wanted to throw it away, but I wouldn’t let her. I loved that shirt, and the stain reminded me of the birthday party I’d gone to and the hot dog I ate as I sat next to Lily.
Lily Rose—her real name was Lily Abernathy, but I called her Lily Rose. Because she was beautiful, and the first time I ever saw her, she wore red earrings in the shape of a flower. Whenever I called her that, she’d blush, and it made me smile.
My lips curled. With my eyes closed and the entire house quiet, I pictured her in my head. That’s when I turned off my brain and allowed myself to succumb to the daydreams of Lily. Of me going to school the next day and giving her one of my mom’s flowers from the garden.
But just as my body grew heavy and my mind got lost in thoughts of sitting next to the prettiest girl in class while sharing my sandwich at lunch, something pulled me out of it. My eyes flashed open and my forehead ached with tightness as I lay still enough to make out what sound I’d heard. My chest felt tight, like someone sat on it, but my heart hammered away. Pressure grew between my ears until it thumped along with my heart, faster and faster, louder, angrier.
And then I heard it again.
A thud, muted by my closed door.
A creak from the stairs, followed by what I could only describe as air leaking out of a tire.
I lay still, frightened, my entire body trembling.