Today’s story idea comes from Mary Anderson. Now. I need to warn you. This is a very strange story. And parts might not make sense. And that’s okay. Mary will love it. 🙂 And, for this story, that’s all that matters.
Conflict: Smiley clock is missing
College is supposed to be a carefree time. Late nights, all the food that just seemed to appear on my tray in the cafeteria, the grades that I knew would never really matter. Gosh. There are days when I would go back to that time in my life.
But then I remember.
I remember that it wasn’t all great. That there were moments. They are choppy memories. Hard to think about and painful.
For some reason, this morning, I decided to go through some old boxes. Purge the old useless stuff. I looked at the wall. Cardboard stacked and labeled with permanent marker.
“For Garage Sale”
College. Until I read those black letters that were long ago formed by my own hand. And, for the very life of me, I couldn’t remember what was in that box.
What would I have kept from those days? Old papers covered in the professor’s red ink. Pictures of trips. Movie tickets from first dates. A jacket that an old boyfriend never took back.
Something compelled me to open the box. To trudge it all back from the murky bottom of my memory.
I bucked against the thoughts. Why did I even keep anything from those old days? And why couldn’t I remember anything I put in there?
I walked into the house. Went straight to the kitchen. Decided to scrub the sink.
But the memories nagged. No matter how hard I tried to brush them off, they continued.
My senior year. That’s what was flashing into my mind. I was twenty. My hair was long and hung in my face. I wore pajama pants nearly every day. I was dating Tommy Jorgens. We’d been talking about marriage. But I never got a ring or a proposal. But that year. That was the year that I lived on the third floor of the dorm. An all girl dorm.
My roommate that year was Maggie.
Maggie had a slight obsession with smiley faces. They were everywhere on her side of the room. Posters. Tshirts. A blanket. Even a clock.
A smiley face clock.
I hated that clock. It had the loudest “tick, tock” I’d ever heard. It kept me up most nights.
“Maggie,” I said one day. “I’m going to throw your stupid clock out the window.”
“What ever Lauren,” she said. “You wouldn’t dare.”
“I have three exams tomorrow.”
“That’s dumb. Why would you do that?”
“It wasn’t really my choice.” I let my head bounce up and down on my pillow. “That’s just how it happened.”
“You want me to sing you to sleep?”
“Serioulsy, Mags, if you don’t take the batteries out of that clock, I’m going to break it.”
I heard her get out of her bed. Then I felt a closeness. Like something was hovering over my face. She flicked on a flashlight. Her face was inches from mine with the light shining up from her chin.
“Why do you make me hurt you, Lauren?” she asked in a creepy, scary movie voice.
That was first semester. We had fun. We fought. We weren’t a great match for roommates. So, we both requested new rooms.
I didn’t talk to her a whole lot the following semester. Just when we passed each other in the hall. It was nice to have a smiley face free room. My new roommate, Sydney, was never there. Always working or at the library.
So, I spent more time with Tommy. He wasn’t good for me. He ignored me a lot. Yell at me. Push me around.
Why did I stick with him?
Because I had no one else.
It’s a dangerous thing when a man, no a boy, knows that he’s all a girl has. And it’s even more dangerous when that’s exactly how he wants it.
When he cheated on me the first time, I was heartbroken. But I didn’t say a word.
The second, third, forth time. I started cutting myself.
The fifth time. I saw Maggie walking through the halls. She wore a smiley face tshirt. And a navy blue pea coat. With a patch from New Mexico stitched over the left chest.
I nearly fainted.
A year before, I’d sewn that patch on Tommy’s jacket after a trip we’d taken together.
That was it. I was undone.
“Why do you make me hurt you, Lauren?” Her voice echoed through my mind. Over and over and over.
Memory jostles now. How did I get back to the dorm? How did I get into my room? For some reason, though, I didn’t cut into myself. Instead, I cut up each thing I had that reminded me of Tommy.
Tommy. Old Tommy. I hadn’t thought of him in so long. From the kitchen, in my home, as an adult, I still resent him. I still hate Maggie.
They got married. Tommy and Maggie. Just a few weeks after I saw her wearing his coat.
When Maggie got back after they eloped, her smiley face clock was missing. She, of course, blamed me. She screamed at me, pounding her fists on the door of my room.
“How dare you?” she cried. “You should be ashamed of yourself.”
I wasn’t ashamed. Not even a little.
Back, out to the garage.
The stack of cardboard boxes.
I pull on the one that says “college”.
It falls on the cement floor. I kick it a little. Checking to see if it’s alive, I suppose.
The flaps pull apart.
An old, half burned candle. The tassel from my graduation. A navy blue pea coat with a New Mexico patch.
The coat I stole from the closet all those year ago. I rubbed my finger over the patch.
The clock. A stupid, yellow face smiled at me as I picked it up. I’d torn out the batteries so long ago when the ticking got to me. It was keeping me up at night. Hanging in my home, here, ten years later.
In the bottom of the box was a picture of Maggie and me.
“Why do you make me hurt you, Lauren?” Her voice comes back to haunt me still.
Somewhere, from deep inside, a laugh erupts as I tear apart the picture.