By: Paola Mendez
Simmons College, Boston, Massachusetts
They hung there perfectly crystallized. A quilt entwining itself over her dark circles. Her cheeks had become accustomed to the rigidity and heaviness that nineteen years of open wounds, broken hearts, bubbling laughter, and cycling misery brought around. She had yet to meet a single professional whose hand hadn’t started to tremble the second their fingertips brushed against the translucent formations. The first doctor her parents took her to was disgusted and refused to even look at her, much less find any way to treat her. The second doctor told her she should try to get more rest and eat healthier. The third doctor gave her a prescription of pills that she was supposed to take three times a day, which stopped her from crying. When the effects started taking place, she realized she no longer felt anything. Feelings bounced off her skin, as though emotions were mosquitoes and she was bathed in bug repellant. When she realized laughter felt heavy and forced, like coughing cotton balls out of her throat, she stopped swallowing numbness. Truly, she thought, it is better to feel hurt and still be able to feel happiness than to feel nothing at all.
When she was younger, she learned that she was not conventionally pretty. It wasn’t the big nose that she had inherited from her mother’s side of the family, or how she felt as though her stomach always stuck out too far. When she became aware of how terrified people were of the permanence of her waterworks, she learned that others were just afraid of people like her — people who were walking bruises. As a matter of fact, she thought there was something oddly beautiful about the way she carried pain so publicly. In a society that glorified indestructible facades and repression dug deeper than buried treasure, she was the undeniable reminder of the peoples’ humanity.
As she got older, the load of her own perception of the world became too much to carry. The suffering going on everywhere was draining, and she carried the sorrow that she saw in the very core of her soul. Watching the news wasn’t an option anymore because she feared that one day her body would simply refuse to lift the density of existence. On the very last day of her life, she decided to take a visit to one of her favorite gardens. Strangers’ eyes bore holes through her fragile, aging body, but she tried her best to smile and reflect love. There was something definite about the steps that she was taking; they were firm, yet gentle and sure of themselves—as if her feet knew it was the last time they would ever kiss every patch of earth she walked on.
The garden was overgrown and blossoming with life. Rose bushes tangled and choked dandelions while patchworks of daisies made nature seem like a professional seamstress. Tulips opened their petals wide to the sky and large sunflowers overlooked the entanglement of
blooming scenery. On the far right of the garden, there was a weeping willow tree whose trunk had memorized the curve of her spine from the many years she had laid her head against him. Just like her, he was an allusion to all of the things that being and feeling brought along, so their relationship was one of understanding. He never spoke, and neither did she, but they never had to. A soft breeze blew by and stirred the tree’s long and flexible branches. She looked up and saw that dark clouds had managed to quickly move in and coat the sky. Her chest felt empty and anxious at the thought of such a beautiful moment being destroyed by heavy storms. “I could have easily checked the weather and avoided this,” she said out loud. “I could have easily stayed home and stayed dry.” As the words flew away with the gusts of air that began to furiously shake the willow tree, a small ladybug landed on one of her fingers. She had cried into her hands plenty of times, so they became filled with beautiful crystals that she admired for the way they reflected light so gracefully. Seeing the delicate red and black ladybug against the solidity of her own body, contrasted against the angry storm that had begun to take place, caused something inside of her to stir. The emptiness in her chest felt deeper than anything she had ever felt before, but looking at the beauty and simplicity of the small bug made her heart swell with joy.
She felt too much all at once, so she began to sob. Her chest heaved and her legs shook and collapsed beneath her when she tried to get up. Her eyes turned red and bloodshot, but her wailing didn’t end. She cried for the ladybug’s graceful beauty; she cried for the storm whose raging anger would no doubt rip apart the most beautiful parts of her favorite garden; she cried for the people who would never see her as beautiful; she cried for the people who would never see themselves as beautiful; she cried for the pain they kept inside; she cried for every centimeter of emotion that had ever existed on planet earth until her tear ducts were entirely empty. When her crying stopped, the world around her stood still. The garden was indisputably destroyed, but the sun cautiously peeked out and promised renewal. The weeping willow tree’s long limbs brushed gently against something hard, and he was immediately devastated when he realized what he was touching.
Her body lay there, beautiful and glowing beneath the crystallization caused by all of her tears. She was a giant gem, glimmering underneath the sunlight that streamed in through the tree’s branches. Her eyes were closed, and she looked the most peaceful she had ever been in her entire life. She had felt harder than anyone had ever felt. She had never been more present in her entire life, so the tree thought she would have been happy with the way the world had decided to let her go. Raindrops slid gently down blades of grass and the universe breathed a sigh of relief. On the very tip of her finger, beneath the layers of crystal that decorated the entirety of her body, sat the tiny little lady bug, red with black spots.