PROLOGUE: pro- ‘before’ + logos ‘saying.’
My parents always had a pure-white duvet on their bed—puffy as the clouds and as soft as I imagine those little Royale kittens would be. I’m allergic to some kind of down—
A YOUNG BOY:
Merry or sad shall it be?
either duck down or goose down, I can’t remember for the life of me which is it—but, whichever kind, that blanket was made of it, and because of this, I could never have such a luxurious blanket of my own.
A sad tale’s best for winter.
I never got to sleep on the clouds.
It was my sixteenth birthday. I’ll never understand the Universe’s fixation on giving little girls traumatic events—
I have one of sprites and goblins.
often tied in the brightest and shiniest red bows—on this precious milestone.
A HEROIC SHREW:
I pray you do not push me, I’ll be gone.
My first gift that day was my period.
There was a man—
This wasn’t my first period—I was one of those lucky girls who received that way back in elementary—
dwelt by a churchyard.—
but it was day one of that month’s, and day one always brought me crippling, back-breaking, can’t-get-out-of-bed cramps.
I will tell it softly, yon crickets shall not hear it.
My mom had just had an operation on her stomach the week before, and a knock at the door brought us a nurse, over to change the dressings which had been bandaging her infected incision. I let her inside and slumped down on the couch with some music to distract me. Loud, angry music that touched me even to my blackened teenage soul—much to my father’s displeasure.
Look to your babe, my lord; ‘tis yours.
There’s something in the genes on my mother’s side—anesthetics don’t work on any of us, and if something can go wrong during any type of procedure or surgery, it probably will.
Jove send her a better guiding spirit.
It was still early, around one in the afternoon, and it was an inspiringly fresh day for a birthday to fall upon. The mid-July sun at its peak sent golden beams shooting through the luscious green canopy atop the tree-covered street, touching the shaded front windows with swaying patches of light; yet, in my discomfort, I cursed the sun that highlighted the undersides of my eyelids, barring me from sleep.
What needs these hands?
I heard my sister walk by, and upon realizing I was there, scuffle through the front entrance—her brisk salutations shortened by the slamming door. This only ever meant one thing—
O think what thy have done, and then run mad indeed,
she was wearing my clothes.
Jessie was a year younger than me, but was taller and thicker, and always stretched and stained my beloved clothing into the mirror image of a kindergarten finger painting project. Messy Jessie, we used to call her—and she always tried to sneak out of the house in my clothing.
stark mad, for all thy bygone fooleries were but spices of it.
My parents were of no help in the matter; I had to keep my bedroom door sealed up with a padlock whenever I wasn’t inside of it.
What studied torments, tyrant, hast for me?
However, it didn’t end there. She would turn the whole house over in search of that key. Don’t ask me how, but she always found it in the end.
What wheels, racks, fires?
So it became a constant battle—changing the key’s hiding place every other week, alongside
What flaying, boiling in leads or oils?
countless other maneuvers that she would cross-scheme around. But she ruined everything she touched, so I kept trying—kept changing the hiding place of that key.
Silence—where was the sound?
O cut my lace, lest my heart, cracking it, break too.
Footsteps were all I could hear—heavy masculine footsteps, stomping away across hardwood flooring.
poor trespasses, more monstrous standing by,
The only sounds were the faint murmurings of a conversation between my mother and the nurse a few rooms over, and the excruciatingly faint clink of ice cubes in a glass of water.
whereof I reckon the casting forth to crows thy baby daughter
I couldn’t stand it one second longer.
though a devil would have
shed water out of fire ere done’t.
I crossed the living room and turned the stereo back on—lower this time. Hopefully it would be fine if it wasn’t so loud. Either way, it was going on.
What old or newer torture must I receive, whose every word
deserves to taste of thy most worst?
He was back in a second—my father, the owner of the footsteps—declaring that he wasn’t going to allow that music in his house from that day forward; suddenly so close that my cheeks felt the wind and rain behind his sharply annunciated words.
AN ANGRY KING:
My child? Away with’t!
He spat his syllables through the scratchy gray whiskers that enclosed his hissing lips. “Satanic,” he called it. This came out of nowhere—
Woe the while!
I cried; I told him it was my birthday—which he had not yet acknowledged—and that I was sick and that it wasn’t fair—
But the last—O lords, when I have said, cry woe!
The one thing I could get lost in until the pills kicked in—
But O thou tyrant, do not repent these things,
for they are heavier than all thy woes can stir.
And he hated when I panicked.
Therefore betake thee to nothing but despair.
Even thou that hast a heart so tender o’er it,
Suddenly, the clinking of ice became louder, closer—
take it hence and see it instantly consumed with fire.
accompanied by the swishing of water and the clatter of ice cubes vs. hardwood floor.
Go, take it to the fire—
Water dripped from the ends of my hair and soaked into my clothing. Sweet sixteen.
I am a feather for each wind that blows.
Then, second fire—
Shall I live to see this bastard kneel and call me father?
The now-empty glass fled from his grip and hit me in the chest—like the man who throws the gun once he’s run out of bullets.
Better burn it now than curse it then.
A GOOD MAN:
The storm begins.
I screamed; I thought I would explode. I felt a rush of anger, which dosed me more strongly than Naproxen ever could—but at what cost? I wanted to break him. Break
A thousand knees,
anything. I ran—ran up the stairs for the privacy of my own room.
ten thousand years together,
Halfway up the stairs. I didn’t even think—there was no thinking; only feeling. My hand was through the window before I even knew I was out of the living room—
naked, fasting, upon a barren mountain
I can still hear the sound today—of shards tink-tankling like wind chimes.
and still winter in storm perpetual, could not move
the gods to look that way thou wert.
Adrenaline supercharging every hormonal imbalance beneath my skin, I ran further upstairs to my attic-level bedroom.
Come on, poor babe,
I had to get on the other side of my double-locking door. I had to hide.
some powerful spirit
instructs the kites and ravens to be thy nurses.
Oh my god—I didn’t have the key.
poor thing, condemned
Holy fuck, where was the key? My head whirled in its natural, but nonetheless chemical, high. I couldn’t go back down there—he would break my neck for breaking that window. I stared down the lock; I opened the door the inch or so the padlock allowed for and pulled and rattled with all my strength—where was my strength?
Come, poor babe.
The doorknob was wet. I could see my bedroom through the partial opening. Why was the doorknob wet?
I have heard, but not believed,
the spirits o’th dead may
Not knowing what to do, and feeling dizzier—lighter—by the millisecond, I slumped into, becoming part of, my bedroom door.
I examined the fresh hole that had just been carved out of my right wrist. Fatty tissue bulging out in the puffiest, most un-skin-like manner. Cloud-like. Coral-like, even; while it’s still alive in the ocean and swishes ever so slightly in the waves’ pull. Wet and shiny.
…for ne’er was dream so like a waking.
It was coming out fast, the blood; pumping, I assumed, with the push and pull of every heartbeat. Tidal swells rushing—rhythmic, iambic—filling the gap with liquid life.
I calmly walked down the stairs, savouring each second of my first true personal disaster in a way that still makes my stomach churn. Teenage borderline in a fit of rage.
A fish in the water.
My father was in the hallway, stumbling into his shoes, tipsy with rage and the worst kind of excitement. I held out my wrist. Look what you did.
Weep I cannot,
A change took him as he watched the vivid red pulse forth from his daughter’s limb—my frail, stick-thin, sixteen-year-old arm. His posture softened and a glimpse of remorse leaked through his sternly fixed features. I had hurt him—maybe more than I wanted to—but his old-age virtue wouldn’t allow him to own up to it. His demeanor hardened. His sadness recrystallized into frozen anger in an instant—colder than before.
but my heart bleeds,
He struggled for words—and found the wrong ones.
“You weren’t an accident, you were a mistake.”
His words cut me deeper than the glass did. He was going to Jenny’s tavern, he said, adding something about drinking his face off and possibly driving off the bridge, as the door slammed shut behind him.
and most accursed am I…
I walked to my parents’ bedroom door. The dark, solid wood was a barrier, blocking my way. Apparently the noise was embarrassing my mother—I was never going to hear the end of that.
My family is rough—I might even call my father and sister somewhat barbaric. Most of the doors in the house once showcased elegant antique glass doorknobs, but the wear-and-tear plucked them off one by one. At this point in history, my parents’ doorknob was in two parts—the part on the inside of the door being the one attached to the metal rod that runs through the door and turns the latch. If you wanted to get in from the outside you had to stick a butter knife through, knock out the knob, and turn until it clicked. At that moment, I didn’t have the time or the motor skills for that.
I knocked slowly, but loudly—with my less bloody hand.
I never saw the heavens
so dim by day.
It was so convenient that there was a nurse present—I had undergone years and years of training as a lifeguard, but happened to fall into one of those apathetic moods where nothing could possibly prove my point like dying.
When they saw me, their reactions told me that I wasn’t really supposed to be calm—my mother’s face told me that this was, in fact, a big deal.
Thou’rt like to have
a lullaby too rough.
They sat me on the queen-sized bed, amongst conveniently placed gauze, medical tape, and pre-packaged alcohol swabs. What were the chances.
A sad tale is best for winter.
In just a few minutes, that white duvet—once cloudlike, angelic, Philly cream cheese commercial worthy—was steeped in an orange-crimson finish; not splattered with, but covered in.
Sitting on that newly red-painted bed, I wondered how my blood stretched so far without running me dry.
A polyphonic piece, blended with Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale. Borrowed lines are spoken by Mamillius, Paulina, Leontes, and Antigonus, respectively.
Note: Anyone who’s taken the time to read this is probably wondering about child abuse. Let me just say that although my dad was an asshole, I was a little shit, and both of us were suffering quite badly from mental health issues (also, I from hormones, and he from dealing with two teenage daughters). I should also say that this was one of the more dramatic instances. That said, that time in our lives is far behind us now. For him, the correct treatments were found, and I mostly just grew out of my issues, though with some effort and not entirely. Our relationship also improved about a hundredfold the moment I moved out. Looking back on this time doesn’t make me feel hate, but makes me feel gratitude for how different things are now and how far we've come.