Please feel free to critique. It’s really quite rough, but I’m trying not to overthink my work because I end up too worked over to continue. I haven’t had many people read my work for a variety of reasons so any critique will be appreciated. As well as general takeaways, I would like to know your expectations on where the story is heading, your impressions of the protagonist, and what she’s trying to say. Please also critique on voice, sentence structure as sometimes I can over/under complicate as well as grammar because I’m real shit at it. Lastly, please let me know if you would want to know what happens to her next, and if you don’t, any advice on what would make you want to read further. Thanks!
I knew I wasn’t normal. For as long as I can remember, my father has avoided my gaze as much as possible. The first time I’d gazed into someone’s eyes and had them return it for longer than two seconds, had shaken me. Thinking back on what had really only been a casual exchange, I sometimes think what a fool I’d been.
I had retreated then, confusion amidst a tangible anxiety that made my little body shake. My first day of school had not been a success. The tremors had increased the longer I watched the exchanges between adults, kids and adults, kids and kids, until a fellow classmate had noticed and ran off to alert the teacher that I was having an ‘eliptical’ attack. I wasn’t but my father had been called and I’d been taken home. I hadn’t spoken much for the rest of the day, I believe. I had been too occupied arranging and re-arranging my world. Why I had fell into such a panic, I don’t exactly know—and if I did, I don’t remember. But, I’d understood something that day. It had made me aware of the hole existing inside of me. And, as I grew it only got worse.
After that, I’d been full of questions. My father had told me, in that soft way of his, that it was him at fault, not I. Even though I couldn’t make sense of it, in the way that each child relies on their parent’s love, I relied on his words as truth.
Years after that, however, proved it was not true.
But, I digress. I knew I wasn’t normal because I see things.
It’s hard to explain to someone. I’d try to start. But, that has only earned me disbelieving looks (at the politest) or medication prescriptions—if not invitations to be locked up.
I don’t see ghosts or anything like that. That’s the first thing someone asks me. Not that I tell many people. It had been a hard enough first couple of years as it was. Not only had I been the weird ‘eliptical’ kid but I had been so painfully foreign, perhaps not in looks—but my knowledge of American culture and the weird way I apparently pronounced certain words.
It hadn’t been until another weirder kid had transferred into our classroom, had I gotten some reprieve—at least at that moment. Eight was the age everyone seemed to delight in questioning things—delight in disproving childhood fantasies. Santa Clause, Easter bunny etc. I didn’t believe in them. My father had been too practical of a man to even entertain such ideas to me.
However, I’d been sucked in a little bit, by the weirder kid—Yvette. Yvette had a friend who she insisted was always next to her. I think it’s name must have been Tessa. Tessa was imaginary—it’s a thing apparently. But Tessa also had a wildly different personality to the childish Yvette. Tessa had been wise and smart. It makes me wince thinking back on the multiple occasions where when we were stuck at a particular question or quasi-situation or more often than not, just what to do the next day, I’d ask Yvette to relay what Tessa thought. It was bizarre, scary but also strangely fun.
Because of Yvette’s openness and her insistence that Tessa was, in fact, real—despite the raucous laughter and scornful giggles that followed her—I’d shared the secret inside of me too. Lights I see in the sky no matter the time of day or night, blinking and dimming, blinking and dimming, but otherwise not moving in anyway. I’d thought it were stars until a nanny, years earlier, had pointed out to me that the stars drawn inside children’s book were just simply caricatures of their much realer, polite versions. Yvette had reacted much more pleasantly than my nanny’s scoffing had, even relaying Tessa’s own sagely advice or questions. Yvette had started my ugly war against hope.
One day, I shared with her another secret, driven by an enlarging ache, I told her I was going to run away and go there, wherever that was. She hadn’t reacted unfavorably at the time either, but soon after I was made aware that everything she’d said had been almost a joke—a way for her to cope with her father’s absence or something. This realization happened after she had told her mom, who told my dad who decided to send me on a small vacation—with a psychiatrist. Though, my father would never admit it, I had a feeling he had done it with the expected result that I would be doped up in medications, so much so that I would forget my own name, and thus no longer be who I was.
My chest aches, every time I think of it. I hadn’t thought so ill of my father at first. I had just accepted I was abnormal, that these lights I was seeing was a result of some imbalance in my brain. I hated myself for it. I wanted to tear my brain out and get a new one.
I wasn’t the normal daughter my parents had wanted. Sometimes, I think that if it weren’t for my mom dying abruptly and her being the love of his life, he would have just left me, would have left me to another family, be their problem.
He never expresses his heartache for my mother. But, I see it in the aching stares he bestows on the small amulet at my neck. It was my mother’s, given to her by my father soon as I had been born. I don’t think he realizes I see so much, but it’s his own fault when he avoids meeting my eyes.
It’s why I could never blame him for what he did. It’s why I never blame him for moving us to another country either, despite the fact that it left me alone with no support or ties to anything and anyone. Sometimes when I think back to the years before, the hole inside me seems to widen.
I tried the meds. But, I hated the feeling. I stopped taking them after a day, lying and pretending that I was on them.
It was how I started to fake it to the world. It would save me a lot of hassle. Gradually, somewhere, somehow I accepted that I wasn’t crazy. Just not normal. However, faking to the world would save me from putting my father in situations where he would be forced to hate me.
So, I copied the people around me. Found someone one day, watched as her smile transformed her face, that those around her, never failed to respond to.
I visited the cafe she worked at, everyday after school, mimicking her movements and the ease of that smile. When, she wasn’t there I fixated on someone else. If anybody found it strange that a young girl would order one strawberry milkshake, sometimes with fries, sometimes not, and just watch the servers all day, no one said anything. They didn’t seem to mind. I think they felt sorry for me, thinking I had no where to go. That, I was just a sad, lonely kid from a broken home.
Perhaps, in a way, they were correct.