“Disordered”

Alexis Burnette


Vthpo Dizr Nofm Mnoth Kryv Fto. The words are whispered with no volume at all.

Author: Misfiring Brain

 

The credits roll. Tiny words meet the edge and fall off. The off button is pressed, and green and red the little buttons flash. The image on screen changes to an 11 year-old girl on a ratty, torn-up beige couch. I stick my tongue out at the reflection. The girl responds in kind. I glare, wiggle my eyebrows into a furrow, and tilt my head upward importantly. My tongue zigzagging in aerial loops and curves in a challenge to the girl in the mirror. The other me in the mirror glares back. Her pink tongue is weaving and waving like a duelist’s sword. We both stop, as we break into silent giggles. Shoulders shaking, I hide a grin behind the torn cartilage of nail bitten fingers.

A lumpy brown pillow and the snoring head of blonde hair atop it sit by my left thigh. I ease my weight off the cushions at a slow crawl, until cold floors meet colder feet. Mother is asleep on the couch again. A glance at the clock over the TV has me grimacing at the numbers. Too late to wake her. I lean over the bulky prone form and snatch the blanket there with the soft whisper of cloth on cloth. The blanket is draped and tucked in around her. Snug as a bug in a rug. Just like mom used to do for us. Bare feet tread softly, as I turn and leave. My foot hits the metal coffee table, and it emits a small ting. I halt. Blond tresses shuffle, and pale eyes peers through the strands.

She hums, fingers the blanket, and says, “Thank you, honey, you’re such a nice, little girl.”

“No problem, Mom,” I say.  

The eyes close. Air sneaks out between my teeth. I doubleback and turn off the lights. My eyes prickle in a static snow wash of blacks and blacks. I stare at the spot where the ceiling fan should be. The light from the TV set blinks at me

“Mom, what do you think about split personality disorder or schizophrenia,” I ask in a not neutral tone. Too purposefully neutral would be too unsubtle. It should be safe to ask now. It should.

“Like from the show we just watched?” She asks with a thick sleepy hum. “I think people like that deserve to be locked up on the funny farm,” she says.

Oh. I stay silent.

 

What was I just doing? It hurts. Why was I sad? I have tears on my face. What hurts? My back…someone set me on fire. No one set me on fire. I’ve never been set on fire. That is…as far as I know. What was the name of that girl in German class? I forgot. Where did it go? Where? Who? What? I don’t understand. I’m scared. I don’t like this. I’m forgetting everything. I’m scared. I’m scared. I’m scared. I’m scare. Scar. Sca….Sc….S….What was I thinking about?

 

I first noticed Annie, when I was 11. Though her name wasn’t Annie, she had no name then.

Annie was Terrifying with a capital well-earned, as she hissed and growled gutturally into my ears. I thought the other was a demon at first, as I had begun losing larger and larger snippets of memory. Though to be fair to my imaginative 13-year-old self, Annie’s personality was a little…berserk. If she could have gotten away with grabbing a knife and brandishing it at each and every adult that came within 5 feet, she would have with a fierce, predatory relish. But she couldn’t. She was a fierce and angry ball of protective instincts, but she didn’t exist. Instead, this person, whatever she was, took the punishment for me. Why couldn’t she? For I was hers. Let go, she would say. Let your body float away like a balloon stay with me for a while.

 

Run rabbit, run rabbit, run, run, run. Don’t be afraid of the farmer’s gun.

 

The words and phrases started around middle school, at about the same time of the hallucinations (at least I think so…I mostly hallucinate simple bugs). The abuse began in elementary school. Joel, my father, was fond of more verbal and psychological methods, such as gaslighting. Hate him. Hate him. Hate him. HATE. For those uncertain to the meaning of the word, it is a method of psychological abuse. The victim is manipulated to doubt their own memory, perception, and sanity. My father was proficient in its use. Though he was no slouch with physical intimidation either. There was once an “accident”, involving seatbelts for my brother and me. We had marks on our throats for hours afterwards. There were also his three murder attempts on our mother. She won’t tell us what happened on the second attempt. But in the first, he tried to run her over, and on the third, he tried to bludgeon her with a fire poker.

 

The words, intrusive thoughts, played out again and again between my head and my fingers, lining my thoughts and the sides of my journals. Most of the time, a primary phrase would be replayed for weeks if not months with a few others random ones that might only pop up a handful of times, specific to that day. Black ink smudged down the sides of the paper, and scratched over words stain the pages. Today’s a bad day. I lost my arm. Again. My brain etches the nonsense into my cerebrum, and I use both perfectly fine arms to yank my backpack from the locker. Phantom hands spider their fingers around my neck, before they clench down, squeezing me like one of those stress toys with the pop out eyes.

“Hey, Alexis, wanna come over this weekend,” Madison asks.

I nod. The hallucination continues. Hands clench, unclench, and then clench again. It mirrors a hidden memory. I don’t try to dig it out.

The hands continue for an hour.

 

They hate you.

 

Small calloused feet paced almost drone like in a tight rectangle around a long dining room table. The heels of the feet were cracked open, close to bleeding and caked with black grit. Around and around the little girl went. Hours passed, or was it minutes? There was a clock in the kitchen, but someone was in there. Tired feet misstepped, and a hip hit the sharp corner of the table. She kept walking. The warm sting of a forming bruise, blooming with each step. She stopped and looked down, pressing a finger into the purpled spot. Two pale arms with tiny freckles rose and turned. Pale eyes stared into pale flesh. They opened and closed and opened again. Fingers clenching and unclenching. Whose are these? Whose arms? They wiggled, stretched, and spasmed under her gaze. Not mine.

She blinked, face blank. Suddenly, like a coat rehung onto its hook or a picture replaced onto a wall, it comes back.

“Oh. It’s me,” I thought. It’s my body…my hands? “But who…,” I clench my fingers. The feeling still dull, as my fingernails bite into my palms.

“What’s my name?”

I scratch at an itch on my face. Huh? There are gritty dried tracks of tears on my face. I scratch at them. I want to go wash off, but…something bad had happened. I know that much, though not what exactly. It’s still not safe to reemerge, so my feet walk and walk. When I stop again, my face feels like I’ve scratched it raw. I probably have.

 

Useless.

“Shut up,” a voice deeper and individual to my own says.

“Annie, you can’t argue against intrusive thoughts. They’re just thoughts,” I say.

“That doesn’t mean I can’t get angry at the stupid organ that calls itself our brain,” Annie says.

People who don’t exist don’t have brains.

 

“Hi, Annie,” I wrote. “Hello, Alexis,” my hand writes back.

The words are too black against the white of the paper. They are too visible, too loud. I hide the journal in my desk cabinet, buried under half-finished projects and broken odds and ends.

 

Father was right. You are a monster.

 

There is a weevil in my cranberry juice. My tongue slides over the rough craggy skin of my lips, as I watch the bug squirm in the murky red. I turn in jerks and tremors under the thick comforter. My muscles are weak with fever. I pull the glass up closer to my face and turn to the lamp. Red light slides through the drink and crawls up my skin. Where is the bug?

My mother comes in and tell me to drink up. She’s holding a bottle of pills.

“There’s a bug in it,” I say.

She snatches the glass. Or maybe she just takes it from me gently. Her lips are an upturned grimace that molds into something else; it’s something I can’t read. I’m too busy watching the crawling masses on the walls. She’s turns the glass. She eyes it from every angle. The red murky liquid is searched over and over.

Where? Where? Where?

She takes me to the emergency room. My blood is septic.

 

What if we were all pineapples?

 

I sit in my German classroom, reading the text in bored confusion, as the wall whisks by and grinds off my arm. The wall sits there. My arm moves to turn the page, and the feeling remains on replay.

“Wir bist du?” My teacher asks.

(How are you?)

“Ich bin gut,” I say.

(I am good)

You deserve the pain.

 

Gabby is friend shaped. A bob of green decked hair fluffs around her head. Her smiles don’t always reach her eyes, like mine. She understands. She’s the first to ask for Annie’s name. We sit leaning against each other on the ugly but comfy lime green and aqua spotted rectangle of carpet, poking the other in the side, when one of us starts to tip over the other. Books and comics are spread around us in a circle on the tile.

“Come on. Go to the school therapist. They’re university therapists. They won’t tell your mother anything,” Gabby says. She passionately bumps me on every third word or so.

My words freeze her. “What do I do, when mother asks about the charge after the first free session? You know how she feels about mental illness.”

We share a look, and I smile at her. She smiles back. They are not true smiles, but the hug she gives me afterward is not an act.

“Thank you for helping her,” Annie says unheard.

Run, run, run, run, run, run, run!

That same week I eat with Ethan and Apollo. Apollo is a service dog, and Ethan is his human veteran with PTSD. We sit in the Bruce cafeteria at the University of North Texas eating the newest special of the month at one of the higher, green tables. It wasn’t really a special, just the same meals.

I hum past my mouthful, and Ethan bites through a chunk of over seasoned potato.  There is a half-registered noise. Both of our heads turn. A loud, chatty student is getting in line. He has red glitter in his beard and is wearing heels that looked fit to kill. We stare for a moment. We go back to our conversation, and I gulp a green mixture of orange Fanta and blue Powerade. There is a too-quick movement. We turn. A blond girl with a pink pastel jacket had tripped. Five seconds pass, and we turn back. Someone drops a dish with a loud crash and cheers. We both turn our heads to the scene. More staring. Our conversation restarts, but our heads keep turning now like security cameras on sweep.  

From the floor, Apollo looks up at us with copper eyes. He nudges Ethan’s leg with his head, until Ethan stops and pets him. His hat hides his eyes behind camo. Everything he wears reminds me of camo. Ethan stops turning at the same time; Apollo turns to me. He has a deep stare for a dog. His golden fur is thick and silky, as I run my hands through it to give him small scratches.

When I look up from my now fur covered legs, Ethan is frowning at me. His eyes aren’t positioned right to be looking at me though.

“Apollo is so cool,” I say.

Ethan blinks himself back and looks straight at me, “Yah. Have you ever thought of having a service dog?” He hesitates, before he says his next words, “Lots of people with PTSD have them.”

I smile with a show of teeth and say, “I wish.”

One day you’ll be all alone.

My friends laugh around me watching some stupid B-movie Madison found.  

Non-fiction piece by Alexis Burnette