I Wish I Could Be Happy

The grass melts like butter under my fingertips when I reach out from the side of the canoe. Wind blows up behind us, leaves do cartwheels in the air as they join hands. Warm water splashes up and over the edge of stiff wood. Birds sing to the beat of paddles drumming into the soft current. Auburn bears gather along the edge of the riverbed, sniffing pink petaled flowers. The sun gleams overhead, heat glissading and rebounding everywhere. A flutter beats near my ear as I spot a swarm of multicolored butterflies weaving between the streams of wind. Graceful as they duck and dodge leaves. The air tastes sweet like fruity candy. It’s taste sits on the tip of my tongue. I feel my hair getting tugged forward and I peak my eyes open and instantly fill with regret. Cold sinks into my skin and the wings of happiness flutter away from me. Pain explodes from my chest. My toes pound against the porcelain body of my bathtub and my fingers drum the tempo of my increasing heartbeat against my calves. The sweetness of the air is replaced by the metallic taste of blood, my bottom lip pulsing feverishly against my teeth. The salt from my tears are washed away with the warm water from my shower head, but the sobs build up behind my throat. I pack them into cases and store them in the back of my mind for later. My hand quivers slightly as I yank the foggy handle down and step into a cloud of steam.

A worn rough towel loosely hugs my figure. I look in the bathroom mirror. It’s covered by steam. Somehow the blurry and unrecognizable me doesn’t hurt to look at. Her appearance doesn’t make the hunger my belly seem melancholy. Her appearance doesn’t force tears to fall from my eyes. I have to be happy now. A shadow of my smile is painted on my face as I try to push kindness into my eyes. I open the bathroom letting a cold fist reach in snatch the comfort of warmth away from me. A second door opens as my mother walks out with her phone pressed against her ear. Her brown hair fell out from behind her ear covering half of her face but her well groomed and white painted nails tuck it behind. “Yes, Bethany, I know it’s late but I’m going to need you there. I’m leaving now. Can you double check the slide show? Everything needs to be perfect for the boss.” She’s going in late again. She turns towards me, pulling the phone away from her ear. “Money’s on the counter for pizza. I love you.” I nod and blow her a kiss as her phone finds its way to her ear. Her honey golden eyes flick over to the hallways mirror as she button the middle button on her charcoal gray blazer. Her slim toes slide into her black heels. She adjusts the silver cross necklace that lies in between her collarbones and brushes non-existent crumbs off her charcoal pleated pants. She glances over at me and raises her eyebrows with the question of “do I look okay?” I give her two thumbs up, squeezing my elbows to my side to hold my towel in place, and a toothy smile to say “you look perfect as always. Good luck with your presentation.” She winks then grabs her keys and walks out the door.

I turn toward my bedroom door and open it up. Shivers skip over my shoulders and continue over my dresser. My eyes flick to my mirror. Why so many mirrors? It feels like I am a house of mirrors. Every time I stare at myself I am different. A shape shifter. All of what I see in the mirror, I don’t like. I’m not good at math but even if I was, I don’t think there would be a large enough number to describe everything I hate about myself. My lashes blink back hot tears of anger. Why can’t I be perfect? Why can’t I be pretty? Why! My feet are forced forward as I clear my mind of everything that is wrong with me. I slip my pajamas on, keeping my eyes off my skin. I leave my room, walking past the hallway mirror, and with my eyes on the floor I enter the kitchen. Twenty dollars sits on the sleek marble counter island. I pocket it, promising I’ll slip it back in mom’s wallet when she won’t notice. Emptiness piles in my stomach. Weight pulls at my limbs. I feel weak and tired. My eyes threaten to close as I drag myself back to my bedroom. I crawl under the covers, resting my head in the fortress of pillows and stuffed animals that live on my bed. I’m so exhausted. A solemn tear falls down my cheek; my body looks calm compared to how tangled my mind was. I wish I could be happy.