The Cutting Words
Diane closed the door to her bedroom and broke down in tears. She placed her face in her hands to stifle them.
What for? The thought flashed unbidden. Who’s gonna to notice? Who’s gonna care?
She threw herself onto the bed and wept. The sky beyond her window darkened and sprinkled the world with starlight. Diane remained on the bed, gazing out at it through salt-filled eyes and puffy cheeks.
The worst thing about crying, Diane thought, is nasal congestion. She also hated the hot tears flowing down her cheeks; another reason she never cried.
Diane closed her swollen and red eyes; they stung.
How could one’s contented life collapse in an instant?
How could one answer hurt so much?
She took a few shaky breaths and tried to regain her composure.
The silence beyond her bedroom boomed. It was so deafening because it was empty.
Diane had been living alone most of her adult life, and she always enjoyed it. Never lonely, her aloneness, her space, was a sanctuary where to regroup and recharge.
“Until Dennis,” her whispered voice cracked when she pronounced the name.
Diane took another trembling breath and hearkened back to when they first met. She tried to recall the joy of realizing not only that she loved him, but that he loved her back. But tonight’s cutting words slashed every memory.
“That’s your problem,” he said as he closed the door with a suitcase in hand.
When did it all go wrong?
Diane searched her memory for an answer or hint, anything that might tell her how she failed him.
“That’s your problem,” screamed in her mind.
The tears welled in her eyes and her chest hurt when she remembered the only other time those words had lacerated her spirit.
The memories flooded Diane’s mind. The school bullying, and her mother’s exasperated sigh as Diane, sobbing, yet again told her about the awful day, the mocking, the teasing, the ridicule.
Her mother rolled her eyes and said, “It’s you, there’s something about you that bothers them.”
“What?” Diane implored.
“I don’t know, but it’s you.”
“No one likes me,” the ten-year-old whined, hoping for sympathy.
But her mother’s indifferent shrug froze her and stopped the tears dead in their tracks. Then, her reply plunged down on Diane like double-edged swords that ripped and tore every molecule in her body.
“That’s your problem.”
Little Diane stood in the kitchen as the world spun around her and the harsh comprehension clawed at her feet. She had no recollection of what happened next, but now, watching the darkness fall, she realized the moment she became like her mother: cold, aloof, and disdainful.
Dennis brought her out of her shell, and she had been joyous for a while, but in the end, he too uttered the razor-words.
Diane sat up, blew her nose, and went to the bathroom. She splashed water on her face and gazed at herself in the mirror. A little ten-year-old girl stared back. Her eyes were puffy and red, her cheeks swollen, and she quivered with the weight of the desolate world.
Diane did not feel sorry for the little girl. That little girl had been with her all along, and she was always with that little girl. Separate, they were the friendless past and the lonely present, but together, they were the future, and absolute. A warm light sparked in Diane’s chest and coursed through her body, melting the icy scars marring her soul.
“It’s just you and me, kid,” she spoke to the mirror, “we need no one else.”
Diane managed a tiny, reassuring smile.
The little girl smiled back.