[an excerpt from I Feel Sick But I Still Love You]
The first thing I’d like to say is that Mica had been holding the knife. Not me. A lot of people have been saying that I was holding it, that I had let him fall into it. Well, that’s not true. He fell into it himself.
“I thought you loved me, Carly.” he had spoken so quietly, so hurt that it broke me, somewhere, to hear it- and believe me, as soon as I heard it, I knew exactly what it was that he meant.
My spine tingled, just knowing he had been watching from the upstairs window.
He couldn’t have- no, he didn’t- he, he hadn’t seen. He wasn’t supposed to know… or at least, not yet. This was too soon.
“W-What do you mean?” the spit from my stuttering mouth spattered across his face and his clothes, but he didn’t notice. He was too busy making sure I saw him holding the knife- and I saw it perfectly, reflecting, a mirror in his small, girlish hands, pale and translucent as ghost. “Put it down, Mica,” I found myself saying. “…Of course I love you. You’re like… a brother to me.”
Mica had once already told me that he loved me, but I knew he didn’t mean sibling love, though I pretended otherwise…. And ever since that first time he’d said it, I had been bothered by him- so much that I could barely look at him anymore.
He was such a fragile person… pale skin, oily brown hair, and those sad, filmy puppy-dog eyes, the ones that could melt me and take away volition.
But it didn’t matter anymore- Mica’s face looked stricken as he sat in his wheel chair just now (which creaked softly underneath him), gripping the coarsely frayed, pleather material on the arm rests, white knuckles appearing as portents, his skin practically translucent and practically invisible above bone. “No.” he said slowly, shaking his head, back and forth, slowly to and fro. “No.” The long, drifting movement slowed with each cock of the head, until he found himself quite still again, as he’d been before, if not more so. Then, he lifted up those horridly sorrowful eyes and looked into mine, piercing my skull.
It was no use hiding anything from Mica- he caught on quickly and ultimately- his intellect was as taut as a whip, tighter than I could have imagined, really. “YOU LOVE ASH!!!” he screamed, the words so loud that they echoed off the walls and reverberated within the hollow cage of the small elevator shaft.
I jumped and fidgeted fearfully at the sound, how it seemed to drone on after its occurrence in his empty, old house on Maple Wish Street. I had never before heard his voice at this volume, I hadn’t known he was capable of it.
My lips fumbled over the words that didn’t exist, grasping at slippery sentences before I had even formulated something to say- I wanted to say something that didn’t sound so wrong, as he made it out to be, as if I’d committed some cruel crime by just dating his best friend, rather than him. Just by kissing Ash, under the maple trees… outside his window.
“Mica, I, Please. Understand, Mica, it’s… it’s a different type of love.”
I didn’t really register what happened then, not in the immediate sense, as I was still lost these jumbled words, they tumbled over each other, shame and guilt overwhelming- but I heard the scream that followed; Mica let out an earsplitting, screeching moan. It was more horrifying to the soul than to the ears.
I stared, aghast at his crippled figure, heaped crookedly on the floor at my feet like the mountains of smelly laundry that grew in the hallways of Asher Gregory’s house like living mold. He’d fallen from his chair, and I discovered the reason why- I stopped breathing when I saw the plastic handle of that flimsy steak knife he’d been shining at me protruding outward from his body, the blade submerged in his leg, the blade, the blade in him.
His hands slipped with the milk of anxiety over the handle in his initial attempt at removing it.
Blood trickled down his pant leg, smearing his white hands, like a juice stain, thick, red wine, tomato puree, bloody Mary. I remember how thick blood is when I look back at these moments, I remember how it pumped through and out of the flesh to reveal itself to me, a rosy flower blossoming from the epicenter of the wound, the carnal nature of life, sickening, watery around the edges of the knife.
I remember absently wondering whether the blood could end up staining his hands, which had been forever white.
Would the blood ever go away?
It leaked from his torn thigh muscles like gasoline now that he’d wrenched the blade out to release it.
I remember the patterns it made, how it drenched his blue jeans in artistic, imperfect swirls.
My jaw shook while watching him, taking this all in. It had become unhinged, from my face. His frail body twisted in the sudden agony that I felt in my bones just from the sight of, and he plunged the gory point back down into himself again, slicing his leg up again, like so much ham. He yanked desperately on the black handle, crazed, unwilling, but purposeful and compelled. The knife slid out of his flesh with ease this time, and back into his shaking hands.
To my horror, he brought it down again, again, faster, over and over, into his crippled legs for the third time, letting out those coarse, wet cries, screams that shook the house with that tall frequency that split my head like a melon.
And then again. And Again.
The noise of the knife, penetrating the swollen flesh, strangely appealed to a dark side in me, even as I stood there glued to the spot and horrified- somewhere awakened the childhood memory of a vast farmland in Salinas, that one Thanksgiving I watched my father slaughter a wild turkey with an ax on an old tree stump beyond the gate. I’m reminded of how I’d turned away, but somehow ended up seeing everything nonetheless, every sound and smell that came with murder, fresh as the blood that pumped from the headless turkey’s unforgivable wound. She spread her massive wings before me, and ran, as far as she could go without a head. She was beautiful, even in death, falling and remembering her heart had nothing to beat for.
A quick slash, exuding, nauseating, I watched the life of the knife as it ripped through Mica’s tendons, which had never worked before, and perhaps were mutilating them for that reason.
He had hated his legs, he hated how they didn’t work, he hated them, I could see it in his eyes, but had never anticipated this. I would have turned away but, as with the turkey, I saw everything in the end, no matter how much effort was made to avert my gaze.
I simply could not look away.
This time, I heard the scrape of bone meeting metal. Another. Repulsing. Bleeding. Palpitation. Choke. Vein.
It took me a couple seconds to realize that Mica was still screaming, for however long it had been since I’d stopped counting his self-inflicted wounds. He was screaming so violently, and screaming my name.
I could hardly breathe, but somehow managed to will a tentative step backwards, hands reaching out shakily for the stair railing on the wall. I felt the peeling paint job across its metal surface crush and turn to blue dust in my hands. I remember the flecks of paint peppering my hands, blue freckles giving away where I’d been, when I came home to my mother after playing here as a kid. My head swam, dizzy, falling- I could trip through time and dimension, I was so precariously perched on the edge of this world, this world I thought I fucking knew.
Where sanity was something that had actually existed, and friends didn’t suddenly try and cut off their own legs, screaming in pools of their own blood, no. This was not reality, this was something of a dream, but I was as awake as I had ever been, watching the seams of reality start to fall apart like this, like science fiction.
My head spun, I was so dizzy that even the smallest trip might send me out of here, projected at escape velocity, falling out of the world completely like a space ship, belonging nowhere, forever just a satellite. And I almost did trip, several times, over myself, my shoelaces, the steps I leaped over at the bottom of the stairs; fled in fear down the old wooden staircase as soon as my senses returned to me, telling me to run away from here. Mica’s screams and that terrible slashing noise were still echoing, echoing, driving me fucking crazy. I wanted it to stop, please God, make the screaming stop.
I trampled into the bare, dimly lit kitchen and flung myself desperately at the green plastic phone that hung on the wall between the elevator shaft and the stove. Across from the refrigerator. Below the staircase. I remember the set up of that house as if I was there just yesterday; I close my eyes and I can see everything exactly the way it was, and the way it has always been, inside Mica Lorenski’s house. I wanted to run, badly now- instinct told me to run, but I couldn’t, not yet. The phone was an outdated model from the seventies, maybe; it was the color of a pickle. I pressed it to the side of my cheek poked out the only numbers I knew at this point, 9… 1… 1… slow, deliberate strokes, afraid of fucking up and having to hang up and do it all over again. Time felt slow and urgent and nefarious.
“911. Your emergency?”
My mouth opened and I could feel the words pouring out, but no sound was heard. I remember not being able to tell if I was speaking or not- but there was only my silence which answered her because just then, there was a loud fump on the floor above me, like Mica had tried to stand up or something, probably to get into his wheel chair on his own, which he couldn’t do by himself anyways, even if his legs weren’t cut up like they were today- what was he thinking, trying to do that alone?
What was he thinking, trying to cut his legs off???
His voice once again rattled the bones in my head, threatening to break an ear drum, or pop an eye-socket, break glass. How could he scream that loud? How could anyone scream that loud? I didn’t know a lot of things. I didn’t know most things. And ignorance blew up in my face like a land mine.
I could hear the slithering of his body as he moved across the floor, heading for the stairs, leaving his wheelchair behind to instead come for me. The operator kept asking me what was going on, could I breathe, was I experiencing any chest pain? No, lady. I cannot breathe, I am capable of utterly nothing today. And I utter nothing, because I can’t seem to find the words to describe that.
Some phobia sparked inside of me like this was going to be like a horror film- Mica was crawling down the stairs, bloody and zombie-like, with his knife and mutilated, crippled legs, not my friend anymore but a monster of the little boy I once knew, I guess, and I was next, I was next, the previews said.
The words of the operator were just sounds to me now and they emptied themselves of meaning.
I didn’t know what to say.
Mica’s body slithered down each step, which was met with those terrible thuds, one by one, he was coming to rip me apart, or something. His movements were jerky. He was covered in blood, the whites of his eyes brilliant and consuming, a subhuman image that made me go back to being afraid of the dark.
I dropped the plastic green phone then and let it swing there by the stove with the garbled mistranslation I was receiving warbling on. I couldn’t take this house a second longer, and I was in a full sprint before I even got outside.
And how I got past those stairs and out of the house at all? I don’t know, but the last thing I remember after that, I was booking it. I ran like I’d never run before at full speed, down some familiar sidewalk, alongside some familiar chain-link fence. A pleasant green soccer field was behind it, empty. There were no human beings for miles, it seemed, because I ran and ran, but where was everyone? I remember running and running, until my legs burned and seared and then went numb, but there was no one there, I was all alone, and determined to keep running until that was no longer the case.
My hair passed over my eyes and face, stringy and grimy with my own sweat, snot, and tears, blinding me so that only my feet knew where I was going, and how to get me there.
I fell. My knee was skinned, but I couldn’t feel it, and it was superficial anyway. But I laid there for a few minutes, silent and bound to the ground, transfixed on the pale blue sky like some horrible carpet above me, remembering Mica’s mutilated thighs, remembering Mica’s face, remembering the terrible demon that had replaced him today. That’s what I remember, anyway. And it is the truth.