For the past near-decade Citylife has hosted the northern chapter of the Junior Dublin Literary Awards. Here is this year’s winning essay, written under the theme, “Behind the Mask.”
Essay by Angie Kim Tran,15, Year 10, Lanna International School Thailand, Chiang Mai
She plods out of the steam?oozed chamber, drained. As if she, a ragged doll of her form, has given up to the reveric abyss of failure. Trudging towards the far left corner of “home” her protected sanctuary slowly she lifts her soft rippling feet, one by one, upon a slim miniature square board determining her worth. A slight chill has crept upon her and a sense of something or someone has brought her to discern but as she glances back…nothing.
Her room, the size of a prison cell deprived of light. Musty gray walls whimpering with whispers of the pain and the only source of day is draped in opaque discolor. A mayhem of rags intertwine, bind with junk, hurled amidst, engaging in decay whilst cloaking her room in a snuglike layer.
She shuddered, swallowing in deep breaths, squinting a few times before sneaking a quick peek beneath her feet. 98 pounds exactly. She’s gained. Her eyes bulge out, enlighten an envious crave, mind utterly fedup, insatiable. How could this be? She stifled her temper through purple tight fists. “No,” she muttered through clenched teeth, “No.”
“No more food for a week.” The mirror snapped. The girl straightened up. Staggering high before her was Death. Two empty voids prevailed as eyes, its sharp heart face and absurdly wide smile barely palpable through thick greasy tar vines streaming earthbound before her shoulders. The only nobilance over her wan flesh of glow is of slits and bruises. Still, her full frail complexion, aimlessly strewed upon again and again by stitches repulsing, with blood still seeking to seep through them. She draped over her a scruffy, what seems like a sleeveless oversized Tshirt, her left hand grasping tight on pills of medication, nuzzling the cold hard metal container firmly against her heart. “Remember, pretty girls don’t eat.”
She stumbles away from the toilet, brushes cold knuckles against thin colourless lips, face sallow green. Oily food wrappers, crumbs of crisps, empty tubs of Ben & Jerry’s and some crushedup cokezeros flung under the stained beige covers of her penny?hued queen sized bed. She rubbed the dried tears away, got out her phone and slid underneath the covers only to scroll and squander the night away.
“Get that lazy ass down here! And, do the god damn dishes!”
“Jesus! For christ’s sake! You’re asking for it!”
Thump…. Thump…. Thump.
“No, NO! I’ll go! I’m sorry! I’m sorry…”
“About time, you spoiled brat! I didn’t waste money and time raising you for nothing! What are you stupid or something?! You know what? Get out of my face! Wait, where the hell do you think you’re going? Go wash the dishes!”
…She was so close to death…and he was yelling about dirty dishes.
OTHERS HAVE IT WORSE. Attention seeker.
Stop feeling sorry for yourself. GROW UP.
Nothing… You are nothing. “Why can’t I just be…” Nothing.
“I am nothing,” the girl echoed back to the mirror and monotone hoarse. “I feel nothing.”
“I don’t deserve to be happy.” She collapsed into the arms of Death, in need of love, homesick for a place that she doesn’t even know exists. All she ever wanted was for her heart to feel full, an unknown place where her soul could be understood. All she ever wanted was someone to love and for them to love her back. She guessed it was too much to ask. The girl cut deeply into her skin, the very same skin that was tainted by her stepfather.
Hovering above her Death simmers, nodding propitiously along with the factual truth.“Why are you so sad?”
“I don’t even know anymore,” the girl muttered, “I’m just…tired.” But she couldn’t sleep. Death never sleeps.
Alone in bed she cries while everyone else sleeps. She cries and the walls cry with her. This is sanctuary.
“I can’t do it anymore.” “I’m tired of all this”
“One jump and I can end my pain.” She assured herself, wavering her weight against the the bustling highway bridge… “It’s easy.”… She closed her eyes and drifted away.
“This can’t be it.”
She runs towards the soothing sound of a childhood memory.
Trembling, she places her foot off the cool pavement and on?to the ever?unfolding expanse of hot pebbly sand. Golden like the sun beneath her feet she weakly collapse to her knees.
“What are you doing?!” Death sneered, encircling her, “People are staring and you’re
Indifferent, the girl continued down the shore, Death’s babble a mere fraction of the breeze drifting by. “I’m not the same old credulous girl that you know.You and your lunacy can get the hell out of here. We’re over.”
“I’m pretty,” the girl choked out. “I’m gold… I’m not slim but I am beautiful…and I will eat and eat and I will love myself because at the end of the day, I’m still living. So back off.”
Death slipped, frame rigid, gaping at the sudden turn of event before twisting it’s mouth into a menacing scowl, vanishing within a single heave of breath; like life.
“Hey Anna! What are you doing?” His eyes glanced at her wrists.
“You know, you look very pretty today.”
Her heart leapt but her mind started feeling. Masking the sudden jolt, she accused, “What do you want Hayden? Leave me alone.” Out of all the people to find me why him?
His eyes widened, bemused. His summer citrus hair barely visible under his stooped hood and his emerald eyes alert, fixed into her searching glare. He tried with her again.
“Hey, so I tried to call you a few times but this cranky old lady always picked up…”
Anna flushed. “You called me?” No. What does he want? “Erm…Sorry….I can’t…” Instinctively, she turned away, and ran, fluttering tears of embarrassment falling. “What on earth was I thinking coming here,” she cried as she ran.
“Anna, wait! Don’t take this the wrong way! Wait! Just… listen!”
By then he had caught up with her, arms pulling her in swiftly into his strong embrace. Anna flinched, but Hayden’s hold was already locking in.
“Why are you running? I want to help you. Don’t you know how my brother died?” his voice started to crack, “Please talk to me. I can’t lose a friend too.”
“Please…Stop.” She weakly pushed away. “Okay…But when you’re ready to talk I’m free.”
Eventually she gave up and leaned her head on his shoulder. A sad smile passed over his lips. “It will be okay.”
At last she is free from Death.
No longer is there the memorial of Death’s world in her mind.
For the millionth time light has fought to get in and for the first time she let it.
3000 people commit suicide every day.
But thousands more don’t.