Entry Wounds, by Paul Allih
This is my first entry in this thing.
Dr. Miller suggested I keep a dairy. She claimed it could help me cope with my feelings better. Ever the optimist, she said I could turn something negative into something positive.
Of course, Mom was all about it. She had a diary when she was my age, so she thought I should have one. Anything to make me more like her. It’s disgusting, really.
Dr. Miller told me that it would be for my eyes only. It wasn’t a coincidence that she looked at Mom when the words came out of her mouth.
This is all about Mom. The therapy sessions, her almost weekly meetings with my guidance counselor, her creating me a Facebook page I never use, and so on. She doesn’t like the fact that my best friends are music and books. She complains that I’m too introverted. Because when she was fifteen she was always on the phone with friends or going out to do things.
I mean, I’m not completely cut off. I go over to my older cousin’s house every couple of weeks. Usually to score some weed from her, but still.
It’s not that I don’t want friends. I just I don’t know how to be social. Whenever I speak to people in my age group, I get uncomfortable and start stuttering. I become anxious and heady, I can’t help but think they’re picking me apart with their eyes.
It’s hard to explain.
It’s easier to be with me. But I’m not allowed to be me. I have to be like Mom; the bubbly and outgoing realtor that everyone loves.
There’s someone new living next door.
I’ve only seen the daughter. She’s around my age.
I caught a glimpse of her from my room while she was walking around in her backyard. She has long, curly dark brown hair with mocha skin. She was wearing an old Stevie Nicks shirt with a pair of tight, ripped up jeans.
I watched her for a while, peeking from behind my curtain; trying to work up the nerve to introduce myself.
What would I say to her?
Probably nothing. I’d get so tongue-tied she’d think I was a weirdo.
It’s a gorgeous home with a giant backyard. Country-style, Mom says. It used to belong the Mrs. McCullers. But she was too old to maintain the house, so she put it up for sale and went to live with her daughter in Arizona. It’s been empty for two years.
I’m not sure when they moved in. I didn’t see a moving truck. It probably happened on a day I had school and therapy.
Mom decided to clean my room while I was at school.
She pulled the sheets from my bed and discovered my stash of medication stuffed in-between the mattress and box spring. A week’s worth of Seroquel; 400 mgs a pop that should have been swallowed twice a day.
I’ve tried to take them, but the second those pills hit my stomach, I get nauseas. Then I get drowsy, and before I know it, I’m staggering around like a zombie. At least they took me off the Klonopin. They put me on Xanax instead, but I trade those to my cousin for herb.
Dr. Miller diagnosed me as bipolar with social anxiety disorder and said I needed meds to keep me balanced.
They say I’m so much better on them, but I don’t see it. They’ve turned me into some kind of robot; hardwired and programed with chemicals.
I didn’t like feeling like a hapless husk, so I started shoving them under the mattress. But I fucked up. I should have ditched the evidence. Now I have to take them in front of Mom. Once in the morning and again at night.
Mom is killing me with these goddamn things and she doesn’t even care.
It’s been a few days since I wrote anything. I’ve been so drained. I go to school, come home, and crash. It’s all I seem to be able to do anymore.
I’ve tried to read, but the print gives me a headache. If I don’t stop right away, I get queasy. Dr. Miller said these are the side effects from taking myself off of the medication. They are only momentary and will pass as long as I keep up with my doses. So she says.
I haven’t seen the girl next door in a few days. Oddly, the house looks empty now. Maybe they’re out of town on vacation or something? I don’t know.
I just hope they didn’t move.
Found the grift.
When Mom gives me the pills, I drink the water and pretend to swallow them while keeping the capsules pressed under my tongue. The taste is something awful; a strong, bitter flavor that makes me want to yack. I power through it, though, and spit it into the toilet in my bathroom.
The first few times, I almost vomited. But I’m used to it now.
I just have to keep up the façade so she doesn’t suspects anything.
My taking these pills is just Mom over-compensating. Same thing with the sessions. I don’t need any of this. But ever since Mom left the party life behind five years ago, she has to be on top of everything.
She used to leave me with babysitters and she’d go out clubbing. Mom would be gone almost every weekend, doing lord knows what with God knows who. Then she stopped. Mom re-discovered her Mormon roots and started going to church. She makes sure I’m prim and proper and drags me with her every Sunday.
It’s like she’s trying to make-up for her mistakes while ensuring that I don’t make any.
I’m so tired of her suffocation.
The girl next door is Melissa, and she’s awesome.
Mom left to show a house, so I went out on the back porch for a couple of quick hits of herb while I finished Poppy Z. Brite’s The Exquisite Corpse. I was out there for maybe five minutes before she came outside.
Seeing her, I panicked.
I wanted to run back in my house, but it was too late she already saw me. She wandered over and leaned against her chain-link fence. Barefoot, in a pair of old, ratty jeans and a tight black t-shirt, she smiled at me. Her face was so warm and inviting, I found myself floating off of my porch and gravitating towards her.
“I’m Melissa, she said. “What’s your name?”
Her bubbly confidence made me feel sheepish. I told her softly, “Jen.”
“What’ve you got there, Jen?”
Like a dork, I answered, “A book.”
“Your other hand.”
“You feel like sharing?”
I smiled. “Sure.”
“Come on over.”
Trembling, I followed her. My brain was working in overdrive, telling me not to fuck this up by saying something stupid. She was so graceful in her movements and I felt so awkward clunking along-side of her, divided by the stretch of cold, metal links.
She opened the gate and led me to her back porch.
“My mom isn’t home, so we can just smoke here.”
We sat beside one another on the steps; chiefing and gabbing. She did most of the talking, but I didn’t mind. She’s home schooled and her mother works for a law firm. That’s her job for the time being, anyway. From the way Melissa spoke, her mother changes jobs as often as they change places to live. Melissa told me that this was their third home in two years.
I’m so jealous. I’ve been stuck here all my life. And to hear her speak, she’s so worldly. She’s known so many people and she has so many stories. I felt so infantile. All I could do was nod along like an idiot.
On top of that, I kept checking her out. I couldn’t help it. She’s so beautiful and so enthralling. I wonder if she noticed?
I just have to see her again.
I played sick today and met up with Melissa.
I gave Mom a Julliard performance of someone on death’s doorstep and she went to work. When the coast was clear, I popped out the back and there was Melissa; leaning on her fence, sexy and cool, like she was waiting for me.
She led me through the front gate and into her backyard. We walked out of her back gate and traveled into the next lot through a gathering of brush and trees. Melissa brought me to the center of a small, open section that was shrouded with foliage. No one could see in and we could barely see out. It was like a secret hideout.
Melissa took out her cell phone and started playing some Janis as I packed a bowl. I bobbed my head to Ball and Chain as my fingers pressed upon the sweet green.
Out of the blue, she asked, “Do you like your mom?”
“It varies,” I answered, pushing bud into the pipe.
“I hate my mother,” she said, leaning back on her hands and looking up at the blue sky beyond the tree line.
“Why is that?”
“She’s on my ass constantly. Because she fucked up her life, she wants to micro-manage mine. It’s aggravating.”
Knowing exactly where she was coming from, I said, “They made mistakes and they don’t want us doing the same thing, but they’re so wrapped up in their worries, they don’t see that we have to learn on our own.”
I felt proud as I passed her the freshly stuffed pipe.
She took a hit and said, “You’re pretty smart.”
I shrugged and looked down, bashfully.
“Hey, don’t take that lightly,” she said. “There are so many morons wandering around, taking pride in being stupid. Be proud that you’ve got brains. You’re ahead of the herd.”
All I could do was beam a wide smile.
We were out there for hours, smoking and talking. We discussed our lives and then touched on the smaller things, like music and books. We found that we have so much in common.
The time just seemed to blow by. And the longer I sat in front of her, the more I felt the urge to kiss her. But I fought it. I fought it hard, even though I could swear she was giving me signals. We had a chemistry. It was strong. I could feel it. Whatever she was thinking was coursing through me. I can’t really explain it.
Before I knew it, I had to go.
The time was ticking towards four and I had to be home to maintain my sickly guise. Luckily I bailed when I did because Mom walked in the door a less than a minute after I slipped into bed.
It was close.
I ditched school again.
Same procedure as yesterday; I lied in bed and forced coughs until I made myself throw-up. Was a lot easier today. Maybe because I knew what to expect.
After Mom went to work and I slipped out again. I popped out the backdoor, hoping that Melissa would be there to greet me. But she wasn’t there.
Waiting for her, I toiled on my back porch, attempting to read what was left of my book. Even though I was staring at the print, I couldn’t focus on the words. But I kept pretending so I didn’t seem desperate.
After ten long agonizing minutes, there she was; leaning on her fence with that glowing smile of hers.
“Can I come over?” She asked.
“Sure,” I said, trying my best to contain my excitement.
Coming around her fence, she stepped up on the porch. “Is your mom home?”
“She’s at work.”
“Let’s go inside then.”
As I led her through the backdoor, I started to get this cold feeling in the pit of my stomach. Like my gut was telling me that this wasn’t a good idea.
Going inside, I put my book down on the dining room table as Melissa walked around, scanning the house.
“Nice,” she said.
Suddenly, her eyes shot over to the liquor cabinet in the corner of the dining room. And she made a bee-line for it.
Looking at the solitary bottle of vodka collecting dust on the shelf, she asked, “So, what time’s your mom supposed to be home?”
“Probably around five or so. Why?”
She looked at me with a devious grin. “We should make some drinks.”
“I don’t think that’s a good idea.”
It wasn’t Mom’s bottle. Mormon’s aren’t supposed to drink. It’s Grandma’s. She comes to visit from Miami once a month and it’s kept there just for her because, as she puts it, “I’m probably going to hell anyway.”
Melissa grabbed a half-empty bottle of vodka and walked into the kitchen. “We’ll replace whatever we drink with water. The old lady will never know.”
“I don’t know,” I said, nervously.
“Oh, don’t be scared,” she replied nonchalantly as she opened the fridge. Taking out the jug of orange juice, she said, “Get us some glasses. I’m making screwdrivers.”
I walked over to the bar, trying not to show my dread. I didn’t want her to see me as some nerd, so I had to be cool and go along with her. Taking a deep breath, I told myself, “Fuck it”. I grabbed two tall, skinny glasses and took them to her.
To my quiet dismay, Melissa poured the vodka with a liberal hand. The booze came down like a waterfall and filled the bottom of the glasses. She was using a lot. When she sat the bottle down there was half of the half that was left. Seeing this, I couldn’t help but worry.
Dumping juice on top of the alcohol, she said, “See, there’s not even that much gone.”
There was huge dent in the bottle, but I took my drink anyway.
Holding the glass under my face, I waited for Melissa to drink first. It smelled awful. Like rancid oranges. I really didn’t want to drink it, but when Melissa dumped hers down her hatch so readily, I knew that I had to follow.
I took a gulp and I couldn’t help but wince. It tasted as bad as it smelled.
Melissa laughed. “Never drank before, huh?”
I didn’t say anything. Just choked down more of the gross concoction.
“It’s alright. It’s something you get used to. Got any weed?”
I nodded, battling through terrible burning that was washing down my throat.
“Awesome. You pack a bowl and I’ll put on some tunes.”
She picked up my phone and started thumbing through my music folders. Finding Patti Smith’s Easter, she put it on.
The track Babelogue started up as I walked towards the backdoor.
“Where are you going?”
I glanced at her curiously.
“Let’s smoke in here,” she said.
“My mom will smell it.”
“No she won’t,” scoffed, Melissa. “We’ll spray some smell good shit afterwards. It’ll be fine.”
I knew better, but I was swayed by her.
She took the pipe from my hand and sparked it up. Exhaling a deep drag, she bellowed an herbal scented cloud in my kitchen.
Watching the smoke waft into the air, I felt something shift within me. I don’t know if it was Patti’s razor-sharp poetics, but suddenly my rebellion came on in a strong wave, washing away my angst and fears.
Grabbing the pipe from Melissa, I took a hit and rushed into the living room, leaving a trail of fog in my wake. I turned on the surround sound system and synched it with the Bluetooth on my phone. The sonic blast of Rock N Roll Nigger exploded from the speakers and filled the house. The heavy, marauding guitars carried Patti’s passionate shrieks into our ears and pushed our bodies to groove.
Melissa took the pipe from me and set it down on the counter. She then snagged me by the wrist and pulled me into her. Her touch was electric. Coursing through me in concentrated streams. Moving to her lead, I couldn’t hide my excitement.
We danced for a little while and went back to the kitchen for our drinks.
She drained half of the glass in a few big gulps. Taking a deep breath, she set the glass down and said, “You better catch up.”
Throwing caution to the wind, I put the taste out of my mind and tossed it back. Melissa watched in awe as I chugged my beverage. Putting down the glass, it was clear that I had drank much more than her. My guts began to bubble as I felt a bit light headed, but I kept a straight, unfazed face.
Melissa smiled at me as she picked up the pipe and took another hit.
I felt this warmth coat my insides and my inhibitions began to melt away. Seeing her beautiful face taking a puff, I went to her. As she pulled the pipe away from her mouth, I leaned in and pressed my lips against hers. Melissa breathed the smoke from her lungs into mine as we began to kiss.
She took me to the couch and laid me down. Melissa crawled on top of me and we started kissing again. Our lips were locked as we caressed one another. Our hands moved and touched with gentle passion.
For some reason, my eyes would close and then go heavy. Even though my nerves were standing on their ends with titillation, I felt myself drifting. No matter how hard I tried to keep from fading, it came on that much stronger.
My eyes closed again and then everything went black.
When I came to, I was groggy and there was a pounding in my head. My eyes were heavy and slow to open. My mouth was dry and sticky with a foul taste.
I looked up from the couch and there was Mom, looming over me as I lied there in my underwear. She was holding my pipe and Grandma’s bottle with a scowl.
Picking myself off of the couch, she shook her head. I grabbed my clothes and pulled them on as she walked into the kitchen. I tried to explain myself, but she wouldn’t respond. Her silence spoke in greater volume than her words could have.
She hasn’t said a word to me since. After she cleaned up my mess, she locked herself in her bedroom.
I just don’t understand why Melissa would leave me like that. Cold and unconscious for Mom to find me. She left me holding the bag like a fucking fall guy.
I thought we made a connection.
Maybe I’m wrong?
Maybe she’s just like the rest of them? Maybe she can’t be trusted either?
Mom kept me out of school today to see Dr. Miller. She went into speak with her first, which was unusual. This wasn’t good. I sat out in the lobby for almost twenty nail-biting minutes; sweating over what Mom was telling her.
Finally, Dr. Miller opened the door and waved me in. When I stepped inside her office, Mom was still sitting there. She wouldn’t even glance in my direction as I pulled up the chair next to her.
Dr. Miller told her receptionist to hold her calls before closing the door and walking back to her desk. Focusing her eyes on me, she said, “Your mother tells me that you skipped school and she came home to find you drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana.”
She was reading me like a book. There was no point in lying or trying to make up excuses. I just nodded.
“Now, I’m going to ask you something, and I want you to be one hundred percent truthful with me.”
I nodded again, veering my eyes toward my chucks.
“Have you been taking your medication?”
“No,” I confessed. “I’ve been spitting them into the toilet.”
Dr. Miller sighed as Mom let out a gasp. Looking over to her, I could see she was on the verge of tears. I felt like crap. It was as if a knife was plunged into her soul and I was on the opposite end, twisting.
And then, while I was at my lowest, Dr. Miller hit me with it.
“Your mother and I feel that it would benefit you to spend some time at Sandy Pines.”
The notorious Sandy Pines mental health facility; where so-called troubled kids go to become worse. The stories from this place are spread throughout the halls of every school in the area. Once you go in, it’s hard to get out, and any child who ends up there is mocked without remorse.
I was speechless.
Holding back my tears, I turned to Mom and asked, “Mom, is this what you want?”
Dabbing her eyes with a tissue, she snapped, “No, this isn’t what I want! I want a normal daughter who will go to school and make friends and do what she’s told!”
Her words came on like bullets. Drilling deep and burning with every inch.
I started crying and haven’t stopped since.
Mom’s supposed to make the call Monday, bright and early. I’m looking at a minimum of six months. Could be longer. Depends how much they like Mom’s insurance.
My heart’s racing just thinking about it. There’s got to be away out of this. I can’t go. I just can’t.
It’s Saturday. Mom had an open house today.
When she left, I stepped outside to see if I could find Melissa. To my surprise, she was right there waiting for me on my back porch.
I was mad at first, but the way she stood there, head hung low and looking at her feet, so vulnerable. It threw me off guard.
Melissa told me she was sorry for leaving the way she did. She said she heard a car pull up and she ran out the back. She said she got scared.
“Nothing happened,” she admitted. “You fell asleep and I just sat there with you.”
“I got in trouble,” I told her.
“They’re sending me to Sandy Pines.”
“It’s a treatment facility,” I said, sullenly.
“At least six months.”
“You don’t belong in a place like that.”
“I know, but…”
Wrapping her arms around me, she squeezed tight and said, “You can’t go. I need you.”
Just as I hugged her back, the backdoor swung open.
There I was, in a loving embrace with the girl next door while Mom stood in the doorway, staring blankly; flushed white, pale as a ghost.
“What are you doing out here?!”
Breaking away, I stuttered through an answer. “I was just…”
Looking over to Melissa, I saw that she was gone.
As I wondered how she took off so fast, Mom stomped her foot and ordered me back into the house.
Doing as she said, I scurried back inside. Slamming the door, she started ranting about how she forgot the keys to the house on Kentucky. She went on and on. Blaming me for her being so scatter-brained.
I yelled “Sorry” as I ran up the stairs to my bedroom.
I wasn’t sticking around for anything else that might come out of her mouth.
How much did she see of me and Melissa?
It’s off putting she didn’t say anything about her or even acknowledge her. But I’ve heard her spiels about gays before. How it’s unnatural and against god. And the last thing I needed was a lecture about fire and brimstone.
Melissa came to see me last night.
I don’t know how she got in, but she woke me up. My thoughts had been swirling all night and I had just fallen asleep.
With a soft caress on my shoulder, she jolted me awake. Sitting up, I asked in a strained, but excited whisper, “What are you doing here?!”
“Shh,” she said. “Just listen…”
Seeing the rigid expression on her face, I gave her my full attention.
“We have to kill her.”
“Your mom. She has to die.”
Stunned by her proposition, I was bewildered.
“She’s never going to accept you. Deep down, you know this.”
My head began to feel heavy as my pulse raced.
“This is the only way.”
Without another word, Melissa took off.
Before I could stop her, I fell backwards. Collapsing onto my pillow and drifted back to sleep.
All morning I’ve pondered if this was just a dream, but I know in my heart that it wasn’t. It felt way too real. She was here. I could smell her sweet, herbal shampoo and the flowery scent of her lotion. I know the smells, because I use the same products. That’s how close we are.
Her touch warmed me despite how chilling her words were.
I have to see her soon. Somehow.
I feel sick to my stomach after what just happened.
It started off with Mom lingering around the house all day. She didn’t go to church, so I found myself waiting for her to go somewhere or do something so I could see Melissa.
I was a ball of nerves, waiting to talk to her about last night. Part of me was tempted to walk out the backdoor and dare Mom to stop me, but the last thing I wanted was a confrontation of yelling and tears, so I refrained.
After hours of sifting around downstairs, she finally came up and announced that she was taking a nap.
This was my moment.
Like a spy, I snuck downstairs with quiet, careful steps. I crept through the living room to the dining room and then entered the kitchen. My steps became extra soft upon the title as I made my way towards the backdoor. But as I reached for the knob, I felt a force clinch my shoulder and drag me backwards.
Spinning around, I came face to face with Mom.
She was angry, but her eyes were wrought with concern.
“What are you up to?” She seethed.
Even though I was startled, I could have come up with some B.S. answer, but I was tired of all the ducking and dodging.
I answered honestly, “I’m going to talk to the girl next door.”
“No. The girl who lives on the other side of us. Melissa.”
“Honey, that house has been empty for a long time.”
“No it hasn’t. A mother and a daughter just moved in. They’re like us.”
With sympathetic eyes, Mom said, “Jennifer, no one lives there.”
“Mom, you’re wrong. I’ve spoken to her.”
She wept, “Go to your room.”
The more I tried to tell her, the more upset she’d become. Then all of a sudden, she snapped. Like a lunatic, she screamed, “Go to your room right now!”
With icy chills exploding through my body, I ran up to my room and locked the door. I jumped on the bed and cradled myself until I calmed down enough to cry.
How could she not know someone lives next door?
There are so many questions that it just mounts to more confusion. I can’t even think straight.
I can’t do this right now!
Melissa snuck in again.
I couldn’t sleep. Part of me was waiting for her.
As I thought about it; it dawned on me that I had never laid eyes on her mother. Why was that?
Suspicious, I asked, “How come I’ve never seen your mom?”
Melissa kept up with what she told me about her mother working day and night, but when I looked deeper into her eyes, she couldn’t help but cave.
“Look,” she sighed. “I’m squatting there. My mom was beating me down and I split. She’s a Muslim with a lez for a daughter. You do the math.”
As she told me this, I thought of my mom and how I could never come out to her for the same reasons.
“Sorry I lied. I just didn’t want to risk getting caught.”
“Don’t worry. I told Mom about you living next door, but she didn’t believe me. She acted like I was seeing things.”
Confused, Melissa said, “But she’s seen me before.”
“Yeah. She was looking right at me on the porch. That’s why I ran. I didn’t need her questioning me or calling the cops.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
“Don’t you see? She doesn’t want you hugging on other girls. If she can make you out to be crazier, her gay daughter can be out of her hair.”
My heart ached and tears rolled down my cheeks as her theory began to take weight.
“We have to do it tonight before she can call the facility in the morning.”
Blubbering, I shook my head, “I can’t.”
“Jen, you have to.”
“Yes, you can. And I’ll help.”
She pulled a pistol from behind her back. It was a .22, just like the one in Mom’s nightstand.
Looking at the gun my eyes grew wide. The way the chrome gleamed around the pearly grip, it was so surreal. Then she put in my hand. Feeling the weight, my heart sank.
“This was my mom’s. You just point and shoot.”
“I can’t do this,” I said, teary eyed.
Putting her arms around me, she held me close and whispered, “You’ll do it and then we’ll run. We’ll run and we’ll be together forever.”
Then she crept out, leaving me alone with the gun and my thoughts.
As the cold steel warms in my hand, I know Melissa is right. As long as Mom is around, she’ll do everything she can to keep me locked up. As far as I can see, she’s left me with no other choice.
Melissa said she won’t feel a thing because she’ll be sound asleep. Makes sense. Before she knows what hit her, she’ll slip into a long, never ending dream.
And then we’re free.
Paul Allih resides in a small town in Florida where there’s nothing to do but fish or develop a drug habit. When he’s not writing, Paul keeps himself occupied with dark fiction, true crime, and cheap bourbon. His story, “The Extra Mile” will be in the Stiff Things anthology from Comet press this summer.
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Tags: family, mental illness, murder, Paul Allih