Saving Me

By: Sadie Allen

I stood at the top of the bleachers, studying the pill bottle in my hand and wondering if I should just chug the whole bottle or swallow a few at a time. If I choked, I guessed it would serve the same purpose. But that wasn’t the quiet, peaceful passing I imagined.

I looked out at the horizon, where the sun was dipping toward the earth, and exhaled a shaky breath. This would be my last sunset. It was a more perfect one than I could ever have dreamed. The sky was streaked in oranges, pinks, and blues, as a light, cool breeze whispered through the air, causing wisps of hair to tickle my face and neck.

I wrapped my arms around myself as I watched the sky deepen into twilight, the last vestige of glowing warmth before the oncoming night. It was kind of poetic in a way … I would soon drift away into the night myself.

I wiped the wetness that trailed down my face with one hand while I gripped the bottle tighter in the other. Was I really going to do this?

Now, you might be wondering why a girl like me, from a family like mine, would commit suicide in her track uniform while standing atop the bleachers at the football field. One word: desperation.

I knew it probably didn’t make any sense, but at seventeen years old, I was just tired of life. I was tired of being used and abused. Of being raw on the inside, like someone had scraped out my insides with a rusty spoon and left me bleeding and hollow. The pain blazing up my leg from the tips of my toes to the middle of my back was the only indication I was still alive. That I could feel anything. I was a ghost before I was even dead … which I was about to change.

I took a shuddered breath. A faint buzz filled my brain as memories flashed through my mind like some macabre slideshow.

I had a father who only started caring about me when I jumped my first hurdle on field day in sixth grade. Normal fathers would find this a proud moment, not change their purpose in life. It wouldn’t change the core of the father-daughter relationship. For my father, Derek Everly, however, it was a life-changing moment for the both of us.

My father had been a college track star who held state and national titles in the one hundred- and ten-meter hurdles. After graduating college, his path had been set for the Olympics. He had the determination and the numbers to back it up … until an ACL tear saw his dreams go up in a puff of smoke. So, on that fateful day, when his only child showed the same aptitude for jumping over obstacles, those dreams had reignited and became a blaze beyond my control. He was determined to live his dreams again … through me. Now he was more like a live-in coach than a father.

Sometimes I wondered if I was just numbers to him. Numbers on a stopwatch, in a track lane, on the scale in the bathroom, or a placeholder at the end of a race. Was my value really based on a set of figures? Would he still love me if I could never run again, like if I was paralyzed? My stomach roiled, and a sour taste filled my mouth. The thought was devastating. My life was numbers.

In his bid to achieve his dream, he controlled every aspect of my life, from what I put in my mouth to who I let ride in my car. He had once literally forced my mouth open in a restaurant to fish out a bite of buttered roll. Who did that? And Heaven forbid I let someone who wasn’t athletic, church-going, or white put their butt on the plush leather seats of my brand-new Toyota 4-Runner. Everything was about winning or how I made my family look in the eyes of our respectable townspeople.

My mother, her only crime was indifference. She allowed her husband to treat me like a possession because she was also a possession. Unlike me, though, she was a willing possession who didn’t understand why I chafed beneath the manipulation and control that were like physical bonds restraining me from living the life I chose. She didn’t realize, or maybe she didn’t care, that I was slowly suffocating, drowning in the sea of their expectations.

I shook my head in an attempt to hold the memories at bay. However, his voice was a constant presence in my head. All I could hear were his cold, unfeeling words …

“That was piss poor, Allison.”

“How many calories are in that?”

“You look heavy.”

“It’s like you’re running in molasses.”

Finally, his words from yesterday were the metaphorical nail in my coffin.