March 5, 1982
Liz wanted to get up and run but didn’t dare anger Ms. Rothfield again. In her mind, she heard Wendy’s screams of agony. She couldn’t understand why she heard emotions, but it had always been that way. Sometimes it was useful, like knowing the best point to beg a parent for a new toy. Then there were times like this.
The Wendy felt alone, isolated and frightened. Frightened of her own mind, and what it was telling her. Liz couldn’t read the thoughts but knew what was happening, the girl wanted to die. Even at 12 Liz could see it. Liz wanted to hide somewhere where she couldn’t hear the thoughts anymore.
Wendy was one of the biggest targets of the bullies, and they were relentless. At recess they would mock her height, her weight and often asked if she was a man like in Tootsie. This morning she was so angry she shoved a girl to the ground then ran crying. As usual, the teacher yelled about roughhousing and went back to talking with the janitor.
For a split second Liz felt an aloneness beyond anything she had ever known. Liz was also ostracized, the others called her a scarecrow for her stringy blonde hair and thin build. She had to help somehow, but she wasn’t sure how.
As the bell rang the feelings changed from pain to certainty. The change chilled Liz to the bone. As they exited for lunch she saw Wendy slip off from the group and head in the opposite direction. Before she knew what was happening Liz followed. She had to help somehow, no one else would or even cared.
She followed as the larger girl began climbing up the stairs. Wendy’s steps gained speed as she climbed. They reached the roof, and Wendy climbed the ladder that led to the belltower. She looked over the playground and waited. In 5 minutes the kids would finish their meals and head outside.
Now was the time to act or she would jump in the midst of a shocked group of jerks. Liz called up “Wendy, please come down. You’re scaring me.”
“No,” she shouted down. “They all make my life hell. I’ll show them what they’ve done to me and they’ll be sorry.” As Wendy spoke I heard the sounds of chatter echoing from far below. The girl looked down, waiting to see something or someone.
“I know how you feel. They hate me too. We can help each other against them, won’t you try?” Liz called to Wendy, voice pleading.
The feeling of certainty began to waver, “You understand, don’t you? Maybe I can..” she was about to open when a shrill voice echoed up from the playground.
“Look it’s a whale in a tower!” came the voice, followed by laughter.
A teacher yelled “Get down now!” He didn’t seem to understand what was happening.
The uncertainty evaporated and she turned, preparing to let go. Liz saw only one thing to do. Usually, she only pulled a little happiness from another kid, or calm her father when he had too much to drink. This would be a whole different level.
Liz closed her eyes and focused on the pain and loneliness and took a deep breath. She pulled the emotions out of the suicidal girl into herself. The pain was almost too much to bear. She felt the isolation from the others, the fear of her father when he went after her. The girl’s life became clear. Her dad did things she never imagined a father would do to a little girl. She thought only grownups had sex. Why would he do that to her?
She pulled harder, Wendy’s pain amplifying her own. Soon it flowed into her without effort. Liz didn’t even notice when she fell to the floor, sobbing. She curled into a ball and sobbed Wendy shook her, and a teacher’s voice echoed over her, all meaning lost. There was only pain, fear, and loss. The feelings became so strong she thought it would kill her. In the deepest despair, a strange moment of clarity came over her.
Images flowed past her; a heavy set boy, yelling at her. A caring pair of eyes changed to the eyes of a demon. Voices called to her she knew but didn’t. People loved and needed her. Then a burning ended it, but it didn’t end, she kept going. There was a ring. She floated over a grave. It was hers.
Faces washed past, some she knew were friends, some enemies, some both. The heavy set boy was the constant and became her rock in the strange vision. Finally, an unimaginable storm of emotion tore at her. She screamed, but couldn’t hear herself over the torrent of pain. A hand, his hand, anchored her.
She shot up and blinked. She was in a hospital room, her parents sitting nearby praying. “Mommy, daddy? What’s wrong?”
The pair leapt up and hugged her, talking all at once. They wanted to know what Wendy did, what happened to her and how she felt.
She learned they had expelled Wendy over the event. Everyone was sure the large girl had shoved her down the ladder, even though Liz had no bruises. She had been in the hospital for almost a month, with doctors diagnosing her with a severe concussion.
No one believed her when she said Wendy did nothing wrong. No one would believe the truth, so Liz had no way to defend Wendy. Everyone thought Liz was either scared of Wendy or felt bad for getting the big girl kicked out of school. She ended up in a Juvenile Detention for 2 years, until she hung herself with a sheet. The other kids dug Liz for the juicy story and when she didn’t have one they mocked her for getting hurt from a simple push.
Her act to save a girl failed, and gained her ridicule and mocking worse than before. She resolved she would never help anyone again. Even as she did she knew it was a lie. The vision said as much.
March 5, 1982