I've been sitting on the top of the stairs in my building for approximately three and a half hours. Sometimes I feel like it's the only place in the whole of the universe where I can reflect on things. Reflect, not think. Because I can think almost anywhere, whether it be about the colour of the stain on my new shirt, or the controversial theories regarding evolution, I know how to think. But this, crouched on top of the dingy stairs that lead to the roof, half -listening to the clicking of the decade-old elevator, this is when I can reflect. I sink. It's a sort of tradition I suppose, I scrutinise the lightbulb and drum my fingers along the floor. The shadow of the bulb quivers in a circular motion. I follow the umbered movement with my eyes, and the wallpaper changes. It's now mint-green, with dizzying orange stripes. I'm now seven years younger, sitting I her office, bouncing slightly on the chair:
“Yes” My mother looks anxious, she tucks loose strands of hair behind her ear.
“I believe-if my diagnosis is correct, that is, I-I believe”. She was stuttering slightly. I remember being embarrassed for her, I empathised with her superficial mannerisms and emotionless speech. I don't know why I did.
“Your daughter has bipolar disease and is clinically depressed”. She whispered that last word, as if it tasted foul on her tongue. My memory blurred out the rest of the scene, my mother’s reaction is unknown to me, and I've never asked her what she thinks. She comes home from her shifts a nurse around eight, cooks her three children dinner, and waits desperately for Freddie to come home. He's a brain surgeon, renowned for being meticulous and energetic despite the unbelievably long 80-hour weeks. Abandonment is her worst fear, my mother I mean. Because of what she did to my father and how he reacted. She was having an affair with Freddie and my father found out. I don't know how, I never asked. He packed his bag and left not only her, but us. His three oblivious daughters. Ever since he fleeted, mother is petrified that Freddie’ll to do to her what she did to Father. It's been two years since I last saw him. I never want to see him again.
What’s important about that psychiatrist’s diagnosis is how I reacted on the long-term. I think it's a load of nonsense. I'm not depressed at least. I know exactly how I feel. Fine. Absolutely fine. And I still don't understand what the medical people mean by “bipolar”. It suggests duality, heavy mood swings. I guess that does happen sometimes, but is not really a glitch in my brain, or just part of my personality?
After four hours on the top of the stairwellI stretched out, arching backwards and stifling a yawn. I waste my time. I'm seventeen and failing at school and instead of reading, revising I just sit, melting into the ratty carpeting. I would study after after dinner… Except I don't. I go to bed, with muffs hugging my ears so I don't hear Mother and Freddie arguing. The worst part is they're arguing about me. Medical bills, and cutting classes, and (this is kind of funny), my obsession with post-it notes. I plaster them all over the house the house, all over the walls. Tacky inspirational quotes like “Believe in who you can be. And become that person.” or heavy quotes about death, like “it gets better after you die”. Everything I do is extreme. Maybe that's why I've had six shrinks in seven years. My mother always gets upset and fires them when I wake up shrieking in the middle of the night. Psychology is her worst nightmare. I'm her worst nightmare.
I go downstairs to the second floor where our apartment is. It's seven thirty.
“Mum!” I know she's not home. My sisters are curled up on the sofa. Nine-year old Brenda's watching her show, I don't know what it is. Four-year old Po is asleep, her unkempt curls are sprawled across the cushions. I contemplate carrying her to bed. I don't. I grab a post-it and a pen.
Not hungry. Going to bed. Don't wake me.
I stick it on the fridge. I peel off all my clothes and climb under the covers. I nod off right away. I dream of a street, one I've never seen before, basked in golden light, lined with almost identical houses. A boy is running down the street, he's going fast. In the dream, he's running toward me. His face is all scrunched up, and I can't tell whether he's going to kiss me or kill me. And then he stops. Because he's not real, which reminds me: He's not running towards me, but past me. He knows I'm almost a failure. I sneak out that morning, at quarter to six, after a bowl of hot milk and buttered toast. School is not what I want to be that morning. Or that whole day. I tread the icy prairies near my building. There's usually no one there in the morning, especially this early and in the winter. But a boy is standing there, smack dab in the middle. He's wearing a forest green coat, and black jeans. A belt is wrapped around his flimsy waist. He seems mousy, tall, kind of like me. I decided, right then and there that I was going to introduce myself. I walked over to him:”I'm Ambré. What's your name?”
He turned around, starry eyes staring back at me. Black and somehow tortured.
“Finn” he whispered, as if I'd asked him a terrible question, which I don't think I had.