You can't kill someone with words. No matter how scathing they are, no matter how much hatred they contain, they're nothing more than a handful of syllables, a jumbled mess of letters.
Maybe they seem to lash out, like someone is slapping you across the face.
It's an explosion inside your head, a sensation that could almost be mistaken for pain.
Yeah, so maybe they can hurt. But a word is not a physical blow. It can't make you bleed. It doesn't hold up a gun to your head and pull the trigger. It doesn't wrap a noose around your neck and strangle the air from your lungs.
It's all words, words, words. Nonsense. Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.
At least, that's what I keep telling myself. I have to believe it.
I have to believe that I didn't kill Claudia Anders.
Karina is sitting on my bed. I'm standing at the window. We're both completely still. I don't know what's running through her mind, but mine is replaying the message we heard over the intercom this morning.
Claudia is dead. She killed herself––went home after school and hung herself in a closet, just like that. I remember how in Health class last year, we learned about how afternoon is when most suicidal kids choose to do it. It's unexpected, your parents are at work and they don't get home until it's too late.
I also remember this retarded thing we did with a paper doll in Health class. We had to pass it around the room, and one by one we had to insult it and then fold up a little piece of it.
No one likes you.
By the time the paper doll had made its way all around the room, it was crumpled into a ball. The teacher held it up for us to see, saying, “This is what happens when you throw insults at someone. Maybe you don't mean it, but it folds up a little piece of them. And they just keep folding and folding in on themselves until there's nothing left.”
Karina was in that class with me, and I remembered how she looked at me right then and rolled her eyes and how I rolled my eyes back at her like I always did––because Health was stupid, because we never learned a goddamned thing from it.
But there was something about that scrunched-up mess of a paper doll that secretly got to me. I tried to crush down the stirring of fear inside, that part of me that opened and exposed the secret part of my soul that I had always hated––the part of me that always split open when I saw the hurt deep in Claudia's eyes.
Now it's ripping its way through again, like an evil demon leering at me.
You did this. It's your fault. She's dead because of you.
I was one of the people who folded her up, who crumpled her. She wasn't strong enough to withstand it, the constant flow of words that tore her apart piece by piece, that wore her down like a stone eroded into dust by a rushing river.
Karina says, “It's not our fault.”
But I don't answer. I want more than anything just to nod, just to tell her she's right. But there's that demon still inside of me, grinning in my face and threatening to kill me if I lie.
Maybe you can't kill someone with words. But you could have the thickest muscles in the world, and no physical strength could protect you from the brutal slap of insults. One word could still make you collapse in tears.
“It would've happened anyway, you know? She was messed up. She would've done it anyway,” Karina says.
I look out the window, watch each car go by, watch my whole vision start to go blurry.
“Damn it, Hilary. Talk to me. You know we didn't do anything. It's not like we murdered her.”
Shut up, my mind snarls at her. Shut up, shut up, shut up.
“She just did it to get attention. She knew no one would care about her unless she was dead. She would just love it if it messed us up.”
My hands are curling into fists and I want to scream at her, words that I've always been too afraid to say to her. Words I still can't say now.
“You're not crying, are you?” She chokes, sniffs. “God damn it, Hilary. You better not be crying.”
But suddenly, I'm as calm as can be––floating over the world and feeling nothing.
The funny thing is, she's the one who's crying.
Thanks for reading! :)