I am six years old, and my favorite number is seven. My mom’s birthday is August seventh. I cannot wait to be seven because I know that it’s the best number, and therefore must be the best year of my life.
I am seven years old, and I hate all numbers especially seven. The doctor says that I have a kidney infection. My cousin has had more kidney infections than I can remember. My uncle has my aunt’s kidney because his didn’t work right. Do mine not work right either? Kidneys become my least favorite organ.
I am ten years old. I have my birthday party at the movies, and we go to see High School Musical Three. I even have a pinata with all the characters doing the classic High School Musical jump on it. I lay on the floor that night in between my cousin and my best friend. I don’t sleep because all I can think about is how I’m a decade old now. I decide I want to have seven more decades at least. I’ve gotten over my hatred of the number seven. My cousin doesn’t sleep either. She takes my arm and leads me into the kitchen were we mix sherbet with Sprite. I drink it all even though it’s the worst tasting dessert I’ve ever had. My cousin likes it, so I do too.
I am twelve years old. My cousin has moved into my house, and it’s the best thing that could’ve ever happened. I learn how to remove the window screen so that I can crawl out onto the roof and watch four am approach to the sound of The Pursuit of Happiness. My cousin always has friends over, and my mom can’t know. My cousin teaches me where to hide things and how often to change up hiding spots. We crowd around the family computer, and she lets me pick out the pictures and captions to put on her Tumblr, but tells me that I’m too young to make my own. She gets a concussion the same day that I break my wrist. We call it fate and spend the day at home listening to Incubus in her yellow bedroom.
I am thirteen and my cousin no longer lives with me. I spend the summer sleeping in her bed and waking up crying. This isn’t when the night terrors began, but this is when they became permanent. When I stood in my own room, it felt abandoned. It was an empty, lifeless room I stayed in my cousin’s room because bits and pieces of her were still there: the hole punched into the door, the loosened window screen, the rock on top of the roof. There was no life in my bedroom, there still isn’t. I learn that I’m not the only one in my family who’s like this. I don’t visit my aunt in the hospital, but I learned the definition of suicide that summer. I didn’t know it was possible until then. I still thank God everyday that she went to the emergency room and not to the funeral home.
I am fourteen and I sleep in my own room again. I find new ways deafen the silence inside of it: my earrings, Breathe Me by Sia, and my boyfriend’s depression. I preoccupy myself with thoughts of only other people. I’m no longer a human, I’m just a vessel. A way that people get from point A to point B. I sail people from depression to happiness and back again. Just before four am has lost its magic, it’s just after that that gives me hope. So I turn in my night owl’s card for one that reads “morning person.” I throw out my black eyeliner pencil because it’s too obvious. I buy clothes with color, and I keep myself so busy that I can’t think. My boyfriend needs me to happy, so that’s what I do. I smile way too often. I laugh at jokes I don’t find funny. I funnel all my feelings back inside myself. I greet my law guardian happily and lie about everything I’ve learned as I always have, as I always will.
I am seventeen, and I’ve just downloaded every Incubus album onto my iPhone. I no long feel sad when I hear those melodies. I remember my cousin, but I don’t think about the nights I laid in her bed willing myself to disappear. I lose all but one of my friends because I break up with the boy who has depression. Turns out his depression was mine. I’m a hot air balloon after that, I rise higher and higher until I can’t tell my hometown from the town next to it from the town next to that one. I graduate high school. I donate pieces of my heart to all my classmates in a commencement speech that spells out my forgiveness and my solidarity. I decide to go to some college four hours away from home because the thought of being any closer makes me sick.
I am nineteen, and I am impossibly happy during the day. My life is full of learning, leadership, and advocacy. I do only things that I want to do which includes never looking back. I miss my mom at all times. I feel my future at all times. I am transitioning from the taught to the teacher. It’s wonderful. I never stop moving, ever. I take more credits than I need and join every club I possibly can. My life is a bicycle, it must be kept in motion to keep from falling over. I smile, and it’s real.
I am nineteen, and I am impossibly terrified at night. My dreams are full of faces I left four hours behind. I only half-sleep because their memories claw at my brain. They interrupt the normal dreams flowing through my synapses. The only time I stop is at night. I wish I never had to sleep because I’m sure that I could find things to fill the time. Why do I keep reliving my life at night? I thought that I had left it behind. It makes me wonder if I haven’t really moved on. It makes me wonder if I’ll ever move on.