From the forth-coming novel, “Broken”,  by Tiffini Johnson

I have to write this letter.  If you’re reading this, then it means you found me. I put the    towels on the floor and tried real hard to keep it as clean as I could.  I know it was still shocking and probably scary to find, though.  I’m sorry about that.  If I could have done it so nobody would ever know what happened to me, I would have.  But I don’t want anyone worrying about me, wondering where I was or anything like that.  My mom needs to know that I haven’t run away;  she needs to know what happened to me.  So there was no way to avoid the mess.

Whoever is reading this, I hope you’re not Mom.

I don’t want to hurt Mom.  She’s the only person who ever really loved me and she’s the only person I ever really, really loved.  If it wasn’t for her, I’d have done this a long, long time ago.  Mom told me to be strong.  She told me to have courage.  But I can’t anymore.  Staying alive is too hard, it takes too much courage.  You have to get up, hoping for a good day, but in your heart of hearts, you just know that it’s going to be a day just like every day before.   Staying alive is brave because, if you’re alive, you have to keep trusting people.  You have to trust them not to hurt you.  You have to trust them to tell you the truth. You have to trust them to take care of you. But nobody does that.  Nobody tells the truth anymore, nobody wants to take care of me and I’m just not strong enough to take care of myself.  I don’t want to.  It hurts too much.

I’ve thought of Mom a lot lately.  Ever since I realized there was no other way than this, I been thinking about her.  I remember when I was a little girl how she’d tuck me in every night.  Sometimes when she thought I was asleep, she would come in my room, put oil on my forehead and pray.  Sometimes she would pray out loud.  She always asked God to protect me.  I don’t know what I think about God.  It would be nice to think that I’m going to Heaven.  When I was a little girl, I remember walking down the aisle at church in front of everybody to get saved.  A preacher,  Brother James, put his hand on my head, made me recite a prayer after him, and hugged me.  He told me I was for sure going to Heaven.  I was saved.

But that was before.

Before I got bad.  I mean, I hadn’t done anything too bad at that point.  I really was a pretty good girl all my life up til then.  I obeyed my mom and my dad.  And I didn’t try to get away with anything too stupid. I didn’t say bad words just to say them or anything.  I said my prayers every night too. I don’t think there would have been too many reason to keep me out of Heaven then.  But then I turned bad.  Bad things started happening at nighttime, and I didn’t say nothing about it.  I mean, it wasn’t that big a deal, it wasn’t like I was being beat or nothing.  I didn’t have bruises on me.  At least not any that anybody could see.  It wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but it made me feel weird.  It kept me from having any friends.

And friends is what I’ve wanted most of my life.

I thought I had them one night. One night, I thought I was part of a group.  I thought I fit in.  We laughed.  I thought we were having fun.  Really, 
they were just laughing at me.  But I didn’t know that then. Once, I thought I had some friends.  I thought I was normal.  Maybe I thought that because I wanted friends so much.  I wanted to fit in.  I wanted them to like me.  So I did stupid stuff, stupid stuff I knew I shouldn’t have been doing.

And they laughed at me.

I just wanted someone to talk to me.  I just wanted someone to care.  Nobody did. I’m just a freak.  It’s all over me.  I’ve got cuts all over me.  Nobody else has cuts on them. But I do.  Last week, I carved the word FREAK on my right arm.  I carved it so deep it’s there forever now.  It’s like a tattoo.  There ain’t no point in denying what you really are.  If you are something, you might as well own it.  And I am a freak.  Everybody at school knows it. 

Dad knows it.

Anyway.  I don’t know if God is real anymore.  I don’t know how He can be.  It seems like if He were, He wouldn’t put up with all the crap that goes on down here.  It seems like He would stop it right quick when good people got a crappy hand dealt them.  The bullies are heroes, and their victims are freaks. Does that sound like something the God of the Bible would be ok with?  I don’t know.  I hope Heaven is real, though.  Tell Mom not to worry, I asked Him for forgiveness for what I’m doing tonight, so, if there is a Heaven, maybe He’ll let me in.  I hope there is one.  Even if there ain’t, though, or even if I go to Hell for what I’m doing, it’s better than being hated or ignored here every day and messed with every night.

I’m not doing this just because I’m bored.  Or because I want attention.  Or maybe I am.  Maybe that’s right, what they say about my kind.  Maybe that is what we want, after all.  I mean, if I had a real friend, even just one,  maybe I would have had a good reason not to do it.  But I don’t think it’s because I want attention. Mom always said, “You only fight after you’ve tried every other way.”  I tried everything.   I  tried so hard.   Nothing worked.  So this has to.  My whole life is ruined.  Nobody is ever going to see me as anything else anymore.  Nobody is ever going to want to be my friend.  I can’t get the bugs off of me, just like I can’t get the scars off my arms.  I’m doing it because I’m tired of waking up crying every night. I’m tired of being scared of the dark.  I’m doing it because, even if I turned eighteen and moved out, nobody would ever love me if I didn’t do it for him a lot, but even once is a lot, and I just can’t handle it.  It wouldn’t be real love, because if I was tired one night or sick or just didn’t feel like it, he could say he didn’t love me anymore.

Mom used to tell me think of my future.  She used to say that whenever I got sad, I should think about all the things I had to look forward to.  Maybe I would have been a teacher.  That’s what I wanted to be, when I was little. I remember getting paper and writing addition and subtraction problems for my baby dolls to practice.  I taught them.  And I always did real good in school.  Other kids, even the popular ones, would say tests were hard, but I never thought they were.  I always made straight A’s, so I think I could have made a good teacher.  Except that nobody would let me teach their kids, cause I’ve got scars on my arms and besides, I’d only mess it up like I messed up the game.  I’d probably scare the kids, or pass somebody that couldn’t even read. And the first time I ever saw a student bully another student, I’d fail him for the whole year even if he got real good grades on the tests. Yeah, I wouldn’t make a good teacher after all. You have to be normal to have that kind of job. I’d probably end up a waitress or something like that.  Besides, it don’t matter.  None of it matters if you’re not loved and nobody loves me.  Nick said he never loved me even a little, even though he told me he did. He was just lying, I guess.  Cause everybody lies.  And you can’t be happy if nobody loves you.  If you’re just one of those people, like me, that is never going to get somebody to love you, then why bother being strong?  What does it matter if you’re brave, if nobody can stand being in the same room as you?  He said I was ugly.  He called me a freak, and everybody else did too.  They said I was trash. And I know they’re right cause Dad thinks the same thing. He told me so. How could you ever possibly be good if your own dad thinks you’re trash?  Why even try?  Mom used to sing me a song every night that said,  “This little light of mine, I’m going to let it shine.”   But what are you supposed to do when you don’t have a light at all?

So you understand, right, why I had to do this?  You understand that there really was no other way for me.  I just wasn’t ever as strong or as brave as everybody else.  I was never really meant to be here.  When Mom told Dad that she was pregnant with me, he cried, he was so sad.  That’s what he told me.  I was a mistake right from the start.  I’m just trying to erase the mistake, that’s all.  But I want my Mom to know that it wasn’t her fault.  She did everything she could for me.  She prayed.  She made me go to school, even if I didn’t want to.  She used to play peek-a-boo with me when I was a baby, for crying out loud.  I know because I saw the pictures of her doing it.  And she wasn’t afraid to hug me.  I don’t want her to think I don’t remember all the good things she did for me.  I don’t want her to think none of those things mattered to me, because they all did.  She was a really good mother.  She’s probably the only one who will cry at my funeral.  But I don’t want her to.  I don’t even really 
want a funeral at all.  What I wish is that I could just be burned and have my ashes thrown out to the sea.  I don’t like the idea of being in the ground.  I’ve always been real scared of the dark. But it don’t matter, I won’t really be there, right?

One more thing has to be said.

Maybe no one knows, Dad.  Maybe no one ever will.  And maybe it wasn’t that big a deal.  I’m sure lots of kids have it worse than I ever did, just like you said.  Maybe no one will ever know all the things you did, or made me do.  Maybe no one will ever know all the things you said, even when you didn’t say anything at all.  Maybe no judge will ever send you to jail for it. Maybe you’ll live to be a very, very old man who always drinks coffee without cream and two things of sugar every morning.   Maybe you’ll never  feel a need to tell anybody about me.  Maybe you’ll forget all about it.  I don’t know.  No matter what else happens, though, I want you to know one thing:  you are the real reason I’m dead. In fact, I really died a long time ago, when I was just nine years old, didn’t I?   At least, most of me did.  And no matter what else happens, now you’ll know that, and maybe you’ll remember it every time I’m not there for you to touch.

So then.
It’s time.
Forgive me.