There’s a moment in everyone’s life when it feels like you’re on the outside looking in, like a person staring through a window. It’s like everything you hadn’t realized (or didn’t want to realize) hits you in the face. The feelings you purposefully shoved down comes bubbling up your throat, burning the back of your mouth and pricking the corners of your eyes.
It’s like a homeless man staring at a family on Christmas, suddenly everything comes crashing down on him. He’s alone, dirty, dying, while they are together, happy, and living.
Usually these moments happen after the fact, when you’re lying face down, attempting not to move your back because then the ice pack will fall off and then the bruises will be worse, and even though it hurts goddamnit , you can’t cry. It will only make your father and mother angrier. It will only make your fucking perfect brother more disappointed in you.
Usually, these moments happen right after you feel like you’re high. Like, after you came out to the person you love, and they called you wanted you wanted to be called. Cisco. Not Juliana. After he called you his boyfriend and didn’t care that that means that he’s gay. He loves you for who you are, no questions asked. When you were so happy and then everything falls down, a house crumbling around your ears, the flames no longer dancing around your skin, but burning the layers off, leaving you raw and exposed, your inside for all to see.
Usually, these moments bring about a sudden thought of clarity. It isn’t normal for parents to beat their kids so badly they can’t move. It’s not normal for you to have a stash of ice packs in a cooler in your room for bruises. It isn’t normal for your family not to give a fuck whether you went and offed yourself (which you are seriously considering doing) or not. It’s not normal to not be loved by the people who raised you.
And then comes the plans, the schemes, the what-ifs. What if I killed myself? What if I fight back? What if I called the police?
And lastly, that what-if that sticks. The one that was always buzzing at the back of your head, always present but never making itself known until now. What if I ran away? It’s this one, this small glimmer of hope that fills your mind, ideas and scenarios seemingly coming out of nowhere.
(But they didn’t come out of nowhere. You remember the nights when the tears seemed unending and the plans ran circles round and round in your head.)
Sometimes, you push it out of your mind. No. I couldn’t. But other times, other times you’re so broken, so lost, so angry , that you don’t give a fuck.
You don’t give a fuck and you never will.
(Until you do. Until you have to.)
And so you end up in the slums of Central City, underage, hiding both self harm and abuse marks, searching desperately for a job- any job that you give you money. Avoiding the police, in case your parents decided to care, scavenging in gutters for money, stealing from food carts, grocery stores’ garbages. No work papers, no mailing address, an alleyway as a home. Alone, starving, dying , but never going back.
(Never going back until you can burn that goddamn place to the ground.)
And eventually, remembering that you had someone you could go to. An aunt? Right? Someone who the family shunned for being different.
“Now, he was free to go forth and make a name for himself in the wide, wide world.
he’d come back one day,
and burn that
to the ground.”
-We Were Liars, by Emily Jenkins
Sometimes, you see something you never should have. Sometimes, you desperately wish for what people say is right to be wrong . Your father can’t have killed your mom. He was a doctor. He took an oath goddamnit.
(Sometimes oaths don’t matter.)
You’re sent to a house that you have never been in before, to live with people you have never met. They are kind to you, but it still hurts. You still wake up at night, seeing your mothers eyes. (Those cold, dead eyes that once held so much life.) The bright stain of red, soaking through your father’s clothes. The knife glinting, even though the blade is dripping with blood.
And you wake up, screaming, crying, sometimes you’re a rocked back to sleep, other times you are hit and told to be quiet.
(The first home couldn’t last. None of them ever did.)
You try to remember what really happened. The police officer, Joe, grabbed your father, told you to go outside and “ Don’t look Barry! Don’t look! ” You remember how you didn’t move, frozen, staring at your mother’s dead body lying on the ground, the knife lying next to you. The sirens outside. The shouts of your father and of Joe: “ Let go of me! Let go of me, goddamnit! I didn’t do it! ” and “ Please, Henry, please. Stop making this worse.”
You remember the way the other police officers swarmed the house, systematically, guns raised. Ready to kill if necessary. You won’t ever forget the sight of your father, the man who placed you on his shoulders and bought your ice cream, the man who checked under the bed for monsters, and kissed the bad nightmares away, being shoved into a police car and driven away. The feeling of Joe’s arms wrapping around your thin frame, rubbing circles into your back as you cling to him, needing to cry but the tears refusing to come.
(When they came later, you wished for the moments when you felt too numb to cry.)
Joe told you that he would be there for you, but of course, people never keep their promises.
(Even if they try.)
And that’s the way Barry grew up, waking from nightmares of gleaming knives and dead eyes, finding comfort in science, never growing too attached to a home because he would be forced to leave soon. Learning to keep from screaming when he wakes up, teaching himself to hide the anger that squirmed under the surface. He learns to hide the scars on his wrists, because people are uncomfortable when they are faced with real problems, when they are faced with a person who resorts to feeling something through pain. He learns how to force himself to live, even when he feels like dying.
(Sometimes oaths don’t matter. But sometimes, sometimes, they do.)
“There’s more to life than just surviving but sometimes surviving is all you get.”
- Charles De Lint
He remembers the feeling of the rocking boat, the remnants of happiness still flowing through his veins.
(Isn’t it funny how emotions never seem to fade fast enough. They will sit in the bottom of your stomach, churning, forcing you to pay attention to them. They don’t disappear immediately. They slowly fade from view.)
He remembers the feeling of his girlfriend’s sister pressing up against his skin, her soft mewls and giggles.
(The laughter of someone who knew she was doing something wrong, but didn’t want to stop.)
And then he remembers screaming, the freezing water replacing the warmth of Sara. The darkness slamming against his eyelids, and the deafening silence that seemed so loud yet so quiet. And he remembers the occasional cry that broke it.
When thinking back on the event, he doesn’t remember how comforting the deep looked, and how if he just let go then all of the pain would stop. He doesn’t remember the harsh feel of the someone’s fingers on his arm, the painful tugging sensation upwards into light and air. He doesn’t remember feeling the raft under his skin for the first time, the chest compressions to get the water out of his lungs. He doesn’t remember the howl of the wind, nor does he remember the stinging cold of the rain. He remembers sitting up, and leaning over the side of the boat. He remembers feeling desperate, screaming Sara’s name against the wind.
He remembers the light being too bright, too harsh. He remembers counting the survivors- only three, counting in himself and his dad. He remembers wondering where the other people were. His father, telling him to survive, to right his wrongs. But more importantly, he remembers the gunshot. His screams, the blood that seemed to be endless. (Why does blood always seem endless?) The body of that man- What was his name? Why can’t he remember his name? - floating away in the water, staining the water red. He remembers the first time he caught sight of the island, of Lian Yu, and thinking that he was saved.
He remembers the first time he caught sight of his prison.
“Whoever fights monsters should see to it that in the process he does not become a monster. And if you gaze long enough into an abyss, the abyss will gaze back into you."
- Friedrich Nietzsche
“Please! ” She had screamed, “ Kal-El don’t leave me! ” She watched Kal-El’s retreating form, heading for the pods. Her leg burned from the weight of the beam on it, her lungs closing up from the radiation poisoning. The smell of Krypton burning- of people dying filled her nose. Screams filtered through the chaos, tearing the air like a blunt knife.
(Why do people always scream when they die?)
She was abandoned.
She was going to die.
(She wasn't ready to die.)
And for the first time, she knew what real hatred felt like.
(And that’s all that needed to be said.)
“My hatred gives me strength.”
- Janet Fitch
She sat in the corner, legs pulled to her chest, shaking from silent sobs. The scent of the beer Cooper had been drinking covered her skin, and no matter how hard Felicity scratched, she couldn’t get the feeling of his hands off of her.
A shower wouldn’t work either. She tried that before, and it only got him angry from the amount of hot water she used. (She had burns on her legs and back for weeks.) Her mom’s voice rang in her head, “Honey? Are you alright? Is he… Is he hurting you? ” She hadn’t responded.
(How do you lie about something that is killing you inside?)
And so, she sat there, long after the tears stopped coming and the numbness set in.
(How do you lie about someone that’s killing you?)
Finally, she sat up- no, crawled up, and wrapping her arms tightly around herself. Cooper and Myron would be wondering where she was. She had work to do, writing that virus. Keeping Cooper happy.
She stumbled in, pressing herself against the wall, and sliding into her seat. Cooper strutted towards her- Pleasedon’ttouchmepleasedon’ttouchme - his hands rubbing her shoulders.
“Have you gotten any work done on the virus?” She didn’t want to answer, she wanted him to gethishandsoffofme. His grip tightened, “Well?”
“N-not yet. No.” Her voice was quiet. Pathetic.
Myron glanced there way, but then his gaze darted back to his computer screen.
(He probably thought that she was asking for it.)
“And why not?”
Pleasepleaseplease, “I haven’t had the time. With classes and everything.”
A hiss escaped Cooper’s lips. “Well, get working on it. We don’t have time for this.” A smirk crossed his lips. “We’ve got big plans, ain’t that right, sweetheart?”
His hands cupped her face (pleasepleaseplease) and she forced a smile on, one that was twisted from being used too much at all the wrong places. “Yes, Cooper.”
Later, when the FBI came, Cooper didn’t hesitate to point at her. “She did it! I told her not too! I begged her, but she insisted. Said that she was doing it ‘for the greater good.’” Oh the lies that fell from his mouth, and oh the lies that would soon fall for hers.
When she was escorted out of the courtroom in chains, of course, she only caught a glimpse of her mother’s face, soaked in tears.
(Just like her father, she was probably thinking.)
But when Cooper came to visit her, when they talked through the glass window, when she still hadn’t gotten his hands off of her, when he said, “You’re just too much of a hindrance right now. You can’t do anything in here.”
When he didn’t say thank you.
When he didn’t beg for her forgiveness.
And when she said goodbye, (because you only say goodbye to someone you want to see again) that was when she decided that she was going to find him again.
And this time, there wouldn’t be anyone to say goodbye to. This time, he would be the one begging for her to stop.
This time, she would be the one to laugh.
“Years of love
Have been forgot,
In the hatred of a minute.”
- Edgar Allan Poe