“You think you’re so great,” I sneer, evaluating my opponent and picking out her weaknesses. “You really think you can change the world? You? A white, privileged brat who doesn’t know the first thing about adversity?” I laugh. “That’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard.”

Her jaw is clenched and her nostrils flare in anger. “I’m going to do it.”

“How? Through your ‘heartfelt words’? What a joke. Even if you make it through the slush pile, you think more than ten people are going to actually read your work? They’ll probably find it dumb and useless, anyways. Just. Like. You.”

My words plunge into her with the precision of a scalpel, piercing through the weakest of points and carving out her strengths: her empathy, hope, and strong will – they all need to go.

Her breaths are shaky now, but she’s still showing signs of defiance – tugging at the hem of her shirt to keep her hands from covering her ears, biting her lip trying to think of a reply. I need to get the last word in.

“You think everything will just fall in place and you won’t have to lift a finger.”

“That’s not true,” she cries out, her face reddening with passion. “I’m willing to work hard!”

“Willing? Sure, but actually doing it?” I take a menacing step closer, and her fear is magnified. “I mean, come on, when was the last time you even wrote?”

She falters. “I’ve – I’ve been busy -”

“With what? ‘Homework’? Yeah, I’m sure that’s what SE Hinton said too. She published her first book at 17, you know. You’ll never match that at this rate.”

She’s trembling now, clutching her body with both arms as if to ensure her insides don’t spill out.

I’m doing her a favor, I tell myself. I’m preparing her for the real world, how everybody else is going to treat her. There’s no room for words of encouragement or random acts of kindness like the ones she provides. It’s an expectation I need to break before it breaks her.

“Please,” she begs, her bottom lip quivering, her big, doe eyes filling with tears.

I cross my arms and turn my head away, scoffing at her. I refuse to witness such sniveling.

I deal the final blow while staring at the blank white wall: “You think the Universe has some ulterior purpose for you? It doesn’t. You’re not even supposed to be here, remember? You’re just a tragic mistake.”

I hear her collapse, but my stare stays glued to the wall. It’s a total knockout, but instead of the joy of victory, I just feel numb.

Why? I am the champion of the ring. But before someone can raise my arm above my head, I feel unbearably weak. My lungs begin to heave uncontrollably as my windpipe constricts.

What did you expect? the crumpled heap of a girl whispers with a dry and heavy tongue.

I turn and stare at her in horror. She’s on her side, disintegrating into grains of dust before beginning to be swept away by a non-existent wind. My expression is almost as tortured as hers. I feel my knees buckle and I collapse, clawing at the ground with my nails, finding it difficult to catch my breath.

After all, she wheezes, unable to draw breath into our lungs, you were talking to a mirror.

 

Edited by: Sabrina Loftus

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