The Scars on My Wrists (Nanowrimo 2013)

After struggling with depression and a suicide attempt, Marie decides to take a Gap Year to Italy and Spain. She falls in love, and more importantly, changes her entire life.
Edited for movellas, in its poorly written state. R rated for lots of swearing, cutting, and sexual language. TW: (recollection of) sexual assault, cutting

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13. Chapter 13

After the Alhambra trip, my relationship with Jandro had changed for the better. As had my health. I had less and less panic attacks, and even my therapist noted the positive change in my behavior. They say that when you're in love, the world smiles upon you or something along those lines anyway. That's a corny piece of shit. I still had days where I was completely paralyzed by an overwhelming sadness. But I wasn't alone anymore. I had never truly been alone, I was realizing, as my host family and I became closer and closer. The dinner table had become a place for jokes and well-meaning English lessons and light teasing.

    School was going well too. I passed the end of the semester test with flying colors, and to my biggest surprise, nailed the final interview as well. And the seasons changed with rapid speed. The snow hanging on the city melted, to give way to sparse green on trees and small parks in the city. Days turned into weeks and weeks turned into months at breakneck speed. I felt stronger, physically, emotionally.

    "Mama, quiero cocinar comida americana," I said one day. I had held back on cooking for such a long time, partially because I'd been afraid that she would have been offended by me using the kitchen or something silly. Now I knew her better enough to know better. And yes, I might not have been able to bake for my life, but I could cook something delicious.

    Mama insisted on helping me as I put ground beef in a bowl and added all sorts of spices. Cumin, cayenne, chili powder, curry powder. I was making Indian inspired burgers. As I grilled the patties, Mama and I chatted about life and love.

    "Yo sé que Jandro te ama." She laughed, shaking her head. "Ayyy, está hombre es muy loco. Muy intelligent, pero muy loco." She clicked her tongue and kneaded the meat with me. "Please forgive him. His heart is in the right place, but sometimes he over thinks things." I laughed, because it was true, as I flipped the burger and lay a finished one on a toasted bun.

    "Yes. I love him so much," I said. 

    "It's in your eyes," said Mama. "Your eyes speak the truth. I was the same way when I met Francisco."

    "When did you guys meet?" I asked.

    "At a party, maybe seven years ago. I wanted to dance, but he blocked off all the men that wanted to dance with me." 

    I laughed again. I could just imagine Papa getting in the way like that. He was slightly possessive of Mama, not in a way that was disgusting and manipulative, but just slightly enough to show that he cared deeply, holding her hand on the metro, kissing her cheek on the street. He worried about her when she came home late from the office, and sometimes told me that he hoped she would be safe on the metro. We had just seen a news report where a woman fainted at the station and fell onto the tracks of the incoming train. They rescued her, luckily, but poor Papa of course saw his wife in that woman. I couldn't blame him.    

    I moved the finished burgers to the table and wrapped up a couple extra for Papa, leaving the raw meat in the fridge. Mama bit into one, and moaned happily.

    "Es increíble! So good!" I smiled at her response to my food, and bit in myself.

    The next morning on the table, in English, she left a note next to my breakfast.

    Dear Marie,

    Thank you for hamburgers. We love American food! Thank you!

    Mama and Papa

    As my trip to Venice approached and loomed closer, peering over the edge of the calendar, my relationship with Jandro grew slightly more complicated. He became very moody and stressed over his internship. When we talked in person, I could see his shoulders tense, and we had begun to bicker a bit. I just took it as a sign that we were more comfortable around each other, and that he was worried about his work.

    "Hey Jandro, I was wondering if you could come to the cafe for coffee this sunday and maybe we could go to a movie or something."

    He sighed on the phone, causing just a hint of static.

    "Can't. I've got too much work."

    "Oh." I tried to swallow my bitter disappointment lumping in my throat. "You said that last week too. And the week before last. I haven't seen you in almost three weeks." I tried to keep the accusatory tone out of my voice. "You know I leave for Venice on Tuesday, right? Do you just want to break up with me?"

    "No. I don't want to break up. Like I said, I've been busy, amor." He sounded frustrated, so I backed off.

    "I understand," I said softly. Then, like a wish, "I love you."

    "I love you too." He sounded unsure. Then we hung up. I burst into tears. I felt like everything I had been so sure of was collapsing. But I held on. I could be strong, even though I'd begun to doubt our relationship. I didn't speak with Jandro again before leaving.

    As I boarded the airplane to Venice, I tried to ignore my feelings boiling in the bottom of my stomach, that Jandro had grown bored, that he had just been using me, that it had all been a lie. Jesus, my head hurt. I slept on the flight again with my iPod blaring and landed at Marco Polo on the outskirts of Venice. Luckily, there was no turbulence. Thank god. This time, a sweet elderly lady named Anna escorted me to the hotel in a water taxi. I ignored the beauty of the city, completely stressed over my relationship troubles. I was an idiot. I should have spent more time absorbing myself in the wonderful canals, the stone bridges, the cafes on the edge. Instead, I worried about something that was now out of my control.

    Once at the hotel, I tried to Skype Jandro using my computer. I had been guilty of somewhat ignoring him for the past few days. After all, I had been sure he would have called me. Oh it was a mess, a mess of tangled hopes and expectations. But he picked up on the second ring.

    "Jandro!" I cheered, happily, when he picked up. Immediately, my fears were assuaged. "I've landed in Venice," I chattered.

    "Marie," he spoke solemnly, and my stomach dropped down, down, like I had just boarded a roller coaster. "I need to talk to you. I didn't tell you this, but I ended my internship with the hospital. I'm so lost, Marie. I don't know if I want to be in graduate school for medicine anymore. I might apply to a couple of other schools and transfer, and I probably won't be going to Penn anymore, so," he took a deep breath. I could see tears in his eyes. "I think we should break up. I don't think you should wait for me when I have no idea where I'm going." 

    I gritted my teeth and stabbed my nails into my hand to keep my tears from falling.

    "You fucking coward," I said, trembling with anger and sadness. "You ignored me in Spain for three weeks, because you had a personal crisis and you didn't think you could tell me or rely on me for help? When I've been honest with you over every last thing, hell, Jandro you were my first. And now you want to break up. You say it's for my sake. I think you're just scared, scared that it won't work out. You selfish bastard. I hate you. You couldn't even have the dignity to say something like this to me in person. I deserved that at least, you know. You just hide away."

    I was crying heavily now, tears rolling down my cheeks despite my best efforts to contain them. Jandro was crying too, silently.

    "I thought you deserved more than me," said Jandro. "I was trying to protect you."

    "Hah!" I spat at the screen. "Funny joke. I'm done." I ended the transmission and slammed the screen of my laptop shut.

    I suppose in that moment I contemplated cutting myself. I considered hurting myself again, because my support, my love had gone to waste. All for nothing. Ironically, what saved me was the mirror. The mirror that had been my worst enemy now beckoned to me.

    I looked in that time and I saw someone with tear-stained eyes and a reddened nose, and then I looked deeper. I saw a daughter. I saw someone who had touched people's lives, met strangers, stepped outside of comfort zones. Underneath the tears and redness I saw beauty and strength.

    "I am beautiful," I whispered. And in that moment, I was. I didn't need Jandro to be happy or to be strong or to be beautiful. I could be those things without him. Still, losing him hurt like hell and I spent the next two hours consuming vast amounts of chocolate and watching shitty rom coms, which of course just made me lonelier as I bawled my eyes out. I hated him. No, I loved him. Fuck, the truth was that I hated to love him so much, to let him in and just have him leave like that, as if he was doing me a favor. The door creaked open, and I met my roommate. While Cat had been blunt and honest, afraid of almost nothing with a no-nonsense attitude, this person was definitely freaked out by my chocolate wrappers and tear-sodden tissues.

    "Um, I'm sorry," she said timidly. "Are you Marie?" I nodded, mid-wail. "Um, hi. I'm Lena. I guess we're rooming right now. Sorry, are you ok?"

    "My boyfriend broke up with me," I said, sullenly, kicking the tissues and wrappers off my bed, before reluctantly picking them up and tossing them out. I shook my head. "I'm sorry, I'm not usually this miserable to be around…ok I used to be, but I got better, but then this happened-"

    "It's ok. I understand," she said quietly. Mousy brown hair and thick glasses. She looked really hipster. Plaid shirt and vintage jeans type of hipster. "My boyfriend dumped me before I came here, about six months ago."

    "Yeah. It fucking sucks," I said, sighing, giving a loud sniff. 

    "At the same time, I wouldn't have given this experience up for anything. I needed to come here and duke things out on my own for a bit, without my family hovering over me. You know?"

    "I know," I said mindlessly. "I mean, my parents were great, they weren't the problem. My hometown was. I'm definitely doing much better now though. I mean, except for this part," I gestured towards my face, which at this point probably resembled a sponge saturated with tears.

    She laughed at that, and I joined in, for some reason, because her laughter was infectious, and I began to feel better.

    "Want a piece of chocolate?" I asked, motioning towards my bedspread. "It's really good. You said you've been here for six months already? Why are you in a hotel then?"

    "Have to switch host families after six months for some weird reason. It's mandatory," she said, rolling her eyes. "Is this your first time to Italy?"

    "Yeah," I admitted. "I came from six months at the Spain program. Before that I'd never even been on an airplane, much less traveled."    

    "Oh yeah? What state are you from?"

    "I'm from Pennsylvania. You?"

    "New York City, so we're fairly close, unless you're like from Pittsburgh," she said, biting heartily into the chocolate bar. "Jesus, I've been here for six months and the chocolate never stops being delicious. Oohhh god, it's positively orgasmic," she said, chuckling. I laughed along with her again, and I felt a bit better. Although all the chocolate was sitting in my stomach.

    "Urggh, my stomach hurts," I said, groaning. I lay back on the bed, spreadeagled, staring up at the ceiling.

    "I bet your Italian's pretty good."

    "You joking? I suck at languages."

    "Hahaha! Me too. I've definitely left my comfort zone in the states, along with the burgers. Ugh. I miss a thick, juicy burger with fries…"

    "They have McDonalds here, you know," said Lena. 

    "I know," I said, grumpily. "It's not the same though. You should never be able to order pizza from McDonalds. That's like a cardinal sin."

    "Speaking of pizza and food in general, did you want to get dinner together?" she asked. I remembered the first dinner in Madrid and considered. Lena seemed nice. She probably wouldn't go crazy, and she'd be able to take me around Venice.

    "I'd love to! Do you know Venice really well?"

    "Yay! Well, yeah. I've been here for six months and I just know it like the back of my hand, all the little cafes and everything so if you want to go and meet up after classes sometime, I'm the girl to do it with. I don't really party though, so if you're into that-"

    "Yeah, I don't do partying either," I said firmly, willing away the memories from the club, and shivering involuntarily.

    "Seems like we'll get along swimmingly then," she said in a fake British accent. "Do you like my accent? I've been practicing." 

    "It's so bad," I said, laughing. She laughed along with me, at my honesty.

    "Yeah, I know. Well, now that my bags are firmly planted on the ground and I don't have to carry them anymore, wanna go out and have some fun?" She adjusted her glasses on her face.

    "Uh, sure, I guess," I said. "The program person, Anna, doesn't need to come with us or anything, right?"

    "Nah, she's really just here to escort us around a bit I think, but it's silly seeing as I've been here for like, six months. Bit annoying to be grouped in with newbies, honestly, but whatever."

    With that, we closed the door and walked out into the sunlight, and I was able to see, for the first time, how achingly beautiful the city was. As the sun set, the stars weren't visible in the yellowish glow, but the waves from the canal lapped at the sides of the streets gently, reflecting the streetlights and shop lights like waves of gold. There was something magical in the water instead of streets, silent water taxis instead of loud motorbikes and cars.    

    "Woah," I said.

    "Yeah," said Lena simply. "Have you eaten gelato yet?"

    "Whats that? Italian jello or something?"

    "No, it's ice cream," she giggled. She led me to a truck, and ordered for me after translating some of the flavors.

    I chose dulce de leche, a small memory from Spain and took a bite. To my surprise, the ice cream was light and airy, yet creamy, with a deliciously soft and smooth texture.

    "Oh my god," I moaned. "Why doesn't the world have ice cream like this?"

    "I know, right?" We sat there, on a bench, moonlight reflected on the water gently lapping against the stone walls. Quiet contemplation. For a good moment, I was able to forget about Jandro, and enjoy the simple pleasure of being in a beautiful place.

    But the next morning when I woke up, there was a lump in my throat and a hole in my heart. I wiped a couple of tears away and took a shower.

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