Vaults and Lockets - Iulia Lupul '17

Eighteen...Seventeen...Sixteen...Her mind wanders. She goes back to that same old room. She’s all grown up, but that’s still where her mind brings her when her conscience turns off, when all the walls start falling down. Everything is so colorful in there and still intact, no matter what. She stares through time into that room. That musty room. The clowns on the walls, the toys on the shelves. She’s sitting on the floor playing with legos and little toy cars. She doesn’t care. She doesn’t know nor understand yet. She’s happy. She chose the colors for the rooms herself. She wanted it yellow and green and red and blue. She wanted it pretty. That little girl, sitting on the floor is what she has to protect. At any cost. That little baby that doesn’t know what people do to each other, and hopefully never will. She won’t know about the closets. About the skeletons hiding in them. She’ll never know that some are tiny and harmless, and people carry them in nothing more than lockets, and that some are big and scary. She’ll never know that some shrink over time and dissolve into thin air, and others devour radioactive feelings and start growing extra heads and limbs and claws and their bones rattle so loudly that they overwhelm everything else hiding inside, and the closets turn into vaults. She’ll never know that she can be so sad that she can’t breathe, or that sometimes frustration can bring her to the edge and over. She’ll never know anything. I won’t let her.

Fifteen...Fourteen...Thirteen...She’s seven now. She’s just started first grade. She’s smart and she’s friendly and she’s in love. She doesn’t know it yet, because no one ever explained it to her. No one ever told her how it just happens, how it hits out of nowhere and it’s completely unpredictable. She didn’t know that that’s what it was. The only thing she knew is she found a friend, one that was just so perfect and so much like her, and so out of this world. She was in love and it was amazing.

But it didn’t last long.

Sitting on the floor of her room she was crying. She was so confused and so mad. She would never tell anyone about this. Ever. No one could now. She was afraid. She knew no one understood. But she loved her so much and it was so painful to realize that she could never tell her, or anyone else for that matter. She cried. No one was home, so she just cried. That’s when she knew, for sure, that she was different. She was young. She couldn’t put a word on it, but she knew it, so she never said it aloud. She would keep being strong and powering through everything, until it got too much, until the dam broke and all alone, at night, the tears would come streaming out. But no one ever noticed, so she was fine.

Twelve...Eleven...Ten…She's back in the room. She's sixteen now. She walks in, lays on the floor and looks around. The walls got thicker since she was here last time. And the door, it got bigger too, and it's made of shiny lead now. She doesn't cry. She never cries anymore. She's not happy, but she never cries. She's strong now. She holds it in and, with time, it stops burning her eyes, and the knot in her throat goes away. She's confused. So much has happened in her life, and all she ever wants to go back to is her room, before it became an epicenter of destruction. Before she couldn't make herself walk inside of that house no matter what for. Before she only got to see her brother a couple of times a year. Before she barricaded herself from the world. Before she had to think about feelings and about life.

She's in highschool now, and all everyone is thinking about is the future. Go to University, get a job, get married, have kids and that's it. That's what the plan is. But not for her. That's not what she wants. She doesn't care. She wants to be free, and not be bound to plans and timetables. She wants to see the world, and fall in love, and most of all, she wants to understand herself. She wants to know, because she never did, because people always told her everything. She wants to escape.
But she can't.

She can't disappoint, she never could. That's why she always acted tough, never showed weakness, not in public anyways. She has to decide. She has to make one choice, a single choice that is going to change so much. Does she stand up and say something, or does she live a life she never wanted?

Nine..Eight..Seven..Same walls, same bed. She’s laying down reading, in the middle of the carpet. It’s still March, but she can’t wait for May to come around. She’s going to be 10. She’s so excited that she keeps rereading the same page over and over. She’s planning the party, and her outfit, and the guest list. So happy. She hasn’t cried in a while. She has tried to not think about it, or at least ignore it when it pops into her mind. Her friend was still there. But it wasn’t the same. She made herself push her away. Not far. But just enough so she doesn’t blow up too when the pressure builds up too much. She keeps thinking about the gifts she’s going to get and the food they are all going to eat and the games they are going to play.

Her mom walks in. She’s crying. She sits down next to her and tells her they have to talk. She’s confused, she’s never seen her that upset. Her mom pauses for a while. She takes a deep breath and in a very shaky voice says: “Honey, um… You know how sometimes things break, they crack and you just can’t fix them.” She paused again. “Well sometimes that happens to relationships too.” She never heard what she said afterwards. She already knew. She burst out crying. She didn’t know why, but she just did. It seemed to be the appropriate reaction. She hugged her mom and just sat there, in the middle of her room’s floor. Her mom kept saying things, but none of them registered. Finally, her mom kissed her goodnight and told her it would be better if she just went to bed and stopped crying. She did. She went to bed and never talked about it again.

Six..Five..Four..She’s thirteen. They moved. Her mom and she have a nice apartment now. They both like it. But she never got to decorate her room. She was stuck in her old one, going back to it whenever she wanted to. It seemed so real when she imagined it. The colours were the same, and the smell was just as she remembered it, and the light made the same designs on her carpet as it used to. Nothing was changed there, but the door - it was bigger and heavier. She has to stop dreaming so much. She’s a big girl now, or at least that’s what they all tell her. She’s smart and she’s funny and she’s tough. And they all tell her she’s pretty because boys notice her. She has so many friends and she’s still friends with her. Everyone starts talking about funny and confusing things. Feelings. Emotions. Whatever. Everyone is falling in love, and she is, too . A lot of them are faking it, and she is, too. Or at least she thinks she is. It’s so confusing. How can she be in love with two people at the same time? So she just tells everyone that she likes him, but no one will ever know about her. Because that’s wrong, or at least that’s what they tell her.

But he's nice and she likes him just as much as she likes her, so it's just as real, and even better because she doesn't have to hide it. She's good. She's not happy and not sad. She's floating somewhere in between, and somehow that gray area seems so much better, so much more reliable. She's tough, more so than she has been before. It's harder for people to hurt her now, so she cares less about their opinions. She's one of the cool kids. But they still somehow manage to get to her.

ThreeTwoOne. Only three weeks until she turns eighteen. She hasn't been home in almost a year, but it doesn't phase her. She’s learned to make homes out of people, not places, to sneak into people's lockets or vaults and decorate their insides. She thinks she’s so much better now that she’s away, but she still lies to herself on a daily basis. She never expected any grand life lessons out of this year, and she never got the them for that matter. She realized however, how life goes in circles, how she never thought she would revert to her seven year old self, sitting on the floor of her colorful old room, falling in love with someone she knew she should not, but she did anyways. She looks through the windows of her perfect little vault into the haze and mess that is the outside world, and hopes she never has to leave.

I'm coming to get you! But you're not. And no one else is either. It’s not a game of hide and go seek anymore. I'm still in the room, with the clowns on the walls and the sun dancing on the pfloor, and she’s still happy and clueless, and I’ve been hiding here for a long time now. The door is too heavy to open for anyone, so I know, for sure, that she's safe.