Words: Cara Leahy (she/her)
The windows are illuminated with a dim, pink hue, blinds pulled up, no curtains. The light is covered with a slightly ripped shade, yellowed with damp and mildew. The room is littered with collections of novels, most notably Moshfegh, Perkins-Gilmour, and Plath. The bed is pristinely made, with pink floral sheets and matching pillowcases, and is covered in stuffed toys, which she neatly arranges in their prescribed place. The cream walls are suspiciously absent of pictures, instead carefully decorated with posters. She enters the room, throws her bag on the floor and crawls into bed. She stares up at the ceiling, fixated on the damp circles that decorate it like the glow in the dark stars that decorated her childhood bedroom.
Today was a bad day. Not the worst. But definitely a bad day. It doesn’t matter though; she can pretend that today was the best day ever. That her manager did not chastise her at work; that she didn’t get drenched by a car driving full speed through a puddle; that she wasn’t harassed by family members asking what her plans for Christmas were. Everything is fine. Everything is good. Everything is great!
I’ll be fine. She mutters to herself. I’ll be fine.
Out of the corner of her eye, her phone screen lights up with an incoming call from “Dad”. She stares at the screen until it goes black, then buries her phone in a bag and throws it in the wardrobe, to be retrieved when she feels better. She will never call him back. Instead, she will block him and try to forget that he exists. She makes up a version of her childhood where he does not exist. A retroactive fatherless childhood was what she always wanted, and she smiles with satisfaction at this cruel creation, but the satisfaction does not last for long. In her quiet, damp room, she realises that she is completely alone. In her childhood home, she could look to her walls and feel a sense of comfort staring at the smiling faces of her friends. Now, she can only stare at the damp paint that is slowly peeling away from the wall, dropping to the floor. She feels shaken by this. As if in a trance, she gets up, takes off her coat and throws it onto the floor. The contents of her bag soon follow; the floor becomes a collage of her possessions.
One by one, she takes the books from her bookshelf and scatters them all over her room, feeling suddenly enraged at the sight of the novels upon novels that she owns. She is filled with an indescribable, jealous loathing that she will never be like the writers she admires. She is staring at the books on the floor and soon holding back sobs and screams. She is pulling at her hair, dragging her hands over her face. She has the realisation that she will produce work into the void, and she will not be remembered. She takes her favourite book, and while fingering through the soft pages, she rips one out, then another, and another. With every page lost, she feels a growing sense of catharsis. She takes another and throws it at the wall. Then, she rips out the body and jumps on the spine. Books are thrown out the window and drowned in the bath. She purges herself of the expectations that she has placed upon herself. This act of destruction is her magnum opus of creation. In destruction she has created her own art, a new life. She wants to rip, and tear, and jump, and drown her way through the English Canon. From Bronte to Didion, from Levy to Shelley, she will destroy her idols and she will be free. For the first time since she was a child, she feels a sense of liberation and joy, like throwing her neighbour’s football over the fence and blaming it on someone else. Maybe, she has always been a force of destruction. Perhaps, this was her fate.
The windows are illuminated with a stark, yellow glow. Blinds pulled up, no curtains. Outside her window, stands a crowd of people staring in, watching her wreck the room. The books are no longer arranged in alphabetical order by author’s surname, and then by title – unless it is in a series, then it is arranged in chronological order – the sheets are sprawled over the bed, the pillowcases are on the floor, the stuffed toys discarded in the corner. The crowd are trying to leave, but they cannot will themselves away from the spectacle that is unfolding before them, of a woman behaving like this, unaware of their presence.
She is standing in the centre of her room, out of breath with tousled, frazzled hair. Her eyes are red from crying and her throat is hoarse from screaming. She notices the paint cracking on her wall, directly above the prized, ruined copy of her favourite book. This sight of destruction is too much. She sinks to the floor and falls asleep amongst the chaos of her room.