As I stood in front of my opponent before the fight, I oddly couldn't help but think about the last time I loved someone. Her name was Mindy Dubé, my last foster mother. She had smiling, slightly wrinkled honey brown eyes, a plump and open face. I thought she would be everything that my old foster parents were; never loving and always controlling. But she was different. Maybe because the first time I arrived at her house, she didn't smile broadly and hug me possessively. Instead, she took her keys from her pocket, tossed them to me with a mischievous look on her face and said:
"How about we take a drive? I'll ride shotgun." Knowing that she probably read my records of driving off in my old foster parent's cars repeatedly, I figured she was either stupid or insane. Or maybe she just felt my need to escape. And so there I was a sixteen-year-old driving illegally without a permit with my new foster mom riding shotgun.
I drove past the neighborhood, past the shopping mall, past the city limits, and down the highway. I drove until the sky grew dark and my body shook with fatigue. She then put her hand on my shoulder— the first time she touched me— and had me pull over, get out and sit in the passenger seat while she drove back. All five hours and seven minutes of it. After that, it was easy to love her, because she gave me the chance to heal from the pain of feeling abandoned, unloved, and thrown away. I just didn't know it at the time. By then it was too late.
It happened on a rainy March afternoon. I had just come home from school, tired and dreading the day's homework. Tossing my soggy Converse by the front door, I made my way upstairs to my room and stopped short by the door. There I saw a small black box on my bed. I walked up to it and picked it up, feeling its smooth satiny surface and opened it. Inside was a simple, glistening gold pendant with the initials M. D engraved in cursive on its surface. Mara Dubé. Somehow it fit. I felt a piece me, jagged and marred melt and mold to my broken heart; forever sore but intact once again.
I found her in her roomy office typing on her laptop. She stood up hesitantly when she saw the box in my hand.
"I wasn't sure if it was the right time to—" She stopped, noticing the utter joy on my face.
"Mom." I had said, my vision blurred by tears. As I walked towards her, her face brightened at the word. But just like the sky, the brightness dimmed. One step, her skin grew pale. Another step and a sheen of sweat coated her skin like a crashed wave gliding on the sand. I thought she was hit by the overwhelming joy of being called mom for the first time. I stepped ever closer, and she slowly sat down. Her golden eyes had shone with unshed tears. Her lips parted, her nostrils flared. Her breath shortened. She gently leaned back into her chair her head pointed heavenward and screamed.
Her scream reverberated through my bones. Her neck tensed from the pressure of it. I had rushed towards her, and blue veins on the side of her face slithered and turned black, her gentle face filled with an unknowable agony. I stopped, my body hovering inches from her and it got worse; her mouth open and voice silent. That's when I had realized it was me. I had stepped back, back, back, and further still until I was across the room. She became normal with every step. There was a profound pause where we stood staring at each other in terrified shock, and then I ran, the black box dropping from my hand. The piece of me broken once again. I ran through the rain and never came back. It was me, all me. My love was poison and—
"Mara! Stay focused!" Someone yelled from the crowd that surrounded me and my opponent. She bounced on the balls of her feet in anticipation, her mouth spread in a wicked grin. I grinned too because I felt the excitement of the crowd. There's nothing better than a good crowd at a street fight.
She swung, her long brown arm reaching wide. I ducked and landed a punch to her stomach. I felt the fire of the punch, felt the weese of her breath on my neck as she contracted forward, and it felt good. It felt powerful. But she recuperated too soon. Her knee was a blur as it connected with my nose. I felt drops of blood drip from my nose and into my mouth. I smiled, teeth stained red. I just needed to keep the pain away.
How about you drive and I ride shotgun.
She swung again and her fist connected with one of my eyes. A foot kicked my stomach. A fist connected with my skull.
I drove and drove and drove.
I staggered. She kicked. I stood up and swung. I swang and swang and swung. My fists connected with flesh and I just couldn't stop. I felt the heat and sweat of my opponent's skin as I punched her again and again.
Her hand was warm on my shoulder
She was down on the ground, her arms trying to block my fists, her face covered in blood. I kicked her in the stomach and she rolled. All I saw was her and eternal blackness; her and my fist hitting her face. All I felt was rage at that moment.
It was easy to love her
Strong hands gripped my arms and pulled them back. I struggled against their grip, wanting to just hit someone. Something. And then the roar of the crowd brought me back to reality. Limbs and clothing jumped and writhed in varied motions. They were cheering, cheering for me.
"Mara! Mara!" They all chanted. Through the spaces of moving limbs, I could see my opponent on the ground motionless. Her black hair spilled in waves around her. A little girl that looked to be the younger sister of the fighter leaned over her, wailing. With new found strength, I pulled my arms from the hand's tight grip and pushed my way through the crowd and into the center of the circle.
The black box dropped from my hand.
"GET AWAY!" The girl screamed. She tried to push me back but I was already there checking for a pulse, tears in my eyes. I've gone too far. I destroyed the one person that this little girl loved.
It was me, all me.
"I'm so sorry. I'm so so sorry" I sobbed. I breathed in and out trying to stay calm as I felt the pulse on the girl's neck. " What's her name?" I asked the young sister. I at least want to know a part of her that was still alive. Live, please live. I don't want this girl to live the life that I have had. Live. I felt something inside of me build up and disperse like warm sunshine.
Love is an emotion that takes place over time. That's the scary part; the not knowing when the time has stopped. By then it's just a faulty bomb strapped to the heart, secreting its passionate chemicals and poisoning the blood. I know this because that's what I am. I'm that faulty bomb. I'm that chemical. I'm the poison in your blood and I will ruin you without knowing when because time is an obscure concept anyways.
My love was poison and—
The dead girl glowed. I checked her pulse and felt a flutter of life.