Friday, February 1, 2008


by Alana Mohamed

Eyes closed and fists tight, Jordan breathed heavily. Her body was curled in a ball. From afar she looked like a shuddering mass of flea-market clothes. Her floor was littered with the self-made confetti of her most recent exams and term papers. To anyone else the papers would be meaningless. To her they meant the difference between passing and failing life. And she had failed…four times over. Each shred of paper was worth twenty of her tears. How could she be failing so badly at…everything?

Her bed, which took up most of the space in her room, was unmade and full of used breakfast plates and cups half full of orange juice and coffee. She hadn’t slept on it in weeks. Usually her bed was her floor, her pillow was whatever text book she was studying from, and her dreams were equations her mind struggled to retain during the night.

The air around her was freezing cold. She was wearing all the clothes she owned plus her winter jacket and gloves. Usually she wasn’t this cold. Her apartment was bad, but not so horribly frigid that her bones had to knock against themselves for warmth. Her heat had been turned off for the first time in her life. Her parents usually paid for all her apartment’s expenses, but after last Sunday, it appeared they had decided their money would be better spent elsewhere. Perhaps on a new house or boat?

“A mistake,” Jordan banged her head against the wall, “it was just a mistake.” A mistake that had cost her dearly. All she had was in her pocket, a twenty dollar bill and a few loose bills. Pay as a waitress may seem fine when you’re living with your parents, but here, it didn’t fly. With what she made, she’d only do well with a cardboard box or a garbage bin.

Jordan buried deeper into herself, descending into dark thoughts her mind seemed to be shooting at her. The feeling of being overwhelmed was the only thing that kept her on the ground and not tumbling into complete hysteria. Her lights were off in an effort to save money and only a ray of light graced her one-room apartment. With her eyes closed all she saw was never-ending black. It consumed and confused her until she couldn’t tell which way was up. She kept herself there, locked in eternity. She could feel her world crumble and she could see all the events that had led up to this moment. Disconnected pictures flashed through the emptiness, like a film gone awry.

Scene one was the nice man from the restaurant waving a wad of bills at her. Jordan could see her eyes light up in greed. It had seemed like a good idea at a time, but what was it? She still couldn’t remember.

Scene two was her boyfriend with his brows furrowed and his mouth contorted in fury as his large hand held her dainty one in front of her face. His promise ring was missing, gone with the oath, “Forever, be mine.”

Scene three was one she dreaded the most because it was the one she saw the most. Jordan Taylor, with drunken hands outstretched towards her loving family, looking every bit the mess she was after she realized what the loss of the promise ring had meant. She saw her mother’s eyes well with tears, while her father’s filled with rage. Her little sister’s eyes, however, held the most rattled, scared expression.

Shame filled Jordan’s personal hell. She allowed herself to sink into the feeling, like an old coat. She’d have to get used to it. She felt so hopeless in her dark womb of guilt, anger, fear, and pressure. When had everything become so hard? She started to sway back and forth, forcing herself against her wall. She wanted to fall, really fall. Not just fall into the back of her head. Her head was too unpleasant a place. Could she fall through brick? She felt as though she could. The pressures of the world could close in around her and pound into nothingness.

A dull ache had formed at the back of her head and she started to throw herself back into the wall with vigor. She could fall, she knew she could fall. “I can do anything I set my mind to,”’ Jordan laughed bitterly. It was the first joke the room heard in a long time. She stopped, suddenly aware of how pathetic she was. She used have friends and family to laugh with. She used to have a boyfriend to keep her warm and safe. Now she was cold, alone, friendless, and laughing maniacally to herself. She stared at the retreating ray of light and knew that all she had was gone.

A knock at the door made Jordan’s twitchy figure jump. She smoothed out her clothes with her hands and tried to regain some morsel of dignity. Whoever was at that door was the last person she had left. Whether it was her landlord, a new neighbor, or just her imagination, she was determined to make a good impression. Still slightly shaky, she managed to maneuver her way around text books and pens to open the door. She held her breath and wondered if whoever had knocked was still there. She heard a hesitant, half-hearted tap and instantly the door swung open. The filtered light from the hall was bright in her eyes and it took her a moment to realize who was there.

Standing tall, with a shy smile on his thin lips, was the person she least expected to see.

“Jace!” she screamed, delighted and overwhelmed. She flung herself into his outstretched arms. She smiled into the warm cotton-covered crook of his neck. “What are you doing here?”

“I missed you. I was worried. And I know I shouldn’t have left you at such a bad time. I was just upset that you lost the ring and wouldn’t tell me what happened. But I know that’s not important. You’re important. Forgive me?” His muffled words filled her with a warm light feeling. Suddenly she felt that it wasn’t over. She could make peace with her family. She could talk to her professors. She could fly tonight and not fall. In Jace’s arms, Jordan was dizzy with euphoria. She felt like she could do anything. But could she only do anything with him?

Jordan looked up into Jace’s eyes. She shook her head no and watched his smile slip into uncertainty. “I need a friend, but that’s it.” The strength in her voice surprised even her.

“Oh, well. If you need anything, you know where to find me.” Jace braved through a
smile and gave a supportive pat on the back.

“Actually, I could use a phone.” Jordan felt embarrassed to be asking for favors so soon, but this needed to be done. She waited patiently as Jace worked his way down into the depths of his pockets and emerged with a small flip phone. She dialed the number she had dialed so many times before with a feeling of apprehension.

“Hello? Mom, we need to talk.”

She could make things right.