– Please X, could you be ready tomorrow for 8.15 am? We must go to Dr. N.F. at the Hospital. –
X’s mum said opening the door of X’s room, just before going to bed. X turned her back moodily against the green wall and quietly said: – Good night –
Her mum was in charge that morning. Her dad was working all day. She was the one bringing X to the hospital downtown for a new ECG and a new blood test. She didn’t at all like the roads which they had to drive through in order to reach the Hospital. Therefore she was anxious; mostly because of that – more than the problem which her daughter could possibly have.
N.F. was a relatively young doctor in her 40s but she had already gained quite a lot of experience at that time, especially in younger cases of cancerous throat cysts: this is what X was suspected to have after not responding to treatment so far. She also had a very irregular and fast heart beat as a consequence of the high dosage of the medications she was taking. The doctor wanted to see her: it was a hot day with a brilliant blue sky and not much wind at all. It was the end of the summer ’98 and X was still 18 years old, not for long though. She had also just passed the final secondary school exam with maximum marks, although she put in very little effort. She was the first to be interrogated for the oral test – the professor mixed all the students names in a hat and picked her name out first. She was happy about this. After all that would mean she would finish earlier. And indeed on the 7th of July she achieved a brilliant result: her name was at the top of the list on a paper pinned to the wooden board of the school’s hall. She was happy, but not because of the “great success”, as her mum used to say to all the relatives, but because school was finally over and finally she could start more stimulating academic studies.
At 7 am X was very much ready to go to the Hospital, fully dressed. She was grumpy that day, numb, disappointed, angry that she had to walk together with her mum. Those years they didn’t talk much. The time they spent together in bed talking about how sad life can be and how fake human love is, was over. X began thinking about her mum as a sort of inferior and pedantic gremlin. She was such a troubled and dark young girl. The cyst she developed as a consequence of having stopped taking any medication in the past months, was still there. Even after a good few months of hyper dosage, it was still growing as though nothing happened, the doctor said. This was a huge problem, apparently.
– We probably need to remove the cyst, we will run a biopsy as soon as we are able – X’s mum couldn’t think straight. She started crying after those words. X was completely absent. Floating lost in god knows which thoughts, probably thinking about transforming into written word what was happening within those four blue walls. She seemed to not care at all for the future ahead or what could happen. – I know, I am sorry. It is hard to believe. -, said N.F.
X looked at her mum bawling like a baby and ashamed, she said: – Mum, please! –
They left that place in absolute silence. X had her cassette player, put her pair of red headphones on and the world faded away for a while.
At the age of 8 Y began to “borrow” things from her Catholic step grandmother to use in mock rituals at school. She used to mix essential oils, herbs from the garden and small ornaments, she often found in the most peculiar places.
She played these esoteric games with her classmates. At some point they believed Y was a sort of witch and they ate the treasured ingredients she mixed as “magic potions” mumbling nonsense phrases over and over. Mostly this was just a childs play, but it disturbed very much the teachers and especially the parents. They started telling their children not to play with Y anymore and she slowly found herself lonely. At home, Y was beginning to ask more and more questions about her father, who she hadn’t seen since she was very little. Y’s mum would get increasingly frustrated with her daughter and her questions: she hated Y’s father and did certainly not want her to see him again. This attitude made Y even more curious and obsessed by her father figure. He appeared to her like some sort of ghost, a presence to never mention, just another obscure object for her mind.
Sometimes at night in the darkness of her room, I found her still thinking about me: after all that time I was the memory of an old man whispering bedtime stories…
X started University in September ’98. There was still such warm and happy weather. She was extremely nervous about meeting new people and socialising, but yet she was excited about learning new things. The doctors could not ruin this moment in her life. Doctor N.F. decided to see if a new treatment could resize the cyst without any surgical intervention. Despit the fact this treatment was quite strong and kept her awake every night, she was able to go to University very punctually every morning. X and M were still best friends in those years. The best friend X could ever have. He was still the same dark and affectionate young man, in love with the girl he couldn’t have. He used to come to pick her at 8.15 am every day with his fancy blue moped.
– Don’t drive too fast M! – X’s mum recommended every time they were leaving the house. – Yes, Madam –
X loved him in her own unique way. She couldn’t think of a better person to ever replace M in that difficult moment of her life. He was always her beloved best friend, always present, always willing to listen to the best music and after all, with him the silence was the best pause in between the chaos of her adolescence.
M was terrible at University though. He couldn’t care less about sciences subjects. He decided to follow the same courses as her just as an excuse to spend more time with her. This reality was really annoying for X. How on earth could he could be so shallow. How in the hell could he not love the classes? It was extremely frustrating. And because of that they started fighting. Whilst before they listened to music in silence, now the music was covered with shouts and screams. She had to convince him to study, she had to do homework for 2 people and because she cared about him a lot, she did.
At the age of 9, Y started being bullied. In particular, some boys in her class began to think that the way she played was too weird. At first it was just verbal abuse, mostly saying that she was strange: they called her ‘witch bitch’, but she didn’t seem to care too much. Unfortunately, what was “only” verbal began to be physical. The bullying became increasingly physically violent. They even snatched her possessions from her, whilst she was restrained they would grab at and verbally abuse her. Often they put her in a headlock or held her arm at a very painful angle. She began to smother her feelings, avoiding to show any tears.
She was a different kid. She wanted to seem evil. Perhaps as a self defense strategy. The best person Y had in her life at that moment was a family friend called P. This man was the real father figure of the little girl: he was the one who picked her up from school, he was the one talking to her more often and helping her to stop the boys from following her on the walk home after school. P was a large tattooed man, with long hair, who rode a motorcycle. One day, as P waited for Y at the school gates, one of the boys tugged at her hair with such force that momentarily, she was lifted off of the ground just by her pigtails. P saw this and angrily confronted the boys parents who didn’t see and didn’t care at all. Without a doubt though, at least Y felt protected: she really loved him.
X was still living at her parents house. They didn’t allow her to move to the campus, at least for the first 3 years… They said. She was okay though, she was so overwhelmed with her University work but she couldn’t ever have enough to do. She was passionate about every single subject and every presentation at the end of each course had to be perfect.
The only serious issue in her life, other than the lack of passion for her beloved friend of course, was her health. Her medication dosage was increasingly high and her heart started having little problems. Often she passed out in the most embarassing situations: walking in the streets, studying, during classes, even just getting out of her bed early in the morning. Once she passed out fully naked in the shower one day, upon which only her brother was present at home. Oh, her brother had become a better person and began to pursue military career up North far from home. He often came back and perhaps the distance had made him grow up a lot.
– She is having a baby – the Belgian classmate of Y exclaimed in sheer panic, pointing at her. That was an especially dramatic moment in her life. She was in the middle of the school playground, Y was 10 and a small trickle of cold blood ran down her leg. At that time not one of her classmates understood about menstruation. The bullying intensified after this, though there were a few girls who now saw her as cooler and more mature. On the other hand, the bullying from the boys became unbearable. Finally, after much violent bullying, Y’s mum arranged a meeting with the headteacher of her school to discuss her future at the school. After some arguing, the headteacher suggested that she move school. – Y doesn’t fit in well with the rest of the children, the school’s ethos and our belief system – she said. Y therefore, went to a new institute to complete her final year at primary school.
In February 1999 there was no more excuses for X to avoid being operated surgically. At the age of 19 she knew that she was going to endure the surgical removal of that alien cyst from her body. Dr. N.F. said that the operation would take place before the summer. Bouncing from one hospital to another, in those white reception rooms waiting for more doctors and more advice, she was always easy to recognise: a tall, slender girl, too slim for her body type, walking heavily with her head down, long dark hair, leather coat, Doctor Martens with red laces. And black, deep set oceans for eyes; in silence, she stood listening to hard rock music. She had to miss so many classes since January that year and she wasn’t seeing M as often as the past Christmas time.
But something happened within her. Something switched: in the darkness and uncertainty I saw her smiling.
I would like to thank @Obsidian Urbex Photography for the featured image.
If you missed the other episodes of “Story of X” click here: She seemed evil
If you are able to draw send me a sketch of how you see X and I will publish it in the next episode!