An empty room lay still, a light coat of dust covered the white walls and muted furniture. Pillows, blankets, empty food wrappers, and dulled trinkets were strewn across the room, an untouched memory of a bygone event. Among the mess stood the living room–a burgundy couch with empty sockets where the cushions should be, a wooden coffee table, and a flat box where a small CRT used to sit. A bottle of water, left behind from the rush of whatever happened, stood on the coffee table, half-empty and still as a statue, remaining the only thing to survive the hectic mess. Right adjacent, the skeleton of a kitchen sat silent. Discolored stains dried onto the white tiles of the floor, and the fridge stood open, raided of all its contents but a few scraps of empty wrappers. The lights that used to shine upon the small room had long since fizzled out, leaving the overhead fan to collect dust in darkness. Natural afternoon light flooded through the window adjacent to the couch.

A tiny ripple echoed through the water, disturbed by the sound of a doorknob shaking. First a minor turn, then a hard twist to no avail. The doorknob shook for a few more moments, before a click was heard, and it turned fully. The hinges creaked as the door swung open slowly, revealing a white-furred fox dressed in a red flannel shirt, black jeans, and a backpack. She wore no emotion on her face as she scanned the room and took in the atmosphere. An odd, yet nostalgic scent emanated from the room, one she had difficulty describing. Images and sounds of the room flooded back to her. The quiet whirring of electricity in the background, the CRT’s broken audio, the sound of laughter from different voices, the soft singing of a mother to her child. glass breaking, the rush of having to leave, bodies knocking over each other, angry screams, crying, doors slamming.

It all felt so overwhelming. She kept those images locked in the deepest parts of her memory. Every time she remembered, it distorted, blocked after months of trying to forget. More and more and more she remembered until it was nothing but a swirl of black and white, but the sounds still stuck with her. She took a step into the living room. It was just the same as when she left. Laying next to the couch was a small stuffed panda bear, one she kept close to her every day, even at school. She had a name for it, but years later, she couldn’t recall what it was. At the sight, she found herself back on that day, rushing to leave, not having the panda in her mind at all. Yet when she realized, she must’ve cried for a week straight. She looked and looked everywhere but this place. She never wanted to come back here ever again. Any moment she even contemplated the thought of coming here, the shouts and cries resurfaced, driving her back into minutes of trying to distract herself to make them go away.

She put the panda into her backpack and continued, taking in everything she kept hidden away. A purplish-red stain on the floor made her stop. It stood in the window’s light, casting a sharp contrast against the light grey background of the old carpet. Tiny shards of glass sparkled through in the light, with a single large piece just under the couch. Her eyes widened. That was the moment. The glass that broke, the source of the screaming, crying, everything.

Holding back anger, the fox let out a sigh and continued. She entered a room that was similarly empty, however, this environment felt unfamiliar. This room was blocked off from her growing up, but it was the place she came here for. A large bed sat without comforters, with a nightstand adjacent on the left, a desk on the right wall with a chair taken from the dining room, and a closet in the left corner. The walls were painted white, but the room was dark from the curtains blocking the light. She let the sun through, and walked over to the closet. It was dusty and made of dark wood, decrepit from years of unuse, and took a bit to force to yank open. Inside, it had a few shirts and bare coat hangers hanging from the top, and a few small boxes on the floor. She pulled one of them–a dark brown, wide box–out and took a seat at the desk.

This was what she came here for. The box contained a stack of letters. The top, dated 1998, is from a relative just a few months after the move. She took out the contents and began reading, letting the natural light shine onto the words:

Dear Walt,

Hope you and Dannie are doing well. Sorry we can’t be there with you guys, but the town relies so much on the shop that I have a hard time finding good vacation hours. Anyway, hope you’re settling in well. New York City must be such a change from our little hometown. It does hurt, knowing you’re so far away, but I know you’re going to do great things later in life! Hope Dannie’s delivery goes well, she’s so healthy that I have no doubt she’ll power through it no problem.

Monty is still overseas in Paris. I remember the first time he left for his ambitions. I remember how he would send letters full of his anxieties to me, just to have someone personal to rant to. Just remember that any time you feel anxiety over your job or being in a new country, Dannie will always be by your side to comfort you. And likewise when her big day comes, don’t miss that one!

Well wishes,

p.s. Give Pepper a big hug for me!

It took her longer than she would have liked to admit to read the neat, cursive writing. Regardless, she put the letter down, and looked at the second one. There were various sections blanked with White-Out. The “Diagnosis” section was specifically covered, albeit poorly. Enough to hide most of the words, but she was still able to make out “syndrome” and “anxiety.” There was another covered section right below Diagnosis, but the title was hidden as well, completely removing any semblance of what it might have said. She began reading:


Date of exam: 8/27/02, 2:31 PM
Patient name: Nilsen, K. M.

History: Born blind. Parents have no history of notable genetic diseases, however, the father mentioned heart disease is common on his side. Nilsen began schooling earlier this year at a school that specifically accommodates disabled children, but has struggled with making friends and communicating with teachers.

Symptoms: Parents report [...] since turning three. They mention she did talk “a little before that” and had a “wide vocabulary for her age.” Parents report a month after Nilsen turned three, she began to throw temper tantrums that involved “loud screeching,” which is reportedly a deviation from previous tantrums. They report unusual timidness for everyone outside of her immediate family, even after being with people for extended periods of time. At the end of the first day, she still refused to communicate with teachers. Nilsen reached all major developmental milestones at normal pace. [...]

Since Nilsen turned four years old, parents report:

  • Aversion to social situations (see above paragraph).
  • Rare bursts of crying at random intervals.
  • Occasional “incoherent muttering” when she believes she is alone.
  • Anxiety in public situations, described as “extreme [...]” in some instances.
  • Occasional refusal to eat.
  • Adherence to routines, and anxiety upon diverting from them.

Socal/developmental history: Nilsen is a 5-year-old [...]. Born in Manhattan, New York to [...] parents. Both parents are married and live together. Father described depression in his early twenties. Sister had no extraordinary developmental issues growing up, and the siblings maintain a good relationship.

Medical history: Troubled birth. Hospitalized earlier this year due to a lack of eating. Remains underweight. Allergy to latex. Parents report good compliance with doctors except for one instance in which blood was drawn.

Diagnosis: [...]


Dr. Jordan R. Lansing

She took another quick scan, before stuffing the report into her backpack. She shuffled through the stack again, before pulling out the last one that seemed important. A piece of paper with words hastily written, stuffed between old bills and advertisements. The words were packed together and scribbled with unneat handwriting, making it difficult to parse most of the sentences. It read as follows:

Pepper was sent home today. Scratched a kid at recess and pushed him down. The school described it as just that, but supposedly, she cut a pretty deep gash in the kid’s face, one that required a trip to the hospital. Got a suspension and a few weeks of detention. Nothing major. Would’ve been more mad if she was expelled, but maybe the school didn’t want to lose a kid with her kind of grades. Pepper has done this before. Last year, she threw a rock at a kid’s head, and got into a fight with another girl. I have a hard time being mad at her for this stuff. She’s just growing into herself, adjusting can be hard especially at her age. So I sat her down, and just talked for a little while. About growing up, school, discipline, and what she should be doing going forward. Before you call me, criticizing my way of parenting (I know you were always a bit more strict than me when it comes to this kind of stuff), let me explain myself for a few minutes. You know how mom and dad were growing up. I always hated it. Wasn’t until I was arrested that I was allowed more freedom. Remember that? Was let off with a small fine, but dad never treated me the same after that. I thought I would be locked in the house forever after that, but no. Although he acted as if I betrayed him. Never got farther than him not speaking to me. Mom always said he’ll get over it eventually, but when he was on his deathbed, his rigid quietness when I was there was almost an implicit “fuck you” to me, all because of a grudge from years ago. Don’t want to be like that with my children. Want to make sure they’re free to define their lives as they see fit.

The fox felt torn at the note. She read it over and over again, soaking in the meaning of every word. She hated it. She hated every word on the note, and wanted to tear it up into a hundred pieces, but she couldn’t. Despite everything, she tucked it into the same pocket as the mental exam.

She stood up and stretched her arms, feeling the tension in her body from sitting too long melt away. One last look around the old bedroom and she walked out. The dust around the small house settled. The strange, yet familiar aura of the house almost made her want to stay and clean up, but she knew she couldn’t. Careful steps maneuvered through the messy living room, as if she didn’t want to soil the image of what she remembered, in a strange way of preserving it. She took one last look at the house, before walking out the door.

Pub: 02 Jun 2022 01:49 UTC
Edit: 05 Jun 2022 01:29 UTC
Views: 664