Tiffany Promise
Vanishing Act

I am going to the place where sick people go. They are taking me there. Mom's lipsticked lips in the front seat pursed with words that aren't issuing. Dad's eyes glazed like marbles, rolling around in his mechanistic head. I can hear him telling himself “keep eyes on road…keep eyes on road.” I have learned how to read his mind lately. Because really, I am a mind reader. That is what I do. It's all I have going for me now.

Confined to the sticky backseat. It is an 80 degree winter. It is not really winter at all, maybe spring. I told you, I am a mind reader, not a meteorologist. I wrapped myself in gauze to keep my insanity from leaking out of my pores. “Mom and Dad, your daughter looks like a mummy in your nice luxury-car-backseat. I bet you are embarrassed, you look funny driving her around. She's rubbing off on you.”

My gauze doesn't really work, even though I have pulled the strips so tightly that my limbs are turning purple. I can see the craziness floating in the air around my body like shocky sparky waves of electricity. It smells like something's burning. But I am the only one who smells it. Like a mixture of body hair and chocolate. Maybe strawberries too. It's not unpleasant, but distracting.

Mom looks at me and cries. Dad seems pissed. There isn't much talking. No one wants a sick daughter. Not the kind that carves deep wounds into her skin. Even if they are pretty wounds in the shape of stars and hearts--with only an occasional curse word. Those are not good for making friends. I can't show up at a party with “bitch” carved into my forearm. People might think I was crazy, and I am trying to keep that a secret.

Dad punches the pedal with his foot, hard. His leg is made of metal, he is part robot. He stopped feeling and turned mechanical. His emotions turned into gauges and wires and static. I did that to him. Not only do I read minds, but I also do magic tricks. I can turn pretty things into shit. In fact, I can turn anything into shit.

“Are you okay honey? Are you hungry? How are you feeling? Does anything hurt?” She is always trying to fix it: with bandaids and hot tea, heating pads, aspirin, kisses, words. Now I am beyond fixing. There's something going on in my brain that hurts too much to speak out loud.

The car ride is exhausting. 70 miles an hour for hours. We pass houses that I will never go inside. Trees that I will never climb. Restaurants that I will never eat at. I am going to the place where sick people go. Bad things happen there. I can't believe that they are doing this to me.

I'm smoking mentholated cigarettes: one after the other after the other after the other. Dad has given up. It's not like he can get cancer now, his lungs are made of iron. He lets me light up in the backseat with the windows open. My ash alights and takes off with the wind. I want to be that ash. I want to fly with that wind. But I forgot how to fly today, and my magic skills aren't refined enough to give me wings.

“No one else has been able to help her. She needs to be kept safe from herself,” I can hear reeling in Mom's brain. She's trying to make herself feel better about this. I can read her mind, I think she has forgotten. She knows she's about to abandon her only baby girl. She might as well have dropped me in the dumpster at birth. Chances are I would be faring better there, than I am in this car.

I start to cry, but what's new, everyone is used to it by now. I fish through my bag looking for something to keep me busy: makeup, hairspray, clothes, babydolls, books, journals, shoes. I heard they take away your underwear in places like these. Skimpy ones make perfect nooses. Heard they also take away your bras. Underwires can be deadly weapons. Shoelaces are a no-no, along with mirrors and razors and scissors. Don't they know that only amateurs would use petty tools like that?

“I don't want to go, Mommy, please don't take me there. I'm scared,” the whimpers pour out of me like bubbles, popping once they touch something hard, like ears. She can't listen to these words. They will kill her. It's the first time I have bothered to talk in hours, now I realize that it's not really worth it.

We are trapped, like on a broken ferris wheel. The three of us. We are dangling precariously from the very top, nearest to the stars. We are so close together, so close to death, but can't even look at each other. Dad's hands are magnetized to the steering wheel. His eyes are tiny compasses. Mom is scared. I thought about turning her into a robot too, but then her kisses would taste metallic and her arms would be stiff like forks. Maybe I am just being selfish, but I like her how she is.

I haven't pulled off this vanishing act thing yet. I can snatch a rabbit out of a hat--no problem. But I can't find a box big enough to lock myself inside of. They make coffins that size, but I can't afford one. Maybe I should get an assistant, who prances around in a short skirt and high heels and dramatically sighs “abracadabra” to a listless audience. But I don't have time for assistants or spotlights or saws.

Maybe if I just concentrate a little bit harder. “Imagine myself not being here, imagine myself not being here.” Maybe, just maybe, when they open the car doors and look into the sticky backseat, I will be gone. Only the scent of burning strawberries will remain.