I’m in class reading Hamlet and contemplating suicide on a cliffside. Reciting poetic verses about family curses and hiding behind a curtain with a knife. My phone buzzes, and I lean forward to read something out of a Shakespearean tragedy. She killed someone. The words glow like the flame of a lit match and I spring from my desk chair, repelled by their heat. Faces swivel toward me, judgement radiating from their eyes. I’m an injured animal at the center of a swarm about to be mauled by my own pack. My heartbeat radiates in my ears: glove to a punching bag or knife to a chest. I ask, “Can I be excused?” But don’t wait for an answer. I grab my cell phone and stumble out the door. Knuckles white to match my ghostly face, I can’t help but imagine a skull in my palm instead.
I knew her.
In the privacy of a public bathroom, I perch with knees to my chest, balancing like an ape on the branch of a porcelain tree as I read. Police arrived at her room, responding to concerned calls about violent-sounding screams. She opened the door, bloodied hands shaking and outstretched in surrender. Behind her, a scene of crimson and rouge, organ and flesh. “I killed him,” she said. “Arrest me.”
Memories flood the folds of my brain. Every time I told her I loved her. How she tucked my hair behind my ear. Every time she mentioned church or raised her voice. Moments I should have known or couldn’t have known all circle me like vultures. Their screeching pierces like a blade. I can almost see her standing over me, electric with adrenaline pumping through her veins and a dagger clasped between her hands. Are my ears ringing or is that another text? I close my eyes and ask Shakespeare what comes next.