Going Under
Author:S. Walden

Going Under by S. Walden

 

 

 

One

 

“This dress is bullshit,” I said, observing myself in the full-length mirror attached to the closet door.

 

I was swathed in a boxy knee-length black sheath I bought at T.J. Maxx. It was two sizes too big and hanging in the “Women’s Active Wear” section. I knew better. I also knew I’d find nothing appropriate to wear in the “Juniors” section. Not for where I was going.

 

I walked right by the trendy low-cut tops and designer jeans and headed for a group of 40-something ladies congregated around a circular rack of discounted dresses. Perfect, I thought, and began rifling quickly, afraid one of the women would snatch the dress before I could get my hands on it. I received a couple of odd looks that turned hostile when I zeroed in on my target and squealed a triumphant, “Hell yeah!” It couldn’t be more perfect. A ghastly dress for a ghastly occasion.

 

My eyes dropped to the black pumps I borrowed from my mom. They were fashionable for a 35-year-old high power attorney, but I was just an 18-year-old high school senior. They gave the wrong impression, I feared. They screamed, “I’m one amazing person!” and I thought I shouldn’t wear them inside a church. Wasn’t it appropriate to be humble, or at least give the illusion of being humble, in the house of God? But I owned no closed-toe pumps. I don’t know how I made it to eighteen years of age without owning a pair of closed-toe pumps, especially since I considered myself a fashionista. But there it was. I was at the mercy of my mother’s shoes.

 

“These shoes are bullshit,” I decided, screwing up my face in frustration.

 

I turned to the side and looked at my long, straight blond hair pinned in a messy bun at the nape of my neck. Strands were hanging loose, but not in a purposeful way. Not like I pulled them out of the bun to frame my face. No, they were yanked out after a thirty-second walk outside to get the mail. The wind was terrible today, and I considered French braiding my hair, though I knew it would make me look like a 10-year-old.

 

“My hair is bullshit.”

 

I stared at myself, imagining Beth laughing at me.

 

“Brooke, where did you get that horrendous dress?” she’d say.

 

“I know, right? Last minute, and I had no choice,” I’d reply.

 

“And those shoes?” she’d ask. “All the times I tried to get you to buy pumps, and you refused. Now look what you’ve gotta wear.”

 

“I know, Beth. Like I said, I had no choice.”

 

“No, no. You always have a choice. Find something else. I can’t be seen in public with you looking like that,” Beth would answer.

 

“Beth, I don’t have time. I ran out of time.”

 

“There’s still time, Brooke. There’s always time to make it right.”

 

“No, Beth. There’s no time,” I said out loud, choking on the words.

 

My eyes glazed over. And then I sank to the floor and cried away all of the stupid make-up I had just put on—the stupid mascara on my stupid eyelashes and the stupid blush on my stupid cheeks. I cried for the stupid pins jabbed into my hair that pulled painfully on my scalp. I cried for the things I should have been doing today. The places I should have been going. I cried for my sad outfit and my sad heart to match. But I especially cried for Beth.

 

I cried for Beth.

 

***

 

I hung around the doors of the church sanctuary. I couldn’t bring myself to go in. I couldn’t face anyone. My eyes were puffy from constant crying. My body swollen from the heat outside. My hair a whipped-up disaster from the wind. I felt ashamed. I couldn’t even look nice for Beth.

 

“Honey, we need to go in now,” I heard my mother say. She wrapped my hand in hers and squeezed lightly. I knew she meant it to be reassuring, but it made me panic instead.

 

My pulse sped up, and I was certain my heart would explode. I didn’t want to face Beth. What if her casket was open? I couldn’t stand the thought of her seeing me like this. An absolute mess, like I couldn’t even take the time to get my shit together. I would not do that to her—make her think I didn’t care.

 

“I need a minute. I need to go fix my hair.”

 

Mom nodded. “I’ll wait.”

 

I teetered on my heels all the way to the bathroom. I pushed open the door and fell into the first sink, clutching the porcelain and hanging my head low, feeling the urge to vomit. My mouth filled with saliva instantly, and then I heaved. I knew nothing would come up; I hadn’t eaten in three days. My legs shook violently, and I realized I had no business wearing heels. I was weak and worried I’d fall flat on my face.