It started with theater. Abby sang a solo, and when she went back and watched the video, she didn’t recognize herself. She thought that it just proved how good her acting was, how she was buried in her character, but she couldn’t escape it: when she looked at that video there was no Abby, only Rose Alvarez. Even when she remembered that it was a performance, she was watching some actress, not herself. How could it be Abby when the words weren’t hers?
Then, it happened with Ruth. Ruth didn’t show up to rehearsal. She barely had since her senior year had started. It was a pain, something that made rehearsal nearly unbearable, an action that in Abby’s mind was absolutely and unequivocally sinful. Even in her absence, Ruth seemed to haunt the auditorium, manifesting in everyone’s whispers as they questioned where she was. But it was even worse when Ruth did show up. That was when she began to talk. She talked about Jesus, and about college, and about killing herself.
It didn’t match. So there were two Ruths: the Ruth Abby liked to talk to, who knew a lot of musicals and considered Abby to be a friend, who Abby would tell “no, you can’t, I like you” whenever she said she wanted to die; and the Ruth Abby loathed, who stole the role she had wanted and then never even went to rehearsal.
Then January came, and midterms. It was the teachers who split next, each and every one of them. They went from devotees who loved her for her photographic memory and slew of As to midterm-assigning demons. Over the course of the quarter, as it became February and then March, Abby’s grades slipped to Bs and Cs. Even the teacher who hadn’t hid her adoration of Abby’s essays, who’d saved her with an extension after her cousin’s funeral, began to show that her patience was dying out.
Finally, it peaked in the end of March, with the biting, crushing, killing cold that persisted even after the equinox. School was delayed yet again, and every class felt hollow, as if the school had lost not just two hours of time, but its very soul. Worse, though the clocks weren’t due to be set back until that weekend, the time she felt in her mind had already separated from the one displayed on every timepiece. She found herself stumbling into classes late, and even when she was there, her questions seemed to go unheard. The quarter was closing, too, and it wouldn’t be long until those Bs and Cs were set in stone.
Abby went to rehearsal one night and no one seemed to know her name, to remember the texts they’d sent her just moments before. All anyone could talk about was school, and snow, and the slow approach of the show. Their eyes were fixed forward, their knees ceaselessly bouncing, their jaws set shut, until the entire auditorium was filled with silence. Each and every one of the teachers was late.
And suddenly, Abby was looking at the room from above, as if she were a ghost, or an angel. She watched her own legs quivering, her thumbs tapping mindlessly on her phone keyboard; she saw as finally, the teachers arrived, and she grabbed her script and climbed onto the stage. She delivered her lines without ever willing herself to do so. Once again, there were two Abbys: the one watching from the rafters, and the one standing below.
She slipped back down into her head eventually and found herself gasping. It seemed she hadn’t breathed since the moment she split. Her head, too, had began to throb, irritated by the sudden switch and the explanations she began to conjure. People were complex, she told herself. They were allowed to contain multitudes, a hundred different Abbys in a single skin, and maybe sometimes they were forced to split apart. That was how people stayed sane, wasn’t it? Everyone lost themselves from time to time.
But no matter how often she repeated those claims, Abby found herself anxious the next time she was trapped between two times, two quarters, two seasons, terrified she’d split again. Those lies could no longer fool her, and she began to cling to the world around her, hoping if she did, her soul would stay put. As long as she spoke to enough people, read enough novels, said enough prayers, she could almost believe she was safe. Still, deep down, she knew it was all useless. No matter how hard Abby fought, she was bound to split again. She could only keep herself together for so long.
Margaret Madole is a student from Connecticut. Her work can be found in Hobart, *82 Review, and Parallax Online. When not writing, much like Abby, she participates in copious amounts of theater.