I had been here before, a long time ago. I remember everything.
Walking along the corridors I see the battered baseboards, the peeling paint, and the hardwood floors that remind me of an English pub. The boards were mismatched, unfinished, and foot traffic had left these narrow light coloured trails all over the place.
When I was a kid I swore those trails were actually etched out in the wood. If you walked in them you’d sink in till your ankles and you’d have to climb out to reach the darker wood again.
As I walk the halls, I feel myself smiling at these memories. My feet do find the trails and I pretend to sink in a little lower, melting into the floor to honour my little self from so many decades ago. A small gesture to accept that I really was here. A nod to the little me who saw what she saw even though nobody else did.
The lights flicker. They are just lightbulbs hanging directly from the electrical wires. Nobody ever bothered to hang up real lights with a fitting and a proper cover. The ceilings are even more yellow than I remember. I always thought of those stains as pee spots. Those yellowing stains that became darker at the edges? They reminded me of my sheets. The sheets that I had to hide.
I hid them in my closet, my gym bag, underneath the bed, everywhere until they dried. Then, I would wait till laundry day. I would grab the sheets, sneak up the stairs to the next floor and wait. The staff would leave the carts outside in the hallway when they went in to change the bed sheets in the rooms. That’s when I would quickly dump my sheets in the dirty laundry bags attached to the carts and quietly return to my own floor. They never caught me but I always thought someone would.
I didn’t use to pee my pants at night. It just happened after. Every so many nights, I’d have that dream again and I’d wake up in my own urine. I tried to tell the staff what was going on but they claimed it was my overactive imagination. I do have a good imagination. I am super at making up stories or giving twists to books. Or rewriting the ending of books. Or day dreaming. I love day dreaming. But I didn’t make this one up. I saw it and as nobody would believe me I wrote it on the wall. That someone wanted to kill me. Still nobody took me serious. I doubt that people even saw my sign.
The staircases to the third floor are coming up and my eyes search the walls for the signature message I left there so many years ago. I thought I’d get caught immediately but no. You see that sign to the exhibition? Now go up three steps and look at the wall. You will see a smiling shrimp in blue paint. Someone spray-painted a black “Z” partly over it but you can still see the smile. The eyes are wide open arching the brows. She’s standing on my dead body.
“The shrimp” was the nickname for our cook because she liked her cocktails. Not much of a cook though. Just someone in charge of the pots and pans. She was the most corrupt person you’d come across. Anything that wasn’t attached or bolted was sold. Even the food. One day I saw her selling the food boxes that were meant for us. She had them in the trunk of her car and pretended to talk to a friend. That friend took the boxes to another car. Money exchanged hands but that wasn’t why I got so scared.
To make up for the lack of food she used fillers in our dinner. The fillers came from the farm next door. She’d creep over at night to steal buckets full of corn and meat leftovers usually given to the pigs. She’d add tons of cheap onions and garlic to cover up the taste and added heaps of pasta pretending it was a specialty dish. None of us was sophisticated enough to find out. We were just glad we had three meals a day. And as long as there was plenty to eat nobody cared what we ate.
What really scared me was that one day I saw her separate the corn from the meat in the sink. I should have backed away immediately but I could not help being fascinated by the small intestine pieces she was twirling between her fingers like a cheerleader’s baton. Then she saw me. She dropped the intestines and turned the faucet off. Then, with her hands still wet and dirty she took two steps forward and looked at me. Then she did it. She raised her right arm and with her hand she made a gun. And she pretended to kill me.
It was enough to scare the shit out of me only it wasn’t shit that came out of me, it was pee. She never told anyone and never treated me any different from the other kids. She never denied me food or seconds and never gave me more kitchen duties than I already had. Nothing. She didn’t need to. I guess she knew that.
Even now as an adult, I feel the tremor in my heart and my throat becomes thick when I think back at that moment. I bet my nose is red. I feel the tears coming up in my eyes and I know that if I let them they will roll over my face for everyone to see. If I was a kid right now I would have peed my pants. But I am an adult. I look again at the smiling shrimp standing laughing on my dead little body and I whisper: I hate what you did to me.
This post was written as part of the Daily Post Writing Challenge.