I knew a girl who smiled when she was sad. And she was always smiling. She grinned ear to ear. She smiled until her cheeks felt like they would split, because she felt like her heart might actually be splitting in two.
I knew a girl who cleaned when she was sad. And she was always cleaning. She always held a sponge or a broom or a mop in her hand, always. She furiously scrubbed every hard surface in eyeshot, like she might be able to kill her hurt in the same way she wiped clean the grime from the tile floor.
I knew a girl who read when she was sad. And she was always reading. She sat surrounded by mountains of books and thousands of pages. Tears splashed on bindings and a box of Kleenex sitting atop Jane Austen’s greatest works. She sat flipping pages like her life depended on it, taking on the pain of every character she met because it was preferable to her own.
I knew a girl who sang when she was sad. And she was always singing. She sang any song, whatever tune fell into her head when she needed it. She sang strong and clear and she would not cry, because she could not sing with a wavering voice. She pulled in her tears like she pulled in her breath, like maybe if she hit that high A the world would be right again.
I knew a girl who cried when she was sad. And she was always crying. She cried silent rivers running down her cheeks. She cried gasping sobs, and she cried low cries almost too hollow to be human. She cried without end, like the salty streams might wash away all the pain she was trying to expel.
I knew a girl who drove when she was sad. And she was always driving. She drove highways and backways and roundabouts. She took to any open strip of pavement she could find. She focused on yellow lines and told herself that she would never turn back. She almost believed it too, until she turned off her engine in the same place she started.
I knew a girl who painted when she was sad. And she was always painting. She didn’t discriminate on colors. She had no preference over reds, or blues, or greens. She didn’t think, just swirled her brush however her hand moved. She painted in acrylics, in watercolors, in oils. She gave them as gifts, so the portraits of her sorrow could hang on everyone else’s walls but her own.
I knew a girl who laughed when she was sad. And she was always laughing. Nothing was funny, nothing at all, but she laughed anyway. Sometimes it was a short bark, other times a shrill giggle. Sometimes it turned into tears. Sometimes she laughed in the stillness as the irony bounced off walls and back to her own ears. It never escaped her.
I knew a girl who danced when she was sad. And she was always dancing. She threw her body through the air, lifted her arms and turned on pointed toes. She wrapped sprains and iced bruises and never took the day off. Everyone called her dedicated. She wasn’t so sure.
I knew a girl who ran when she was sad. And she was always running. Sometimes she was jogging, sometimes sprinting, but always moving. Her feet pounded the pavement as though her demons followed behind her instead of living inside her. She ran like it was the key to the escape from the things that haunted her. When that didn’t work, she ran until she couldn’t breathe, as though she could suffocate the demons she couldn’t outrun.
I knew a girl who died because she was sad. There was no more of any of it, no more tears or paintings or smiles, no more dances or songs. There was nothing poetic or beautiful about it. She just died.