I dream of drowning most nights, waking up with water in my lungs and gasping for breath. The feeling of being pulled under is familiar, and the weightlessness that comes from the jump is addicting.
Perhaps I am some reborn tragedy. It's hard to tell much of anything when the days are as dark as nights and the world only speaks in whispers. My mind is filled with holes. I remember a smile, but cannot recall who is belonged to. What is real and what is dream? Is it the love, or the dying?
When I was little, I saw my home as a dark stone castle. My father carried a sword on his waist, but when I asked him about it, he laughed at the imagination of a young girl playing princess.
I don't tell him I was never a princess. I was just a pawn.
Eventually, I learned to still my tongue. Silence protects me. Nothing else will, after all.
If I were a romantic, I would call myself a reborn Ophelia, dressed in flowers and clinging to a dead love.
I know better; even in her death, Ophelia was used for the sake of men. Her one act of freedom -- her drowning -- turned into beauty and desire by men who held a paintbrush in their grasp. Tell me, where is Ophelia, hair wild and skin streaked with dirt, fists full of torn flowers, screaming, "Oh heat!" as a consequence to the actions of others.
I wait, endlessly, to feel the clarity flee me, turn my mind into a numb, unknowing mess. But it will not be today. I won't die yet.
"How have you been? I've missed you more than I can bear." His voice is honey-sweet, and I, the foolish fly trapped in it.
He's a lovely as ever, but there's a glint of something mad, something desperate in his eyes. He doesn't know, or maybe he does, that I've seen him before, in the days he returned to this old town with his friend in tow. Is this a trick? Some way to use me to hide himself? My heart is stuck in my throat. I don't answer. I just look away.
"Come, won't you spend a day with me? It's been years since we had any time together."
I go, because I never learn from my mistakes.
He chatters about anything and everything, but says little about himself. His words are tossed into the air in an attempt to fill the silence. I know we're being followed. He must know too. Our fathers trail after us in the shadows to make sure we don't do anything we're not supposed to.
I guess they haven't figured out yet that we don't love each other.
"Tell me," I say, breaking my silence for the first time that night, "Why did you come back?"
He stops and stares into the pansies. "What do you mean?"
"You wanted to get out of here so badly. Spoke about it non-stop. Did whatever you could to get into a college on the other side of the country. Why did you come back?"
"I was homesick."
It's been years, yes, but I still know him well. "This isn't home. Not really."
His father isn't dead. There's no tragedy that could have dragged him back here, into this small town of old money, where scandals pop up everyday and are swept under the rug the next. It's all a power play, and leaving means running away. It means you're not fit to have any power at all.
"They want to marry us," he says suddenly. Off-topic, but he rarely does things without reason. I wait for him to continue, pulling my hair off my shoulders and throwing it behind my back. "Threatened to disown me. They control everything, you know. My cards, my education, my job. If I didn't come back I'd be tossed to the streets like trash."
"Take what's yours then. But leave me out of it."
I leave, and it only hurts a little.
My father asks me about it, of course. Asks if I've spoken to him, what I feel for him, mentions wanting me married off. Whatever boldness I had before is gone. I don't speak before my father. But when he stands to leave, having said his piece, I toss a cup off the table and watch the glass shatter on the floor.
He's too shocked to stop me from leaving. Some of the glass digs into my feet, leaves bloody footprints behind me, but I feel nothing through the panic and satisfaction coursing through me.
A helpless damsel gets tired of the routine eventually, after all.
They try to threaten me next, of course. It's always the next step to them. Persuade, trick people into accepting their terms. If that doesn't work, threaten them to fear coerces them into it.
My potential husband is jittery, and his friend looks out the window and pretends he's not in the room. It seems I'm the only one who knows they're dating. Our fathers leave to let us "think it through".
I stand the moment the door closes and straighten my dress. "I didn't listen to a word they said. Was it anything important?"
"They threatened to disown us and publicly humiliate us so we have no future. Aren't you scared?"
"They could do worse," I smile. "Come on, start packing."
His friend turns from the window. "You're very different from who I expected to meet."
"And who did you expect in my place?"
He shrugs, taking a moment to carefully consider his words. "Someone more timid. Someone who lets others walk over them and follows orders without a second thought. But you're much stronger than that. Sometimes you're quiet and do as you're told, and other times you refuse and ruin things to prove a point. Why?"
I pull out a suitcase from the closet and and pass it off to them. Why indeed. I'm sure they all tried to recreate Ophelia in me, create a timid and weak pawn who hurt others if ordered to. Maybe they succeeded, to some extent. I dream of drowning and of pulling flowers from my ribcage. I live without feeling love, trapped in this little town with people I would rather watch burn. How much of what I do is survival, and how much is surrender?
But maybe they didn't know much about Ophelia at all. I am her, she is me, and the world still doesn't understand us.
"I grew up here, unable to leave. Did you think they'd let me go to college when they want a perfect trophy wife to sell to the best suitor? I obey and I disobey. This is just how I am. Both the grandiose and the depressed, the best and the worst, always at the mercy of my unfit mind. I oscillate between more suffering and less suffering. It's all I know. I don't think I'd know what to do if I ever lived a day free of pain. I don't know who I am without tragedy flowing through my veins. I'm sacred to live away from this even if it's all I want."
They share a look at my words, but say nothing. It seems my silence is contagious.
"Pack and leave at one in the morning. I'm going out to destroy the gardens."
My childhood best friend and his boyfriend are gone the next day. As is the garden, once grand and beautiful. Now, it lies ripped apart, flowers throw into stone paths, bushes set on fire, statues defaced.
My punishment is one of the harsher ones I've had in a while: locked in my room, one small meal a day, for the rest of the month.
I tie together all my bed sheets and curtains and dressed and use this makeshift rope to climb out my window that night. I run barefoot through the town as I hear people shout behind me. The barking of hounds follows me through the forest as I run, feeling free and wild and alive.
I leave no flowers behind me. They don't deserve to have any piece of me.
And when the river comes, I jump in without hesitation. The current pulls me under, dragged me down it's length, harsh and unforgiving. Ophelia died in a quiet lake; drowning is the same in either place. It would be scary if it wasn't an act of freedom. I want to laugh, but water rushes in and chokes me. My heart pounds so hard I am sure to find bruises on my chest.
I kick off my shoes and swim up until I'm pulling myself onto the opposite bank. The lights of the town, of my old prison, is gone.
I look ahead, and walk on.
idk ive been thinking about ophelia lately. this is just a quick and v messy thing the get some of it out of my head. i might just rewrite hamlet from ophelias pov honestly she deserves better