I remember the day Brie came into my mind. One moment everything was fine and the next, my mind was consumed in a raging fire. Every single morsel of my mind, of me, was burning and shriveling and exploding while Brie was pouring the gasoline and reveling in the destruction. I couldn’t stop her, she just kept on pouring gallon after gallon on anything, everything that wasn’t already scorched.
That’s when Ana came with a fire extinguisher. She tried to put it out, tried to settle Brie, to be a source of calm in the raging sea of my mind. She raced after the flames, putting out as much as she could as fast as she could. But she wasn’t as strong, as fast, as capable as Brie and soon Anna, who was supposed to be my savior, who was supposed to fix all that had gone wrong in my mind, collapsed onto her knees, surrounded by a circle of orange and yellow flames. Tears would have been streaming down her face, but they vanished in the heat before they could even slip from her eyelids.
Even while Anna was crawling, begging to Brie, that maniacal personality wouldn’t stop, she just kept running, from corner to corner, idea to idea, memory to memory, hope to hope, until she found the very heart of my mind. She reached out, her hands, bright red from heat and she grasped my beating heart, and squeezed until it burst, until I burst and every emotion that I had ever felt, every smile I had ever given and tear I had cried, splattered onto the walls of my mind and exploded against the heat.
I had felt her growing and lurking in the shadows of my mind for months, maybe even years before she took control. It was like the buildup of clouds before a storm all happening within the confines of my mind, and layer after layer brought me closer to the edge of destruction.
The first cloud was when my mother had left the house wearing her pink heart covered scrubs for the first time in five years and I came home from school, to find a stranger with a purple streak in her hair and a backpack by her feet sitting in on our beat up leather couch, her thumbs moving at the speed of light on the tiny keyboard that illuminated the face of her phone.
“Hi!” She had said brightly, once she had noticed my presence, “You must be Brianna! I’m Caroline, it’s really nice to meet you!” When I stared at her quizzically for a few moments she smiled brightly again, showing practically every one of her brace covered teeth, “Your parents told you I was coming right?”
Later on she clarified that she was my new babysitter and everyday after that she was there waiting at my house after school, sitting on that mothball scented couch and moving her thumbs at the speed of light.
The next layer of clouds came when I walked into my living room after school one day and Caroline wasn’t sitting on the dented couch. I had looked around my house, trying not to listen to the sound of my heart echoing in my ears, until I found my father in his work suit standing in the kitchen and cutting an apple up into the tiny chunks that I loved.
From that day onwards my father was waiting at home for me, more often than not he wore his gray slippers that I had gotten for his birthday once I realized how much time he was spending at home, and his soft navy blue robe over his pajamas.
One Monday I had a day off from school and after my mother left for work, I woke up my father, “Well, the day is ours Brianna, what do you want to do?” He had said with a warm smile taking up his face.
I was young and childish at the time and without thinking that it was even a possibility I said, “I want to buy a yellow couch.” And so we did.
My mother had been so upset when she came home after work that day, her bright pink heart covered scrubs soaked in something green and foul smelling, to find a yellow couch sitting in her living room, where there hadn’t been one before. She told my father to return it, send it back. She told him she hated it, that it wasn’t worth the money, but my father simply looked at her with sadness enveloping his eyes.
He had wanted to do something for me, something kind and from a place of love, but she just stared at him, her green eyes suddenly wide. In that moment I knew she realized something, I just didn’t know what it was.
“The couch is fine.” She whispered after a few moments of silence. Then she put her purse down by the door, walked to their bedroom, and locked the door behind her, she didn’t so much as speak until the next morning.
I loved that yellow couch though. It was so comfortable and soft that when I sat in it and sunk into the cushioning I could swear I was floating on a cloud. I used to close my eyes and imagine that I was up in the sky, racing with the birds and watching the cars go by.
I was sitting on that yellow couch across from my parents when Brie came in full force, like a wild horse signified only by the sound of hooves beating against the grass.
It was like they knew she was coming. That my mind was going to become just a cushion for shrapnel to crash into. That everything that made me up would be torn to shreds. Maybe they had been expecting her.
My mother looked worried and tired, she had dark circles under her eyes and her lips were pointing to the floor and frozen. My father’s own eyes were sorrowful and if I hadn’t known better, I would have sworn there were tears bubbling behind them.
Sometimes I like to imagine that Brie didn’t take over, that she lingered in the corners of my mind for a few months and then left, looking for someone else to terrorize. Sometimes I fantasize about that yellow couch too, I imagine sitting in it again and racing the birds and watching the cars go by. My mom ripped it up though. Minutes after my father had gone, she took a steak knife from the kitchen and made three long slices through each cushion. She ripped out the stuffing and kept on tearing that yellow fabric until there was nothing left but panels of wood and springs. That’s when she got the safety goggles and hammer, and slammed the metal head down, again and again, moving her whole body with it. She struck so hard that she made a hole in the hardwood floor, but she just kept swinging the hammer down, again and again, using the momentum of her body and the anger of her heart to propel herself.
I was screaming at her, begging her not to ruin it. It was a gesture. He had bought it for her and me and so he let us keep it. He knew I loved it and so he let us keep it. And then, she broke it, shattered his love into millions of splintering pieces all over the floor.
I didn’t see my father much after that. He got a new apartment the next town over, but he started going to work and was rarely home anymore, not that it mattered, I rarely ever got to go to his apartment anyways.
Brie isn’t so bad now. She never went away, not fully, but her raging fire turned into a simmer that spurts every now and again. Anna never left either, but I soon realized that she was a calming source for me, some grain of optimism, even when Brie had made everything seem like the world was exploding and I was going to be shredded into millions of pieces against the impact.