Cornflake Girl

Content Warning: This piece of fiction depicts evidence of self harm and severe depression.

The November wind sliced through my jacket as I ran up the steps to your front door. I found you curled on the kitchen floor, emotionally broken and surrounded by the instruments of your destruction. I stepped carefully over them and wrapped my arms around your frail body. I took extra care not to disturb the raw tally marks on your thighs — your preferred method of keeping track of your emotional needs. I carried you gently through the rubble of broken bottles, broken hearts, broken promises. You shivered against me despite the fever holding you hostage. 

I laid you down on the old pull-out couch that has stories (nightmares?) of its own. Searching through the house looking for something to keep you warm, I sifted through unused, unloved, and unforgiven items, making more of a mess than I thought possible. Finally, I found the afghan your grandmother made for you before she lost the ability to crochet, before she lost her mind. She would sit for hours by the fireplace telling us stories we’ve heard a million times but never seemed to get old. The pull and hook, pull and hook, pull and hook motion mesmerizing us until the colors of the fire blended into the colors of our eyelids.

When she presented it to you, we both laughed at her use of color. More precisely, the use of all the colors. Those once bright hues have since faded from a shout to a whisper. I tried to cover you as much as possible, but the aged afghan was not up to fighting against the cold. I held you, thinking, wondering what to do next. 

When you called and I heard the panic in your voice, my first thought was This is it. This is the time when you would be broken beyond repair. The bruises and cutting were just priming the canvas. The real art of despair would begin. 

“Oh God! Hurry! Please….hurry!” Rushing over to your house I couldn’t help but remember the first time we met. A shock of black hair sprouted from your head and your freckled cheeks fought your green eyes for attention. Your spindly frame, skinny legs and all, were trying to evade some bullies who didn’t like the fact you wore suspenders and a man’s vest in 8th grade. They were “those kids” who made up for inadequacies and feelings of neglect by preying on the kids who have accepted their “otherness”. Those kids would later prove a burden on the judicial system of our small town. I ran out, intercepted the chase, and started to tell some silly story about a hamster eating a tiny taco “…because hamsters love tacos too, right? Why should they be denied the deliciousness of a taco?”   Those gumps didn’t know what to do because I sure as hell wasn’t funny but I threw them off just enough to abandon their chase. I complimented you on your fashion sense. You were a girl ahead of your time running away from the mundane and pedestrian. You’ve been running ever since. We would see each other randomly during school and you would tease me because I could never remember your name.

“How can I remember something so unimportant like a name when I have lyrics, movie quotes, and trivial facts to keep up with?”

“Tori. You know, like the singer. Cornflake Girl, Silent all These Years, Professional Widow…”

“I’m not sure who Tori is but Cornflake Girl is hilarious. Is it because she likes cornflakes or is she made of cornflakes?”

You laughed and called me a dork and we’ve been inseparable since.

You stirred in my arms and focused on my face, taking it all in as if you weren’t sure I was real.

“Hey Cornflake Girl. I came as soon as I could. Do you want to tell me what happened?”

You covered your face with your hands and a fresh wave of tears seeped through your fingers. We sat together in the silence punctured by your quiet sobs. 

You spoke into your hands and as close as I was, I still strained to hear. “I just want to feel…I want to be whole. Not just parts. I’m tired of feeling so numb and broken.”

I gently checked the jagged lines carved in your thigh, making sure angry red tributaries of infection hadn’t set in. The cutting scared me at first. It still does. I used to wonder what you would cut next. Your arm. Your belly. Your wrists. You insisted that you didn’t want to die. It wasn’t about suicide. “Why would I want to die when I’m dead already?” you had asked me, drawing up your legs to your chin, holding your head like Atlas holding the world. “I want to feel. I want to know that I’m not a ghost who doesn’t have the sense to cross over.” At the time I believed you. At the time, I also believed love didn’t hurt.

Sometimes, words fail. The strongest statement is to just be present. I tried to hold your pieces together until you regained some sense of self, some presence. I held you as I have after every shattering event. I thought it was enough…that I was enough. Our bond transcended silly sexual explorations and petty talk. You were why I couldn’t love anyone else. But I couldn’t hate you. Ultimately, I couldn’t save you.

You said to me, “I bet you didn’t think you’d be spending your day with me…like this. I’m so sorry. I’m such a mess.” You shivered, huddled in a blanket of muted colors. We sat for a while, held in place by gravity, but spinning wildly none-the-less. After I tended to your wounds, physical and emotional, you assured me you were okay. You said, “Go home. You’ve done all you can. Sometimes things just stay broken.” 

The next time I saw you, weeks later, was through a hospital window; my Cornflake Girl in a heap of tubes and wires, struggling to give you the life you tried to give up. Next to you was your grandmother’s afghan, as faded as your will, as frayed as my emotions. I guess everything has to fade at some point, regardless of how much it’s loved.

Our relationship was built on crisis; you were always running from something. However, instead of running from bullies, you tried running from yourself; a more formidable and persistent opponent.

“Why would I want to die when I’m dead already?”

I thought I’d be angry. I thought watching you waste away and give up would ultimately break me; my fissures would finally shatter, leaving me in a million pieces. I would become resentful, unlovable. But I am not angry. I am whole. I am unbroken.

Send a text, save a life. Add the Crisis Text Line to your phone now–it could save a life later. Text “HELLO” to 741741 in the United States to be connected to a Crisis Counselor over text message. Visit for more info. #shareNIMH

Save the number, save a life. Add the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) to your phone now–it could save a life later. Trained crisis workers are available to talk 24/7/365. Visit for more info. #shareNIMH

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