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I've Been Here 103 Days, I Think

by Danielle Gargano 7 months ago in fact or fiction

I've been here 103 days, I think.

I try to remember every night to scratch another tally mark on the smooth part of the wall, but I'm sure I've forgotten to do it some nights. I'm starting to run out of space. The majority of the walls are either old, corroded and water-damaged, or rough red bricks that can't be drawn on. I can't waste my paper by drawing tally marks; then I'd have nothing to write on. He only gives me 3 blank sheets a week, because I asked for it. That was kind of him. I use the space wisely; I got in the habit of writing in small letters so I could fit more on the page. I write slowly, so more time passes. I don't write about anything important.. only about what I see and feel; what I can't change. But I'll never write about what he does to me. The minute I write about that, it becomes real. I won't accept that as another thing that can't change. Instead, I write to forget. The pain, the fear, the hunger, the cold, the lack of brain-stimulation, the loneliness.. all of it.

I write about the things out of my control. Like the floor. It's hard, gray concrete with tiny grains of stone-debris that stick to the bottom of my bare feet when I walk on it, and leave painful indents on my legs when I lay on it. There are also a couple big cracks in the concrete that I've tripped on. Worst of all, the floor is cold. So cold it makes my toes feel brittle and numb, just by walking across it. It wasn't so bad in the fall.. only after the cross-over into winter. Today it's colder than usual; I think it may have snowed last night. I expect I'm in a basement, because there's an old-looking wooden staircase leading up to a door that's locked from the outside, and there are no windows. He abducted me on November 5th. That was the last time I felt the sun on my face. I don't remember much about that day. I often wonder if the preceding events will come back to me, or if my brain will have them blocked forever. I only remember waking up on this hard, gray concrete floor. It was the first thing I noticed.

The next thing I remember feeling after waking up was confusion. I was not so much confused by where I was or how I got here, but by how I was immediately aware that I was somewhere I was not supposed to be, and yet, somehow, not paralyzed with fear. Instead, I was calm. Shock is a strange thing. It didn't REALLY hit me until 3 weeks later. One day, I was folding the blue, bleach-stained bath towel I use as a blanket; a simple day-to-day task by that time. The second I set the folded towel down on the floor was the very moment my brain decided to release to my full awareness the sheer magnitude of the atrocious situation I was truly in. Not that I hadn't been scared before.. I'd just been so sure the police would've found me by then that I must have subconsciously refused to fully process and accept what I knew had happened, but wouldn't admit to myself. That's what I'd been telling myself for 3 weeks, to keep me from completely surfacing with reality: "It's okay, they'll surely come tomorrow. It's alright, they'll SURELY come tomorrow." I guess I realized all at once that 'tomorrow' kept coming and going, and all of a sudden it had been almost a month, and nobody knew where I was. My family didn't even know I was alive. I wonder if they're still looking for me. Anyways.. these are the kinds of things I don't like writing about, so, I digress.

I've always been observant. Being isolated in one room gives my brain so little to observe, I could recite every detail from memory. I couldn't forget them if I wanted to. The room is not very big, and it's miserably dismal and muggy in here. The recycled air smells like a combination of mildew and sawdust, with an undertone of cigarette smoke. There's a little, circular side table with an espresso-colored wooden finish, and a plastic wicker chair that's beige with dried mud on the seat. It looks like a piece of cheap, old patio furniture. It's the only chair in here, and I'm sitting in it now, and using the small table as a flat surface to write on.

There's an old TV, the kind with antennas, sitting against the back wall; the glass screen smashed in as though with a hammer. It's completely covered in dust, probably untouched for 60+ years. In the right corner is a door that opens up to a utility closet. The hot water tank running inside is the only sound I hear besides perfect silence, and still, to my misfortune, it gives off no heat. There's an air vent on the ceiling above the closet door, but air hasn't once blown through it since I've been here. There's an empty tackle box at the base of the staircase to the right. It's red with the initials "T.S." written on the side in smudged black marker. Sometimes, to pass the time, I think of all the possible names I could come up with that have the initials T.S., wondering if I've ever landed on my abductor's name and never knew it.

There's a bare light bulb screwed into the very center of the aged ceiling. Its florescent white light beams down, filling the majority of the room, but it's strongest in the middle. The light never goes off. I don't like the middle of the room. It's too bright. Plus, I can see all the unsightly cobwebs. The corners of the room are slightly dimmer; that's where I spend most of my time, in the far left corner. That's "my" corner. At least there I can ball up against the 2 walls and try to keep warm. That's where I keep my blue towel folded neatly during the day. There's a limp, stained white pillow that I like to prop up on the folded towel. Then I nicely lie my book on top.

I could only find 2 books. They were in the little drawer of the side table I'm leaning on. One is 'The Catcher in the Rye;' which is the one I keep in my corner. I must have read it 17 or 18 times while I've been here. I probably know the plot even better than J.D. Salinger by now. The other book is a glossy paperback book about home-gardening for beginners called "The Beginner's Guide to Home Gardening." The unoriginality of the title has always frustrated me. That one I've read many times too. I could tell you all there is to know about the different types of plants that grow in the different climates, the best soil to use and how maintenance differs based on what plant you're growing. The worn covers of both books are bent, creased, and partially torn in a few places. Some pages are stained, and some of the ink the text was stamped with has faded from black to copper over the years.

When you have so much time alone with your thoughts, you start wondering things that most people wouldn't think even about once. I always wonder exactly what circumstances led to each mark on each book. I could stare at a tiny scratch in the margin, or a coffee stain on a page, and think of all the possible scenarios that could have led to that very mark being made on that very page, in that very spot. I think about the history of the books. Who have they belonged to? How many places have they traveled in someone's possession? Did anyone ever get around to planting anything in their home-garden after learning how to from that book? Did they home-grow vegetables and cook them for dinner for their family? How did these two very random books end up together in the drawer of this little round side table? The questions don't end; they are infinite. I don't know if I love that or resent it.

I saved the best for last. My absolute favorite thing in this room is a painting I noticed my first night here after being taken. It's large with a beautiful gold, tarnished picture frame with lots of detail carved along the edges. It rests on the floor against the wall in my corner, right by the spot where I sleep every night. It's an oil painting of a distant ship on the ocean's horizon. It's breathtaking. The brush strokes are so intricate and precise, yet minimalistic and abstract. I can see where the painter used artist knives to create the texture of the clouds, as well as their use of glowing pastels to bring the sky to life. In the painting, it's an hour of the day where the sunlight is perfectly golden where it kisses the surfaces of the ship and the water. It's hard to tell if the artist meant for it to look like the sun is coming up or going down, but maybe that's how they intended it. Maybe the artist wanted to to broaden the viewers' stretch of imagination, or maybe it was to attract twice as many different perspectives of what could be initially seen- a ship in the morning, or a ship in the evening. The artist's signature was painted faintly at the bottom left corner, simply signed, "Stocklin." I like to believe that Stocklin strategically painted the sunlight inconspicuously, with the creative intention to allow more hypothetical scenarios of the ship's narrative to be born in viewers' minds.

I live vicariously through the passengers on the ship in the painting. Every night, when I lie down on the freezing, concrete floor and cover as much of myself as I can with the blue bath towel, I rest my head on the limp pillow, stare at the ship, and I go there. In those moments, I'm not a frightened girl, shivering on the dirty floor of a monster's basement in the middle of winter. I'm not being fed once a day, given only 16oz of water that I force myself to sip sparingly. I don't have filthy, greasy hair, too matted and tangled to even finger-comb. I'm not vulnerable, or helplessly trapped every time he comes downstairs to have his way with me.

No; I'm free. Death is not an active concern of mine. Instead, I know with certainty I have my whole life ahead of me.

I wish it was real. I envy the imaginary passengers on that ship living their lives, whether they're vacationers, fishermen.. anyone. At least they're supposed to be there. I always wonder where they're going; where they came from. I wonder if the crew members are good friends. I wonder if they eat breakfast together, work hard all day and curse like sailors, like in the saying. I crave being on that deck, looking out to the endless green, glistening sea. I imagine the breeze on my skin, the salty air filling my lungs, and the almost physical sensation of hopefulness and possibility. I long to look up, wide-eyed, at those wispy pink clouds in the blue and gold sky. I pray every night to dream vividly of this fictional reality. Some nights, I do.

Tomorrow is my 17th birthday. I hope God lets me dream of being there again tonight, as a birthday gift. But, until I fall asleep, I will escape to my painting. I thank God for this painting that's become my best friend and only comfort, and for the ship on the horizon. I go there every night; a make-believe paradise, where I've been for 103 days, I think.

fact or fiction

Danielle Gargano



love God. love people.


grow through what you go through


medical assistant


cat mom


severe empath




imperfect, life-long Jesus lover

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