So, it’s been a while… I wrote this like two years ago for another blog. I forgot it even existed.
One. I can’t find the glue. Something about this feels like I need glue. Two. There’s a raindrop on my cheek but the sky is clear. Three. I am airwaves, crackling and breaking into pieces. Four. The sun looks red today. Five. My lips are open but I can’t find the words. Six. You’re saying my name. Seven. I am the rag doll at your feet. Eight. I reach for you, and you pull me apart. Nine. I try to breathe. Ten. I’m drowning. Nine. I close my eyes. Eight. I crawl away from the pieces in your hands. Seven. The air is still but the birds are singing. Six. You’re saying my name. Five. I have no words. Four. The whole world looks red. Three. I am glass, shattered. Two. There’s a whole ocean. One. Say you can smooth these edges. Throw glue at me and hope for the best. Maybe the cracks won’t show. Maybe the pieces won’t show. Maybe.
One. The bread in your hand. Two. The berries on mine. Three. Breathe. Two. Breathe. One.
It is just before dawn. The sky’s trying to turn blue but the night won’t let it, not yet. Just a little longer, I tell myself, just until the sun rises. I turn my face to the sky, as I have been doing every morning for the last eighteen days. District 13 is a bleak place, but every night when I wake before the dawn I come outside and stare at the fading stars and the growing light and I let the silence swallow me whole. It’s easier here, in the not-quite-night and the not-quite-day, to let the silence press down on me and forget.
Here, amid the unbrokenness of a day that hasn’t yet begun, my memories blur around the edges. The ruins of District 12, the echoes of my father’s songs, the blank look in my mother’s eyes - they slide over each other, the colours mixing and the sounds going fuzzy and the moments becoming hazy.
The pain, though, remains as sharp as ever.
The night finally gives up and the milky orange-white of the sun claws over the horizon. The silence fades, the noise grows, the day starts. I look down, back at District 13, and begin my walk back to the compound.
A small part of my mind chastises me for not returning sooner, because now people will be awake and questions will doubtless be asked, but the rest of me is too weary to care.
I tried forgetting, I remind myself, but the peace never lasts long enough.
There’s sparrow blood on my hands. Just a trickle, from the eye. It’s staring at me blankly, huge glassy eyes like broken moons. I should be used to it by now – after all, I’ve been hunting longer than I can remember - yet I still shiver every time I pick up a kill.
I hand the bird to a Seam vendor, wiping the blood on my shirt. He hands me a coin in return. I half-smile, grateful to be rid of the sparrow’s eyes, and I try to ignore the faint scarlet stain on my palms.
When I was younger and less afraid, I would walk to the woods with Gale and laugh at the birds. We’d watch them dancing above us, and we’d smile at each other and say how much we wanted to become a bird and fly far away from District 12.
And then I grew up, and I started shooting arrows, and the birds stopped flying.
I look down at my own palms, rubbing at the dried blood on my knuckles. I know my hunting is essential, that I keep more people than just myself and Prim alive, but I can’t stop myself from wondering how different I am to the Capitol. And how different I am to my kills.
We are sparrows to them, I think to myself softly. And there’s an arrow for each of us.
Today is a Tuesday. I’m so tired. I’m tired of being strong, I’m tired of carrying on, I’m tired of being so alone.
Do you remember telling me about your nightmares, Peeta? About being paralysed and about waking up and realising I’m still there? Well, I’m here, Peeta, but I need you here too. I need you to keep the nightmares away. I can feel them taking away little parts of my resolve, silly little things like double-knotted laces or the way you’d hold a paintbrush or the touch of grey in your eyes.
I’m losing you, Peeta, and I’m terrified.
This is my seventeenth letter to you. I’m not writing it down, of course, because paper is scarce and I’m not allowed to show how broken I am. Apparently Mockingjays don’t cry. Did you know that, Peeta? Mockingjays cannot cry. It’s something about the genetic mutations that created them.
We are all fine here, in District 13. Take that word how you will, Peeta. Fine. I can’t remember what’s it’s like to be fine. It’s become a synonym for existing.
I have so much I want to tell you. I want to tell you how much I miss you and how much I need you and how much I love you but I can’t. I can’t put those words on paper, even though the paper is only in my mind and I know you’ll never read it. But I need you to know that I want to, so badly.
Come home, Peeta. Please.
The end of Haymitch’s arena tape flickers and cracks across the screen. It looks like something’s trying to rip his face apart. Next to me, the real Haymitch is staring blankly at his younger self, cradling an empty whisky bottle. There’s a smashed glass on the floor. I didn’t even hear him break it.
“Haymitch?” My voice breaks over his name. His jaw tightens. I feel like I should be doing something, like I should be saying something meaningful or reassuring or comforting. Or lie, at least.
He picks up a piece of the whisky glass and closes his fingers over it.
“I’m still scared,” he whispers. It’s such a humble admission that it takes me a while to accept it was him who said it.
For the first time since putting on the tape, he looks me in the eye. And it’s young Haymitch all over again. The confusion, the terror, the victory he doesn’t want.
“It should hurt,” he says blankly, moving his hand towards me. His open palm is stained with blood. “But it doesn’t,” he finishes.
I can feel my lips try to move but words feel clunky in my mouth. How do I comfort a killer? How do I tell him he couldn’t have done anything else, when I don’t even believe it myself?
Next to us, the tape splutters and a younger, grainier Ceasar Flickerman stares out at us. “Congratultions, Haymitch, congratulations! How does it feel being the victor of the Second Quarter Quell? Quite a tough match!” Young Haymitch laughs and plays along and smiles for his Sponsors.
But in front of me, years later, he’s stopped smiling.
“Forty-seven,” he murmurs. I can do nothing but hold his gaze. “I hear them, every night. Forty-seven cannon blasts.”
I can feel tears in my eyes. Haymitch’s are dry. He’s gotten used to hiding that pain.
“It’s the most horrible sound, Katniss.” His voice has gone hollow. “Forty-seven people dead and they turn it into a victory march. They turn it into music.”
Peeta is picking apart a bread roll. His fingers pull at the dough absently, his eyes somewhere far away. He’s trying to coax a scent out of the roll, some faint trace of wheat or warm dough, but it’s too Capitol. It isn’t District 12 bread. It isn’t the Seam. It isn’t home. He throws the rest onto his plate in frustration and puts a hand to his head. I catch his eye. He holds my gaze, for just a moment, and I wish I could smile at him. But, of course, I don’t.
I switch my gaze to the tattered roll on his plate. It brings a strange lump to my throat. Home, I think to myself. He wants to go home. Tentatively, I look up at him again. He hasn’t moved. I can feel the corner of my lips raise slightly. It feels like nothing. It feels weak. Insignificant. But he smiles back.
I press my fingertips to the wooden armrest of my chair, imagining I’m feeling the arms of my bow.
Me too, I think to Peeta. It would be too much to say the words out loud. Me too.