Melinda’s parents try to force her to stay after school for extra help from her teachers, but she responds by hiding in her closet. As she redecorates, she covers its mirror (which she hates) with a poster of Maya Angelou (author of I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings), whose books the school board has banned. During Melinda’s time in the closet, she imagines that the poster is watching her as she cleans, reads, and watches “the scary movies playing on the inside of my eyelids.”
Although Melinda doesn’t know who Maya Angelou is, she still sees the poster as a strong, positive female influence—an appropriate role for the famous author. As the source of Melinda’s trauma is revealed over the course of the book, Maya Angelou will come to serve as even more of a symbol, as she experienced similar trauma as a child. Even the poster and the safe space of Melinda’s closet, however, still cannot save her from her own imagination, which constantly torments her with terrifying images and thoughts.
Noting that “[i]t is getting harder to talk,” Melinda describes how her throat is sore, her lips raw, and her jaw clenched. Although she can sometimes talk around Heather, she finds herself unable to speak around authority figures. Acknowledging that there is something wrong with her, Melinda wishes that she could either escape her life or confess “the guilt and mistake and anger” that she has been feeling since Kyle Rodgers’ party. She acknowledges, however, that she will never be able to “dump the memory.” She is grateful for the closet because it allows her to hold onto her thoughts without letting anyone else “hear them.”
Melinda’s unwillingness to talk about her depression or her mysterious trauma has now taken on a physical form, as if the actual body parts that enable her to talk have started to become damaged and defective. Melinda, however, doesn’t see a point in communicating. Although she wishes to tell someone what happened to her, she believes that nothing will enable her to feel whole again. Rather than admitting that something is wrong with her, she prefers to isolate herself.