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The sunlight seeped through the apartment window, tickling my cheek until I was fully awake. I obtain some inexplicable pleasure from waking after the sun. I stretched my arms and sighed merrily, imagining I was a beautiful princess in a palace overlooking the ocean. The silence was welcome and disturbed only by the chirping of the birds perched on my window sill. It was the perfect day, for all of ten seconds.
The surge of memories from the previous night brought upon me a rush of anger, like a thousand synchronized soldiers stampeding through my brain. I had done everything right, yet I hadn’t been chosen. Every day my hair lay straight and neat on my shoulders. My shirts were ironed, and my pants were a flawless fit. Every night I studied, and every term I happily presented my parents with unarguably satisfying grades. But when I received the letter which should have sung acceptance, it instead howled rejection.
I ripped off my covers and stomped to the bathroom, my fists clenched and my brow furrowed. My hair was a mess and I had a zit in the middle of my forehead.
“You look like a rhinoceros,” I told my reflection. I reached for the brush and attacked my hair until it was a gigantic nest of knots and frizz. After that I went after my forehead, rubbing it furiously until my pimple could be mistaken for a horn. I didn’t want to be pretty, I wanted to be ugly, and the monster in the mirror most definitely was.
Something was terribly wrong; my room was far too neat. I rushed over to my desk and began thrashing books, pens, staplers and other objects across the room. In the seemingly bottomless drawer, I found a dusty book, one of those cheesy ones that parents buy for their children in kindergarten in order to boost their self-esteem by telling the child that she is special and unique. The bright pink youthful book, entitled Who Am I? portrayed a pathetically jolly little girl on the cover.
“Who am I!” I shouted as loudly as my lungs would permit. “Who am I! Who am I! Who am I!” I chanted, jumping carelessly in circles. I picked up the book and looked into the little girl’s eyes. “Who are you?” I asked her.
If she could talk, I’m sure she would have responded, “Unique and special.” But in reality, not everyone is unique and special. There have been days when I’ve met 50 people in a row and they all seem monotonously the same. They drone on about their homework, the weather or their parents without realizing that 49 other people were simultaneously speaking a variation of those words. I was raised to be one of the 50, told that fitting in would bring in the cash and the laughter of life, but that got me nowhere. So that day I decided to become the notorious 51.
I wanted to be an airplane and soar above the world. Everyone would be beneath me, so small that they wouldn’t even matter, and their significance would not be felt at my height. I could reach my massive arm to the ground and whatever I retrieved would be miniature, like a doll. No one could hurt me because I would be invincible and unaffected by the petty affairs below me.
I flew around my room as fast as my engine would take me. My right wing plummeted downward as I veered around my bed. As I was taking a sharp turn around my nightstand, I jammed my toe into the corner. I bellowed as the pain shot through my body, but I chose to ignore it. I winced when I noticed my blood-soaked toe, but planes don’t bleed. I let it ooze into the perfectly white carpet. I was glad, nothing should be perfect. Perfection doesn’t emphasize the world’s natural beauty, it belittles it. It makes everyone else feel like flaws, flaws of nature.
Storming down the hallway, I banged my fists against the walls and shouted, like a girl falling helplessly from the sky. No one should be allowed to sleep this late. Doors were flung open, but my focus remained ahead, on the woman at the end of the hallway blocking my exit - my mother.
Her eyes scrutinized my hair and agitated skin. She raised her eyebrows as if debating whether to speak or not. I didn’t understand why it mattered so much. I was simply making up for time wasted on combing my hair or ironing my clothes. At that moment I was ashamed of her; the woman who’d taught me never to judge a book by its cover was now judging her own daughter.
“Tammy, I don’t know what to say,” she said helplessly. I stuck my fingers in my ears and hummed as loudly as I could. The whole world was filled with hypocrites, everyone but me. I spun around in a circle, not knowing what else to do with my acquired knowledge. I spun and spun until my mom placed both hands on my shoulders.
“Honey, what is it?” she asked, concern and fear in her voice. I gathered all my strength and whipped free of her grasp.
“Hypocrite!” I screamed, and ran away without looking back. I kept running until I reached the edge of the pool and decided not to stop. I heard the squeak of the water against my naked foot as I slipped on the smooth edge and plummeted in. All the resentment and hostility was swept away by the calm of the water. I didn’t struggle or resist, but instead let the water move me where it desired. I lay face down in the pool until I could hold my breath no longer and the water seeped into my pores, cleansing away the previous night and the morning.
My mom waited patiently, a towel in her hands. She soothingly slipped it around my shoulders and silently guided me to the elevator with her hand resting on the small of my back. I looked at her nervously, but she nodded, assuring me that she understood.
“You don’t have to be perfect, you know,” she told me. I caught a glimpse of my bloody toe, tugged on my knotted hair, and ran my fingers over my forehead. There would be other letters, more rejections and more acceptances. And maybe I’d even be fortunate enough to go crazy once more.
“I know,” I responded.