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I Don't See Anyone Like Me
I look around me and I don’t see anyone like me. I look around and I see perfection. I look around and I am the only one who doesn’t fit. I slip away silently unseen from my lunch table. I let myself through the double doors that imprison us when the lunch bell rings. The doors hold us all together in the same room when in reality we are all so far apart. The door closes behind me and so does the doors holding back my aching sorrow. I close my eyes squeezing droplets of pain back into my overflowing eyelids. I walk down the halls that are supposed to make me feel pride to belong to. I don’t-its just another memory of what I can never be. A door slams somewhere and I flinch, expecting to be shoved aside by teenagers who can’t see anyone but themselves. I walk to the bathroom wanting to be invisible even though now I am, here in this empty hall. My legs barely hold my weight, weak as they are. A weakness I have to overcome. I force myself to take another step of nauseating pain. My stomach muscles contract stretching to their limits. Voices ring in my consciousness, I cannot see straight-I don’t know where I am, and then it passes. I keep on going, I can’t stop. ‘I don’t want to’ I make myself think.
I open the bathroom door and rest my head against cracked reflecting glass. The cool panes send flickers of relief to the pain shadowing my heart. As my eyes are closed, my cheeks are dampened. Mascara leaves a bleeding trail of black tears down my cheeks. My eyes are rimmed with black sadness. I climb up and sit on the porcelain counter etched with teenage stories in marker and scratches. I look into a distorted reflection of who I think I am. Flawless brown hair falls past my shoulders a perfect wave of beauty. My mouth makes a perfect line on the verge of collapse. Pale arms clasp my imperfect stomach tightly, trying to make my hunger cramps disappear. My eyes stare at a pane of cracked perfection that can’t help but reflect who I can never be. Staring in to moist orbs of green I can sense a hunger coming to the surface. More than just the hungry pain my body feels everyday but something more. My back feels bruised aching with hunger but I push it away. Sharp daggers pierce into my body as if trying help make me understand something. I take a deep breath and hold it, compensation for the food I didn’t eat today. I don’t know why I notice it so much-I am used to ignoring it and winning this war over what my body wants.
The mirror shows the truth and yet the lie. I see myself- I am not a girl anymore, I am a skeleton. My body racks with shivering chills that make me sway from side to side. My skin is covered in tiny bumps-little demons of imperfection. My body collapses into my bed almost as soon as I reach home each day. Too weak to stand up, I just lie there till sleep arrives on the wings of angels to carry me to dreamland. I bear the hunger pains because if I don’t I will think of what I cannot have. My body will jolt to life the memories of the beautiful tastes of long ago of when I didn’t need to be perfect. I am in complete control of my body but still the mirror says I am not good enough. I need to be more- the mirror shows how much thinner I should be. Even though I feel I am fading fast, I am not beautiful. I am not perfect.
Sometimes when I lie all cried out in my bed exhausted from the burdens released, I wonder. My body fights for dominance but I am dominant. I choose. Sometimes while I lie awake waiting for morning and another endless cycle of being nobody, to come- I am delirious, my mind whispers of dangerous ‘What ifs’. What if I lost this game I play, what if I gave my body what it wants, What if I wasn’t perfect. Maybe I shouldn’t be, maybe.
High-pitched laughter echoes in the halls, and the bells ring. My reflexes react first before my thoughts. My legs stretch- some reflex memory and I leap off the counter. My legs give out. I slam with sharp accurate speed onto the marble floor. My body feels the blow a thousand times- reliving it constantly as I crawl forward to the bathroom stalls. I make it into the painted cubicle just as the bathroom door opens and a tornado of blonde highlights and nail polish remover races into the room ripping up everything in its path.
I never escaped- I was just less trapped for awhile. I stand on the toilet seat desperate to not be seen. My frail arms grip the sides of the cubicle pushing them to keep my body up.
Lines of explicit poetry grace the walls alongside hearts with names encompassed in them. Drawings in case readers didn’t understand the poetry, further explain the meanings behind the intricate cruel sayings written about different girls in the school.
A rainbow of graffiti is on display across the door- declaring territory in an undeclared war. Thousands of writings are on showcase giving detailed descriptions of are now hated and why- so many names have a story on these walls- most of these names didn’t tell their story -someone else did .
“ Ava Reyes tries to be something she isn’t. She is fat and ugly, and wants to be something else so bad it’s hilarious” slaps me in the face.
What marks my face, bigger than a handprint and a more visible showcase of my pain, is the name of the author. Emily Reyes, signed with the flourish that is on all the cards I’ve ever gotten for my Birthday, and signed next to mine in all the stories we wrote together. I spot my name several other times- meticulously written above each writing about me- so kindly pointing out each instance something is written about me . I sink to the floor of the stall-no longer caring if these girls see me. They don’t matter anymore. I scan the rest of the words she wrote about me, all of them are cruel- and maybe all of them are true.
My sister and I were as different as night and day-she confident while I was shy. We loved the fairytale princesses as children; she used to call herself Rapunzel because of her red hair, and I was Snow White because of my snowy skin. She was a petite skinny child, smaller than me even though she was a year older. I was built differently. Not skinny. Strangers called her beautiful, while I was non-existent. She shined and I just faded away.
She used to promise me that we would be best friends forever; she promised me that the bond between sisters would always be there. I was so stupid; I believed her. The bathroom door opens and I feel, more than I hear my sister walk in. I know how it feels when she enters the room. People notice her. I knew her better than anyone else. I didn’t know what I was going to do or say when I pushed open the stall door to confront my sister. I didn’t mean to but I was angry and I hurt so badly- the pain was ripping me apart at the betrayal. I didn’t know what I was doing, and for once I didn’t care. I just acted
I stepped out into a throng of girls- girls who believed they were perfect- girls who were skinny and believed that meant beautiful-girls who didn’t care who they hurt to maintain their image. Girls who were just like my sister. I barely saw any of the other faces in the room with me, I was alone right now, but then I was always alone. Each of these girls were probably urging my sister on as she wrote her biting truths, each of them were probably laughing hysterically at the thought of how many tears I would cry when I found out. I don't have any more tears left to cry, I don’t think they planned for that.
My sister looks over at the disturbance in her perfect world. She sees me pushing past the girls she kissed up to so I can get to her. Her eyes meet mine and I don’t falter. I’m sure she knows I know. As soon as I am in hearing distance, she smiles at me and says sickly sweet words to soften the blow I know is coming.
“Ava, sweet sister,” is all I hear. My ears focus on the word she dared to say that she called me,‘Sister’.
“I don’t have a sister anymore and neither do you”. Did I really just say that?
Silence. Breathless silence. Waiting silence.
Her eyes widen in shock at the words I dared to say to her. Than her eyes narrow, and she smiles. Fear rushes through my body. I swear every girl standing in the room is listening. No one breathes until my sister speaks. She looks like someone just told her that her reality doesn’t exist anymore.
“Sisters forever, Ava. Don’t you remember? You will always be tied to me,” She says confidently. She wants me to take the consolation prize, but I realize no matter how much I want to, I can’t. For too long she controlled me, for too long I didn’t get to choose.
“ I don’t belong to you. I never did. Your words are on that wall, Em, not mine. You chose to risk everything to hurt me, you hurt me but you still have nothing. We’re done.” I started to push past her towards the door but she grabbed my arm, twisting it sharply.
“Nothing lasts forever, sometimes you need to let go. We were over the minute we stopped being little girls- we aren’t playing princess anymore, Sweetie. We are over but I’m not.”
I look her in the eye one more time before I walk out the door. “When they leave you, I won’t be there.”
I walk through the hallway, still a nobody, still not perfect. But then I never had to be, that was she, always she who wanted to be perfect.
I don’t stop at the end of the hallway; I push open the door and walk out into the chilly air. I walk across the street not caring if I get hit; each step I take jars my bones and sends pangs of shattering pain up through my body. The park across from the school looks desolate and empty. The front gate is ragged, and should have long retired.
I open the gate and walk into the forgotten park. The slide looks tall and forbidding, a gargoyle formidable standing guard. I walk to the six by six sandbox; the sea of sand has evaporated to be less than a pond. The edges of the sandbox are about a foot above the sand. I kneel in the sand, and my hands feel around finding all the memories I buried here long ago. They delve into what I haven’t thought of in years, peeling back layers of sand reviving ancient memories. Suddenly my hands have a mind of their own they are searching for something. Digging furiously in one spot, until there is a large emptiness in the sand. A hole appears, growing quickly as I dig. It becomes more vulnerable as I unfold it. The particles of broken rock burn my fingers, and hurt as they are stuck in my fingernails. I dig till I have dug through all the sand in the sandbox. My hole is as deep as it can be, it is a burial place. A place to bury all my memories, a place to bury the sisterhood I once had and a burial place for my obsession with perfection.
The lights go out-I feel my body sinking to the ground. Nothing. My body gave out on me- it isn’t strong anymore; I think when I am conscious again. I look over at the school, it is overfilled with teens. Teens are surging out of the doors engergetically adnd loudly.
It has been a couple of hours, and my body feels weak but I am not gone yet. I am still alive but barely. With careful precision I take in a deep breath, filling my lungs with air and I try to raise myself up. Somehow, someway my body listens to me. I stand. Everyone sees the figure standing out of nowhere in the park. They all see me better now when I am almost dead than they did when I was really living.
Sand sticks to my wrinkled clothes as I climb out of the sandbox. My limbs are shaky but they work. A pang of hunger pushes me to my knees again. I hurt-it hurts more now than it ever did. Tears seep out of my eyes, falling mercilessly. They make new black trails of sorrow across my face. I feel a wet droplet on my hair. Then another. I turn my face to the sky and a drop of rain falls on me. I feel the ground I am on turn to mud from dirt.
I place my hands out in front of me and carefully I push my body up. The rain gives me strength- its as if the sky is crying with me.
I stoop, my body bending in abnormal contortions. Unconsciously I go towards the swings. The cold seat feels a relief to my body. My hands hold the chains, and I leave the ground as my feet struggle to find purchase on the slippery mud. My feet pump with the last remaining strength I have as the rain falls steadily into me. My eyes see the school still not empty because most of the student body is standing still-watching me. I am soaring as the wind and my feet push me higher. My body is doing it, not me. As I gain in height the wind whistles past my face. My fingers begin to release their grip on the chains going for holding tightly to barely holding on. Flying through the air, my swing peaks at the highest it will go. My hands grip empty air as I lean forward.
My body cries out in pain one last time and for the first time-I listen. I search out a red haired figure standing alone on the school steps. Our eyes meet and I know she knows what I am thinking- she said it.
“Sometimes you need to let go”- I let myself fall.