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Love and Invisibility
I crouch on the ground, leaning my back against the wall, and let my eyes flick over the crowd. It seems that almost everyone I know is here. The principal, the school, the teaching faculty…even the lunch lady is sitting in the third row back, to the far right, a long-sleeved black dress squeezing her broad shoulders together, her tanned, mole-infested face set to stone mode.
I feel a cough rise in my throat and try to squelch it down. I can’t be heard. Not now. But, it’s not like it’s ever really been a problem for me-being noticed, that is. See, when I was ten, I found out I was invisible. It used to bother me a lot, but, over time, I’ve gotten to a point of peace, where I accept my fate, and live with it. Sometimes being with your thoughts, letting them cover an expansive amount of the universe, do things, that you know your actions and voice could never equal up to, is better than trying to make friends, breaking friends, and having so many problems because of what you say and do. Right? Well, I did say sometimes.
But this…this is different. I couldn’t let myself just think about coming here. I had to do it. There was no way out of it, around, or under it. I had one chance, one last chance, and I was going to take it. So, this morning, I showered, shaved, fished around in my Dad’s closet, until I found that really nice black suit he wore to my Cousin Julia’s wedding last year, slipped it on, and plucked up the car keys off of the kitchen table, without saying a word to either parent. Now, here I am, only about a quarter of the way through the ceremony, and already, my palms are sweating inside my pant’s pockets, and my stomach is filled with bags of nails, that seem to stab into different parts of the acidy, food digester, every time I breathe.
This isn’t just any funeral I’m attending. Not some distant relative, or, so-called “family friend”, that you can hardly remember, much less muster up enough strength to cry about. No, this isn’t any of that sort of stuff at all. This is the funeral of Delilah. Delilah Murphy. She was the most popular girl in school-everyone adored her. And I was in love with her.
Now, don’t take this the wrong way. It’s not like I was holding out for her, stalking her in the hallways, and sending her creepy admirer letters that were signed with hearts in my own blood, or anything. I had my own non-life, with my own non-friends, to pretend to be content with. Well, that’s not exactly true. I do have friends, just not the type you spend time after school with, or do much more than chat with in the halls, or at lunch. And usually, our relationships are mostly based off of them copying my homework and cheating from my test papers. But, I’m okay with that. I guess.
What I’m trying to get at is this: Delilah will always hold a place in my heart. I don’t try to control it, because I know there’s nothing I can do about it. I mean, if I had the ability to get rid of it, I definitely would, since, not only is she kind of, sort of dead, but, even when she was alive, she had a new boyfriend once a month. But, some things in your life, you just have to look at, acknowledge, and try your best to live with. Delilah and my own invisibility are just a few on my long list.
“Delilah,” my thoughts are interrupted by the high-pitched, usually cheery voice of Skye Walkers, who now has the sort of low, melancholy tone, that almost twists at your heart, and practically makes you forget all the times you wanted to strangle her for being so g-----n cheerful, when your day was going by at the pace of a snail, and you felt as carefree as road kill. “Delilah was…more.
“Delilah was more than people saw. She wasn’t just the cheerleader, with the nice smile, and the cute butt.” There’s a wave of nervous laughter beginning to ripple around the small church, and Skye shuffles her papers around before continuing. “She…had beauty. Grace. She was smart and quick and loud. She wanted…” Skye lowers her head. Everyone knows she’s crying, but not a single soul has any idea what to do. So we creak in our chairs and cough quietly into our hands, watching as her shoulders heave and tears drip down onto the podium, with a silent sadness, that makes us so awkward, we can’t do anything except feel bad and want to cry ourselves. Finally, her head lifts up, and she gazes out at the audience, her eyes determined, her fluff of brown hair sticking to her cheeks, where the tears had been streaming down her face. She sighs. “She wanted to be a poet.” She tells us. I frown. A poet? That doesn’t sound like her. Not at all. Model, maybe. Actress, sure. Poet? Wow. I hadn’t seen that. I guess no one really had.
“She wanted to be a poet,” Skye repeats. “I’m the only one she told. She thought it was stupid; a pipe dream, that would be nothing more than that.” Her eyes squint together, and she almost seems to grow angry. “But it wasn’t. It was incredible. Her poems were, I mean. She was. Everyone thought she was ditzy and silly, and ridiculous. But she wasn’t. She…I dunno.
“All I really know…is that she was probably the most amazing person. To ever talk to me. To ever become my friend. She was a cheerleader. But. Not. She was more. She was a poet. A friend. An angel.” She clasps a hand over her mouth and jumps off the podium, so fast, you would think it was infested with termites. Once she reaches her seat in the front row, an older woman-most likely her Mom-throws an arm around, and Skye buries her head deep into her shoulder, taking deep, shuddering breathes. Claps begin to ripple through, until the applause is almost thundering.
A poet. My mind races, searching for traces of a poet’s face, a poet’s mind, in the few times I saw her, wandering through the halls, smiling and laughing. Then, I remember. I remember the bathroom incident. This is what started it all. What started all of the feelings, the blood rushing to my head whenever I saw her, the quick beating of my heart, that threatened to just stop altogether.
It happened when I was a freshman. I’m a senior now, only eight months away from University, but, then, I wasn’t thinking about life beyond high school. In fact, I can’t even remember what I was thinking about before that little bump in the bathroom.
It was lunchtime, and I had stopped off at Mr. Goodey’s for some extra help on my English Assignment. The extra help was…well, helpful, and I was strolling back to the cafeteria to check and see if there were any remnants of pizza or anything else close to edible, when I heard a scream. It was loud, piercing, and just about busted an eardrum.
Naturally, I jumped three feet in the air in surprise before making sure I didn’t p--- myself, gathering my courage, and clambering off down to the source of the noise. As I got closer, I could hear a sobbing, and, when I reached the door to the Girl’s Bathroom, I could also hear words, uttered under someone’s breath, but distinct enough to be able to make out. “Why?!?” The voice asked. “What the h--- did I do wrong?!?”
Usually, I would be the first one to be weary of throwing myself into the Girl’s Bathroom, but, for some reason, my brain blocked out that fact at the moment, and I pushed open the door, and rounded into the room.
Ignoring the fact that the Girl’s Room was much, much cleaner than the Boy’s, and that there was an unopened bag of Skittles sitting on one of the cracked porcelain sinks, I ducked my head to the seeing level of the bottom of the stalls, checking for pairs of feet. Finally, two dirtied, black Converse were seen in the very last stall on the left side, and I knocked on the rusted, green door softly.
“Hello?” I asked. “Is anyone in there?” I push a little on the door, and feel it give-unlocked. I push it farther, until it’s all the way open, and catch my breath a little at the sight.
Delilah Murphy-social butterfly, and soon-to-be homecoming queen-was sitting on the dirty, disgusting, tiled floor-I said it was cleaner than the Boy’s room. That doesn’t mean it was that clean.-her hand grasping a balled-up wad of toilet paper, and a cracked and smashed cell phone lying near the cement wall to her left. She looked up at me as I entered, and did one thing I had never expected from someone like her. She didn’t sneer, or ask me; “Can I help you?!”, or even tell me to leave. She gave me a weak smile, and whispered, in a voice so quiet, I could barely hear it.
“My mom killed herself.”
My body froze. I couldn’t move, couldn’t think, could barely even breather. But, for some reason, I was smart enough to do one thing. I walked up to her, and, without saying a word, plopped right down beside her, and wrapped my arms around her.
Delilah and I spent two and a half hours in that bathroom-we both missed three classes. We didn’t talk, didn’t ask each other questions, or have to dig up answers, from places we wished we would never have to dredge through again. I just held her. And she just cried. Loudly and full of snot. But I didn’t care. I just stroked her hair, and rubbed her arm, and listened to the sound of feet scuffling through the halls, and the bell ringing for class change. No one went in that bathroom for some reason-it was almost like there was an invisible “Do Not Disturb” sign swinging from the door handle-and at the end of those two and a half silent hours, we both stood up, Delilah picked up the broken pieces of her cell phone, washed her face, and nodded before she walked out, back into the hallway. Back into the world where she was somebody and I was nobody. Where she mattered and I could run naked through the halls screaming, and people would barely blink.
I stayed in that bathroom for a few more moments before scuttling back out to reality.
Everyone’s murmuring. Gathering their coats and jackets, and leaving in a robotic, orderly fashion. It’s not an open casket funeral. Everyone knew it wouldn’t be. It couldn’t be.
No one has noticed me yet, so I lift myself up, and shove myself in between an older man with a walking stick, that has the design of a bald eagle flying over the treetops-not tacky at all, if you ask me-and a little girl of about ten, with wild eyes and even wilder blue eye shadow spread all over her forehead, that doesn’t look like it’s about to come off anytime soon.
Once I’m outside, in the cold, cool, fresh air, I gaze up at the trees and sigh a deep, depressed sigh. This is the kind of October day, where you can breath in the air, and get a chill to fly down your back, so effortlessly, you feel like you’re cheating someone. This is the kind of day where the leaves are turning colours, but still hang off branches, so you can admire them, without worrying about someone stepping on them. This is the kind of day where people are supposed to ride bikes to a river and skip rocks, or just sit on a hill and let the wind tickle your face. Not go to a funeral and cry until your eyes turn bright red and your throat swells up with chocked-back tears.
I move towards Dad’s barf-brown Jeep, when I feel a hand on my shoulder. I turn around, alarmed. It’s Skye. I’m about a foot and a half taller than her tiny, 5’2” frame, and can tell she’s a little menaced by it. She coughs and straightens a bit, then looks me in the eyes.
“Hi.” She murmurs. I furrow my brow.
“Hi.” I’m trying to be cautious about this conversation. Tiptoe around the edge, get the gist of what her point is here.
“Are you…um…Ace Shaw?”
“Oh.” She bites the bottom of her lip, her poppy red lipstick coming off on the tip of her teeth. But she doesn’t seem to care, so I pretend not to notice. “Delilah mentioned you once.” She looks up at me for reassurance. As if to make herself certain she has the right person, and I won’t shoot her a glare and tell her I’ve never met Delilah. That I’m here to pick up chicks and maybe hold an after-party.
“Really?” My eyes widen. She smiles softly. She knows she has the right person.
“Yeah. She did. About…um…some…family stuff.” I nod. She and I both know, although she probably knows the details.
“Yup.” I twist my keys around my index finger, listen to the slight jingle they make against the house key and the lighthouse keychain my Dad bought on a business trip to Maine. It has a mini flashlight in it, but the battery died about 20,000 years ago.
“She would’ve wanted you to come.” She ducks her head and walks away, her pace quick and calculated. I watch as she makes her way to a pair of kids I recognize, but can’t quite place without the view of fluorescent lights and chipped cement walls behind them. I smile. And get into the car. And drive away, glad, for once, I wasn’t quite as invisible as I only sometimes wanted to be.