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Shh...It's Just Me
She stared at the blank page in front of her, trying to think of the way she wanted to word what she had been holding back for so long. Starting to type, first slowly and then rapidly as words flowed out of her, she felt a feeling she had not felt in a long time, not since the night that changed everything. She felt free, she felt guiltless, and most of all she felt alive.
To some of you, I’m just a face in the hallway. To some of you, I’m more than that. But to all, you don’t know the real me. You think you know what happened that night at the party you all heard about, the one where the cops had to call backups to break it up. You think you know, but you don’t. You all have seen the pictures I’m sure, but you don’t know what really happened. For some of you, you will never understand, but I hope that this provides some clarification.
"I never wanted to go in the first place. It was my best friend Dana that finally convinced me, saying I needed to attend at least one high school party. Contrary to popular opinion, I’m not the party type. I don’t drink, and I don’t hook up with guys any chance I get. What, did the rumors get to you, skewing my reputation? I bet they did.
We drove up in Dana’s old 1989 Mustang, the one with the ripped leather seats and the air conditioning that doesn’t work. She always said that she’s fix it someday, but she also said that about learning how to ride a bike, which she has yet to do. Even though there are certain things about that car that make it kind of a junker, it’s Dana’s baby. She takes care not to slam the doors and checks the oil every other week. There’s no doubt in my mind that she has more love for that car than for her own parents.
Pulling up to the curb a couple blocks away, we heard it as soon as we opened the car doors. Walking closer, the low rhythm of the bass pounded against my eardrums, resonating from the lowly lit house. Voices laughing and yelling, chants of “chug!” and clapping accompanied the bass, swirling into one sound as we approached the house.
One of the wrestlers stood at the door, acting as a bouncer I guess, and he nodded at us as we walked up to the house. Opening the door for us, the sounds grew thunderous as the full effect of the party hit us. Dana tuned and smiled excitedly at me and I tried my best to genuinely smile back. I’ll never know if she bought it, because she quickly walked away from me towards the drinks. Standing awkwardly in the foyer, I glanced around while trying to look like I belonged.
An hour later, everyone had red Solo cups in hand, and the small house was packed. I looked down at the red cup of amber liquid someone had thrust in my hand a while ago, and swirled it around before I took a swig. Don’t get me wrong, that was the first time I had really drunk. The beer wasn’t that good; it had kind of an empty taste that was only remedied with drinking more beer. I had taken off my sweater and was still sweltering in the tank top I wore. The smoke from cigars and cigarettes made its way through the air, causing me to cough as I walked through a group of teens smoking them. I spotted Dana in a corner with a guy I had never seen before, passionately making out. Or as passionate as making out can be with the taste of Yuengling on your tongue.
I made my way through the crowd, trying to find somewhere where I could escape to. All of the faces blurred together, but I’m not sure if that was the beer or not. Stumbling slightly, I made my way to the deck at the back of the house. The glass door squeaked faintly as I slid it open, and the chilly November air blasted my hair back as I stepped outside. I could still hear the party that was going on inside, but here on the deck it was calm. The wind moved through the trees, rustling the leaves and making me shiver.
I heard the glass door slide open, and turned to find him standing behind me, the last person I would’ve guessed to walk out of the party.
“What are you doing out here?” he asked.
“Just getting some air,” I replied, my teeth chattering from the cold.
“Here,” he said, as he took off his jacket and wrapped it around my shoulders. I hugged it around me, feeling the warmth from his heat.
“I didn’t know you came to these things,” he said.
“I don’t actually,” I replied, wondering why he was even talking to me. “One of my friends wanted me to come.”
“Ah,” he said, resting his arms on the deck railing. He looked out to the dark forest behind the house before turning to me again.
“You know, I haven’t seen you in a while,” he said softly, his dark eyes boring into mine. I looked away, nodding. I wanted to tell him that it was his fault, and that all the blame was on him. But both of us knew that wasn’t true.
“I’m going in,” I said, and was in motion before he even had a chance to protest. I handed him the blue and gold jacket as I swiftly walked past him and back into the party. I had to get away from him, away from everything he represented. I needed escape to somewhere where no one could find me. I moved through the hot crowd into the depths of the small house and somehow found an empty bedroom. I quietly stepped in the dark room and closed the door, closing my eyes for a moment and letting out a breath. Finally.
I walked over to the bed, not bothering to turn on the nondescript lamp that sat on the bedside table, and sat down. I was tired. Not just physically tired, but just tired of dealing with people. Tired of their “sympathetic” eyes, tired of the same sentence. “I haven’t seen you in a while.” It’s a hard emotion to explain to those who haven’t experienced it, but I know you probably know what I’m talking about. Yes you, one of the people reading this. Are you scared that I’ll call you out and that people when know what you did to cause me to lose it? Are you scared to read your name on this sheet of paper? You should be. I’m not done yet.
When I was about seven, I was helping my dad carry Christmas decorations from the basement up the stairs to the family room. There were so many boxes, and I was too small to carry more than one at a time. After so many trips up and down the stairs, I decided to try three boxes at once. About halfway up the stairs, the intense weight I was carrying threatened to topple me over, and it took all of my strength to make it. The next day, I was in so much pain from straining my back that I had to stay home from school with a heating pad pressed against the muscles. The weight I carried that day is no match to what I felt that night. That night, I felt like I was carrying at least thirty of those boxes. It was weight from friends, weight from parents, weight from you, the person who’s reading this. So if you were wondering, there is a reason I want you to read this. To know that you’re partly responsible. Some of you could have stopped it, some of you did things to hurt me, and some of you haven’t done anything at all. But all are responsible.
I turned as the door creaked open. The flash of light from the hallway took away whatever progress my eyes had made at adjusting to the dark, and I squinted to try and distinguish a face from the shadows.
“Gabe? Is that you?” I whispered, afraid to know the answer. Although I haven’t connected with him in years, he was one of the few people I still felt safe with. Standing on the deck in his old varsity jacket had made me feel secure, something I hadn’t felt in a long time. Judging by the heavy footsteps, it wasn’t Gabe walking towards me. Silently, the figure sat on the bed next to me, and I felt a warm hand on my right arm.
“Shh….it’s just me,” he breathed, moving his hand up my arm. Heart racing, I tried moving away from him but I was forced down on the bed. I had time to cry out once before his hand was over my mouth, the weight of his body keeping me down on the bed. Panicking, all I could think about was how heavy he was on top of me, and where Dana could be. Did she hear me? Did she care? I struggled as much as I could, those words echoing in my head.
“Shh…it’s just me.”
The door swung open as he was taking my tank top off, and I heard the shrill scream of one of the girls at the party. I thought I was saved, I thought for one someone had cared. Like everything else in my life, I was wrong. The flash of a camera lit up the room for a moment, and instantly I knew my life, or at least whatever I had left of a social life, was over.
“You W****!” Jen Collins yelled from the doorway as he scrambled off of me. I sat up on the bed, dazed, as he hastily pointed to me and stammered that I instigated the encounter. Him, Blake Ross, lacrosse captain and Jen’s boyfriend. Openmouthed, I stared at Blake while Jen continued her rant of how much of a w**** I was to think that I could get away with sleeping with the royal Blake Ross.
And so, ladies and gentlemen, that’s where I’ll end it. I’ll let you and your imaginations finish the story about the next couple weeks, although I have a feeling you already know it. You know the abuse I put up with following Blake’s move on me and the lie he told, and the affect it had on my reputation. You know the names I’ve been called, and some of you are the ones who called me them. Jen’s picture of Blake and I went viral around the school and I know everyone has seen it. Do you realize that one little picture around the internet can ruin a person? I’ve had cousins across the country call and ask if that was indeed me in the picture, disbelieving that I would be one of those girls at the parties who find a room in the back. I’ve been called w****, s***, skank, and hoe online and through texting .If not for that picture, I’m sure this little situation would’ve been exclusive, and also would’ve been over in maybe a week. No. Because of the picture, whispers followed me around the hallways when I walked to class, and I hope you’re honestly satisfied. I hope it was fun for you while it lasted, and I hope you enjoyed it. Because, thanks to all of you who are reading this, it’s your fault I’m no longer here.
Did you hear that? Should I spell it out to you?
So next time, when you‘re sent the picture by text or see it online, I hope you think of me. I hope you think of what you did to me."
“Shh…it’s just me.”
Finally drained of all that was inside of her, she felt emotionless as she sat back from the computer, her story finally free from her conscience. She thought of a song she hadn’t heard in a while, the slow one with the soft vocals. “2 a.m. and I'm still awake, writing a song, If I get it all down on paper, it's no longer inside of me, Threatening the life it belongs to…”
She printed out the sheets of paper, folded them to fit into eight envelopes, and addressed and stamped them. Walking out to the mailbox, she thought about what she was going to do, and realized that she didn’t care. She didn’t feel anything.
In her room, she felt the cold metal in her hand. She wondered if her neighbors would hear, or care, as the gun touched her temple.
Gabe wondered if there was any chance of being friends again, any chance of them being more than friends. He had wanted it for years, but she seemed so distant lately. They used to share everything: secrets, dreams, fears. Recently, the most he had seen of her was a glimpse or two in the hallway. Maybe they grew apart because of him, Gabe thought as he walked up her driveway. Hearing a loud bang that seemed to come from inside, he jerked to a stop five feet from her front door. A feeling of dread washed over him, and he instantly knew it was her.