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Recently I’ve been suppressing urges to murder people.
Come, now, we’ve all had those moments – why can’t the world just leave us alone, we bemoan, clenching our fists tightly enough to draw blood with our already-nibbled fingernails. There is a building in our stomachs, a pressure in our brains, and then we have that split second choice – explode, or keep it under control.
I have a clean track record of keeping it under control.
Self-control is one of my vain boastings – I have always been very proud of keeping my emotions packed tightly into a corner of my heart. I have never screamed at my parents for being unreasonable, never socked someone in the face for being a d****e, and never burst into tears because someone ate my ice cream. Apparently, this is psychologically unhealthy, but I only found this out last month while re-reading Artemis Fowl. And by then it was far too late to turn back and unleash all those tamped down emotions. No – that would have been unhealthy.
So now I feel like murdering people.
I can feel it building in my chest cavity as I sit here in the restaurant booth, like someone’s inflating my heart with helium. The faster I tap my pen against my school book, the faster the pressure builds, accumulating velocity and speed until I imagine black spots are appearing behind my eyelids. What I would give right now to just jump up, punch something, and then scream till my voice turns hoarse and there are no words left to describe how I feel. In fact, the only thing stopping me from doing this right now is because I know that even after I bellowed my lungs out towards the world, I wouldn’t feel any better. If anything, it might just get worse.
I couldn’t risk that.
“Want a refill?”
I don’t look at the pretty, bored-seeming girl standing by my table, a pitcher of coffee waiting readily in her hand. Everything that she has just said irritates the hell out of me. The way she drawls on her words, like she never learned how to form complete words or pronounce her silent vowels. The way she sounds completely unconcerned with my life, as if she could care less that right now I was fighting the burning urge of prickling tears. I hate that she’s prettier than me, with her size 2 dress size and long, horse-skinny legs. I hate that she’s gotten her hair tinted the exact color that I always wanted but could never afford. I hate that the only reason she’s asking me for a refill is because she wants to swindle me out of even more allowance that I don’t have.
I take in a deep breath, imaging the mental eye-roll that the girl is giving me. Of course I look like a completely normal teenager, the kind she always sees cramming last-minute for their SATs. The stressed kind with the frumpy clothes and the split-ends, eyes bloodshot and makeup messy because they’ve been – I’ve been – studying since five in the morning and still I’ve managed to accomplish nothing. I hate that about her, too, because she’s completely right.
“Yeah,” I manage in a short, clipped way, proud that I’ve even managed that. The girl pours me a cup, letting a dark brown drop dribble down the side of the cup, leaving a slug-like track of washed out brown on the ceramic white. I hate that, too.
“Enjoy,” she says drily, and then swaggers away, shaking her hips back and forth, as if there’s anyone here to see her. She just likes pissing me off, I decide. I fume over her insolence for a few more precious seconds before I try to tackle my Chemistry again. Needless to say, I didn’t expect many results.
The stress isn’t because of the SATs. Maybe it might have been a trigger, but no – I’m a smart person, and I know it. Under normal circumstances, a quick review and a few practice tests might have been enough. But my brain is in a muddle. My mind is on overload. This damn pressure building in my organs feels like a ticking time bomb, just waiting to explode, but not being able to. Yes, that’s it – not being able to explode, that’s my problem. The pressure of not being able to let off pressure is very…pressuring. It’s just one thing after another, I moan to myself dramatically.
I’ve never been an emotional person. I’ve never believed in sharing or group therapy – I always thought that it was below me. I can solve my own problems, I reason to myself. I’m a strong, independent, tough person – I don’t need the help of deluded peers or stuck-up shrinks to tell me what to do with my problems.
The real reason was the shame, of course.
Each of the problems that were building in my chest, loading me down with shackles, was all such insignificant problems. A hardly visible gain of fat on my midriff – a B mark on my Math test instead of the usual A – the smell of the pesticide in my neighbor’s yard – the slow internet – the loss of purpose in life. It was a shameful, embarrassing thing, having all this stress over such small things. Ridiculous. Laughable. I mean, even I would laugh at myself. People starving in Africa and revolutionaries dying in Libya, and I was concerned about a slight shift in my grade and the possibility that I might not want to go to college. Who was I to act like the world was crashing down upon my shoulders? I didn’t have the right.
But, oh, the pressure built.
I decide that no length of studying is going to save me anymore; a wise decision, since I think that if I continued trying to wade through that murky muck known as physics, I might have actually screamed (all exaggerations aside). I pack up my books – feeling irritated by the way the cloth rubs against the plastic hardcover – and then finished my coffee, grimacing at the dredges that ended up on my tongue. When I stand, I hate the way I know I don’t look good; I hate the way all my muscles ache and my back feels like an old man’s. I just stand crouching there for a second – utterly defeated – containing that uncontainable pressure, and then relax my shoulders and stand straight, taking in a deep breath, but only feeling a bilious knot roil in my stomach. I hate the way my bag drags on my shoulder and I hate the way that the bills in my wallet aren’t lined up perfectly parallel. I almost shriek at the creases in one ten dollar corner.
“Bill?” smacked the waitress, back to haunt me with her glittery green eye shadow and perfect parade of pierces up her ears. Her perfectly plucked auburn eyebrows mock me openly, reminding me of how my own gray ones are scattered hither and thither, un-plucked for almost two weeks. I gnash my teeth together – irritated by the way my molars grind against each other – and hand her my bill with a barely shaking hand; she doesn’t seem to notice. No one ever does.
I basically sprint out of the shop, hating the way my Converse sneakers smack against the pavement and hating the blinding sun shining in my eyes. I need to get away. I need to run away before I explode.
But there’s no running from something inside you.
I make it to the bridge in an abandoned part of town where all the delinquents and teenage braggarts congregate, kicking up cigarette butts and bumping against walls spray-painted with awkward logos and poorly-balanced cartoons. There’s someone on the bridge already, but I don’t care. It’s exploding – it’s going to blow!
“You mind?” I pant, but I don’t wait for a response. I’m frightened – terrifically frightened. I have no idea what I’m doing. I just hope that it will help.
I jump onto the bridge, grab the railing, and then throw back my head and scream. It’s a good, long scream, hoarse and pitchy and desperate. I scream for only a few seconds, really, until I abruptly cut myself off, eyes wide and perspiring all over, as if I had just woken up from a fever. I stare across the river, ignoring the few people staring back at me, and wonder what I have just done. Wonder why the pressure is resuming building in my chest.
I turn, still shaking, and see the person standing on the bridge, leaning against the railing with a cigarette hanging from his teeth and silver-painted nails drumming against the iron pipe railing. The sound adds irritation on top of irritation. I knew it – screaming doesn’t help at all.
“Kinda,” I reply breathlessly, stepping back from the edge and leaning against the railing, copying his stance. His hair is black and silver-streaked, brushing his shoulders in spiky ends. Funnily, every part of him but his ears are pierced, from his eyebrows to his tongue, and though he wears no eye makeup, his lips are carefully layered with a brilliant shade of silver glitter. The red-color-contact eyes staring back at me are sharp and in-focus; if he was a camera, he would be high-definition. Ha-ha. Comparing gothic boys to digital appliances. Now I was going crazy.
The boy nodded in an all-knowing way. “Life?”
I inhale deeply through my nose. It helps. “Basically.”
“Hmm…” He takes a deep breath of the cigarette and catches me staring enviously. He grins, a bit sadly. “You don’t want this, darling.” He sighs and stares at the cigarette, and then almost reluctantly takes a long drag. He looks at the sky as he breathes out the smoke. “It just numbs the pain. Doesn’t help a thing.”
I realize that I’m shaking and clench my fists. “But I don’t know what to do,” I stammer helplessly, voice feeling broken, like a rotten record. My vocal chords sound auto-tuned. “What am I supposed to…what can I do?”
“Hm,” he muses again, dropping the cigarette and stubbing it under his five inch boot heel. With the heels he looks about six feet tall. He beckons with his finger and I warily approach him, feeling a bit mesmerized. When I come close enough, he opens his arms, not looking straight at me. There’s a wan smile on his silver lips.
In a mili-second, all the stress is gone. I’m not even surprised that it has disappeared; I feel completely at peace. Tears brim my eyes and I stumble into his arms, smelling cigarette smoke, cinnamon, and clean, fresh leather. The only place that I can cry without spoiling some piece of clothing is his bare neck, and he bends down compliantly.
“There, there,” he says with traces of irony, though it’s kind irony. “Let it all out. Tell me all about it.”
And I did. I told him everything. I told him absolutely every insignificant everything. Everything was better, all of a sudden – suddenly everything was so crystal clear.
And to think – all that I needed was a hug.