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Not Alone (Also Not Encounter of Third Kind)
From over my shoulder invisible faces scowl. Their unheard voices alert me to imaginary typos, songs I have not heard since I departed elementary school, unseen eyes peering over my shoulder, and rebuttals to my insults.
This is a callout to everyone who is scared. This is a callout to the seventh-grader whose BMI tells her she is overweight. This is to the high school soccer player with the twisted ankle from a lousy skateboard accident. This is to the biker who ran into a pedestrian today.
I have felt your pain. I know what it is like to be unsure of tomorrow. I know how it is to feel unsafe in your own body when your demons are yourself. And I mean it quite literally.
We are alone because the walls in our minds separate us. They separate us through age, sex, ethnicity, and ability. We are separated by dry tears, the inability to punt a ball, crowds of friends, mute during a mock debate, a stutter, and a low test score. We are separated only because we are individuals, with every right to be separated, but no desire to be.
Because we are separated, it feels as if we are alone.
I could go home every day and watch the performances of Fox’s “So You Think You Can Dance” on Youtube.com, until all the time I have left is for cramming my homework into a few remaining hours. I can sit on a revolving chair underneath a ceiling fan and chew gum until my mouth is numb from the minty tang, my throat burns from the sting of cold water, and my mind is floating among the rotating vanes. Or I could express myself and reach out.
I have borne the weight of this burden for a while now. It started four summers ago. I was a new girl in a different school.
When they came they didn’t take me by surprise. I unfortunately welcomed them in fact. They were a welcome distraction from every day. I had a group of friends to sit with at lunch but I couldn’t talk to them while I ate. Instead I sat and observed their companionship. The days blurred, the awkward silences, music from the radio that blared at lunch, walks home with a friend who I came to know so well, but couldn’t find the reason to talk to at lunch. I had been fine with talking to people at my elementary school. It was as if I had suddenly become a crane whose feet sank through the ground. The moss couldn’t hold me up. The water is a bog. I was as the famous quotes goes, “Alone in a crowded room”.
I imagined a girl who passed by every day during lunch whom the older eighth-graders, who hung out by the radio, always talked to. She was solemn and a thinker. She hit the volley ball in. She smashed it over the net and she ran the mile twenty minutes faster than everyone in my P.E. class. My English teacher praised her responses in our class discussions. She was the eldest triplet and she was my friend.
A year passed and she followed me through the transition I made from middle to high school. We went window shopping with her sisters. The middle triplet met a girl who took tango lessons and had done so since third grade. The dancer was diminutive of height with an elfish face and long dark hair that reached past her shoulders. Sometimes her hair was highlighted blue. Sometimes it was not.
The oldest sister, Ganet and I, were buddies in P.E. Whenever I hit a foul in softball, Ganet was sure to follow with a homerun. I couldn’t run fast enough to flag my classmates in flag football, but Ganet was the fastest Running back anyone had ever seen.
When I look back to reflect on the roots of my imaginary symptoms, Ganet and her friends were never a problem. It was that they opened a door in a mind already knocked askew by too many days spent pretending to read a book, while imagining sitting in a different seat, talking to girls with painted nails and small backpacks. Somewhere in the recesses of my mind other things began to reach through the space. Half-real memories and false scenarios filtered through. I began to remember things that had never occurred and talk aloud to false presences. I was a girl questioning sanity.
While the voices and I fought, my freshman year of high school became a nightmare. The voices and I spat and daydreamed. We laughed and cried together. I slept for freedom and woke to a door-less corridor where loud music was streamed, and the memories of old classmates rolled across a screen that could not be turned off.
A year later now, the voices have been diminished. I am for the most part, alone in my head now, though every once in a while the voices make themselves noticed. My moods once swung violently and I went to a therapist and was prescribed medication. The battle felt like an impossible attempt to hold a frontier with troops that were outnumbered by a thousand, as well as undernourished and untrained. It was running forward in a chest-deep river pushing me back.
Similar to planning an essay outline for a tortuous class or eating an impossibly large bowl of porridge, not that you would want to of course, I learned that perseverance and determination pays off. In other words, I learned if I simply concentrated I could get anything done, voices or no voices. In the end I realized the truth so many adults state when it comes to adolescent issues, or in my case, a sometimes a serious case of angst.
It is not the end of the world. That’s it. That’s the secret. We will all overcome the problems we face today. I’m not trying to sell a homemade cream for acne remover. The past is littered with similar adversary and the future no doubt will be too. The solution is to keep trying and waking up every day. None of us are alone, whether you are a girl who sleeps in an apartment above streets that fill nightly with cars, or the boy who attends a different school in a different country.