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Today Is Different This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.

By , Princeton, NJ
Today is different. There are new people in the group. And a new counselor. She's a change of pace; she's young and still excited about what she does. I like that. Her optimism fills the room. Not that I care any more than usual. I just don't feel like making problems for anyone today.

“Draw a mask. It can be how you think people perceive you, or how you want to be perceived. Take about ten minutes.”

I grab the markers and search for the blue and purple. My hand brushes the arm of the new girl. She's short and pretty, with headphones hanging from her neck. I don't know why, but I smile at her. She smiles back and then quickly looks down at her paper.

I draw a face and write, “I don't care” across the forehead. I'm done. The new girl's not, though. She's taking this seriously. Drawing a bare tree. She lets the marker fall with deliberation, making black spots surrounding the tree. It's a lone tree in a snowstorm. I like it. It has balance.

We share our feelings about our drawings. I catch the new girl's name: Cameron. I like Cameron. She doesn't take too long to say what she means. Unlike the kid to my left. He's been in my group for two weeks and I still haven't bothered to learn his name. He makes it a point to say he gets in fights frequently, as if we should all be impressed with the fact that he can't control himself. He keeps talking, and I keep making eye contact with Cameron and laughing for some reason. I can tell she thinks he's ridiculous too. I smile and start to doodle on the back of the mask I made. I can feel her watching me. Every once in a while I look up and we smile at each other. It's not awkward, just friendly.

We start to play Hangman. I finish up my doodle. I take my turn at the whiteboard and nobody can guess my favorite movie. When I spell out “A Clockwork Orange,” the therapist seems impressed for some reason. I tell the rest of the group that their lack of film knowledge disturbs me. When I get back to my seat, my doodle is gone. Cameron smiles at me as she folds it up and puts it in her pocket. “Thanks,” she says.

We get a short break before Process where anybody can talk about anything. I leave and make a cup of coffee. I don't rush, but don't waste time ­either. I'm back before break is over. Cameron has shifted her seat slightly closer to mine. We start Process and the idiot to my left starts talking about fighting again. I tune him out and drink my coffee. Cameron slides her picture to me. I smile again and put it on my lap. I flip it over, hoping maybe she wrote her number or her last name on it so I can look her up later. Nope. It's just this quiet picture.

There's a knock on the door. Laurie, the head of the program, gestures to me. I look at the clock. 5:30. If this is an individual meeting, I probably won't be back. I bring Cameron's picture with me.

“I just got off the phone with your mom. Your parents are going to come tomorrow and have a referral for a new place if you want to try it out. Legally I have to tell you that, but it's not a requirement for you. But yeah. Today's your last day.”

“Wow. Well, thank you.”

“No problem. I'm sorry to see you go. I hope you got something out of this.” She pauses, waiting for me to tell her that they've saved me from myself. I'm silent. “Anyway. You can go back to group now. Maybe let everybody know.” Okay.

Group ends at six. Usually the minutes are hours. Tonight, though, they won't slow down. I try not to look troubled and pocket one of the purple markers. I look at Cameron. There's five minutes left. I'm not going to tell them I'm leaving.

I think I'm going to ask Cameron for her number when we get to the elevator. I don't believe in love at first sight, but I do believe that you can tell when you'll get along with someone. I get that feeling from Cameron. There are two minutes left.

It's over. We walk to the elevator. I kind of regret not saying good-bye. I wouldn't consider these people my friends, but we are something to each other.

That's the problem with group therapy. Whether we like each other or not, we hear things that best friends wouldn't tell each other. Even after one session I know more about Cameron than most of my girlfriends. She's played guitar since she was five. She suffers from depression and anxiety. Her father killed himself. She self-medicates. This kid I'm walking with, Igor, is high, just like every other meeting. He cheats on his girlfriend with the black-haired girl walking behind us. I forget her name.

A woman by the elevator gets up and takes Cameron's headphones. It's obviously her mom. I tell myself that I'll still get the number from her.

We all pile into the elevator: Cameron, me, Igor, the black-haired girl, the kid who was sitting to my left. And Cameron's mom. I cradle the purple marker in my pocket. We get to the lobby and everyone walks out ahead of me. We walk out the front door; it's a little cold. I don't have a jacket. This is my last chance. “Hey, Cameron.”

She turns around and waves her mom on to the car.

“Hey, you're gonna keep coming here, right?”

“Yeah, I think so. My mom's making me for a little bit,” she answers.

“Okay. Well, I'm glad you're here. I feel like we're the only sane ones.”

She laughs. “Yeah, I get that same feeling.”

“Okay. Well. I'll see you tomorrow.” Smile. “Unfortunately.” We both laugh. She walks away.

I wait there. Alone. Everybody's ride is waiting for them except mine. I sit down on the bench and ponder the picture. I think about my last day. It's weird: I'll probably never see any of these people again.

This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.




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