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Dust
“Stop overthinking it.” I told the reflection in the bathroom mirror. The lights reflected off the bright yellow walls and cast strange light on my face. “Stop overthinking it. They want to be here. You’re having a good day. Breathe.” I didn’t know why I had to convince myself. It had been a wonderful day. At lunch my friends brought me a cake they had made and presents. The whole grade sang me happy birthday. School got out early and we poured out of the halls whooping and shouting. My friends and I had sat in the sunshine and poured over my presents, I had necklaces, a mix tape, a crumpled photograph of two boys I didn’t know, and a rock with a gummy bear stuck to it. The boys wove me a crown out of branches and the girls and I lay in the sun, our limbs tangling until you didn’t know whose hand was holding whose, and which heartbeat belonged to which body. It was the first time in a very long time I wasn’t worrying over my every word and movement. The hunch in my shoulders had quietly slipped away and left me. This was my day. Reassuring myself of this I stepped out of the restroom and back into the crowded restaurant. Turning the corner I saw my table empty, and a moment of panic peaked when I turned around as the bell rang, and I looked just in time to see the door slapping shut behind my friends.


They had forgotten me. I collected my things and walked slowly to the door. I should have rushed to catch up with them, laughing at their little mistake and forgetting it. But I was suddenly so tired, and I could feel every bone in my body growing heavy under my skin with the words rushing to the front of my mind: You should’ve known this would happen. I took another step and a memory rushed in, the birthday before this when I had left the room to grab my phone, and when I had returned the whole party had left for ice cream. The one before that when I had bent to tie my shoe outside the Thai place and my guests surged on without me. The next stride across the floor brought another memory, chasing my friends down a country road, coming around the bend in the trees to discover they were gone. I stood, aching bare feet in gravel, tasting each particle of dust on my tongue that they had left in their wake. As long as I concentrated on the dust I wouldn’t cry. They would come back and it would be fine. By this time I’d reached the restaurant door and my pulse quickened, but my steps get even smaller. My mind goes farther back to when I was running after my friends up the basement steps, all of us laughing, when they turned out the light and locked the door behind them. When her grandmother finally realized where I was and lets me out of the cold wet cellar, I didn’t feel like laughing anymore. “Come on, Vivian. It was just a joke. we would’ve let you out eventually.”


Every time I was left behind, I would catch up again. They would apologize distractedly and I would try harder to make myself worthy of their attention. But this time, this time, it was different. Why should I keep trying? In seventh grade my mother grounded me for three weeks and I begged, “Please mama.I won’t see my friends again. Mama you don’t understand, they’ll forget about me, If I don’t call them, they’ll forget who I am.” It was constant work getting my friends to remember me, but in my mind, that was what friendship was; Having to work harder than they did. But leaving that restaurant it finally started to sink. People were always going to forget about me. When I was two my daycare accidentally left me in an elevator. I would always have to remind them I was there. Because why would they remember me? I wasn’t worth remembering. I am forgettable, easily slipping away between the cracks, shouldered out of conversations. I was done trying to make myself a into a solid figure, something tangible that left evidence of my presence.

Down a block I could see my friends at the stoplight, and I shuffled slowly towards them across the pavement. There was no way I could go home. My parents didn’t expect me back until late, So I decided it was best to go with my friends like nothing had happened. They wouldn’t find it to be of consequence anyway. I was familiar with the quick apology before their magpie eyes slid to a something more interesting. I realized now there would always be something more interesting. The boy with dark hair spun around to speak to someone and caught my eye. “Hurry up Vivian. Why are you so far behind?”.



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