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Anxious Tomato This work is considered exceptional by our editorial staff.

By , Philadelphia, PA
Hazel's eyebrows practically jumped to her hairline as she stared at me. By the way her mouth hung open, I realized that I should've stopped talking a while ago. This poor girl is going to have nightmares after this conversation, I thought.

"Please stop talking, class," said a substitute teacher from his desk. It was third period biology and the cacophony of voices formed a hum around me. Hazel's irises were a thin green rim wrapped around a void of black. She had sat beside me for most of the year but we had never talked until today. Her quiet nature made her seem vulnerable. As I opened my mouth again, her cotton-candy cheeks faded into pallor.

"It's like," I said, "it's like having a thousand thoughts whirling around in your head and not being able to express any of them. Don't even get me started on the mood swings. One minute I'm cracking up and the next I'm crying in a bathroom stall on the floor. I just don't understand where it came from. My grandmother was like this when she went through menopause, but like I'm def not going through menopause. Am I? Whatever, it's just like I'm all over the place and you definitely think I’m crazy. It's okay though you'll always be here for me, right Hazel?"

"Are you on drugs?" she asked in a dead tone.

"No, Hazel! I'm not on drugs, you nut."

"Okay," she said, shrugging in defeat. Hazel slumped down into her chair and stared at me. She was probably searching for a reason for why I chose to talk to her. I turned away from her, blushing like a sad tomato. My anxiety was at its climax. I’ve always had an anxiety disorder, from excessive worrying to sobbing because I’d diagnosed myself with brain cancer. I’d never felt so unstable in my life. All I wanted to do was go home and watch the Food Network channel on my couch.

"Hazel, I know that there's like some sort of medication that could help me. Some sort of antipsychotic or anxiety pill. But my neighbor, Peaches, was crazy and they put her on meds and she got fat. I mean like this twig-like woman transformed into a freakin' water buffalo. I don't want to look like a water buffalo, Hazel. I just need someone to be there and listen. That's what you're for, right? Right. I mean, I could go to a psychiatrist but I'm afraid they'll put me away. What if they put me away into some nut house? I could see myself there. That would be a great story to tell someday to my grandchildren. Wouldn't it?"

"I think you need help."

"I think so too, Hazel, I think so too," I said. I was starting to look like a sad tomato again so I put my head in my hands and wondered when this would be over.



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