I hope people understand that depression and suicide are really important issues and more and...
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Walking through the hallways feels weird without my friends. We always walked as a group, our talk and laughter bouncing off the lockers, filling up the narrow spaces. We’d exchange compliments and make snide remarks about the people we didn’t like, just like every other group of girls on the planet. But I never truly understood them. Why they hated certain people or why they talked about each other and then acted like they were all best friends. I would leave my confusions aside because they
accepted me as their friend, and who else was there for me to talk to? Until one day I was struggling to catch up with them, my mind wandering somewhere else. They continued in front of me, not one girl in that clump of so-called friends looking back, and I realized that they wouldn’t miss me if I was gone. I’d soon be replaced by a funnier, smarter, cooler girl. My strengths would be stronger in someone else. So why try to catch up to them like a weak deer running to its herd? In the end it will always stumble and fall down, too tired to continue, and too tired to fight.
Now I’m standing in front of the door of my first class, late as usual, and I can’t bring myself to turn the doorknob. Analea is in this class. I don’t want to see the expression on her face when I walk in, and I can only hope that I reach my seat before our eyes meet. I hold my breath and open the door, expecting shocked faces and loud whispers, eyes that send daggers and ones that hold pity. But I’m wrong. I’m faced with an empty classroom and Mrs. Kwan in her desk, doing something on the computer. She looks up as I shut the door and greets me with a big smile.
“Leia! I’m so glad to have you back. Are you feeling better?”
I open my mouth to reply, but this is only the start of her interrogation.
“I’m sure you haven’t done any homework, but we can talk about that after class, alright? You have a lot to catch up on but I’m sure you’ll do fine! Oh!” she exclaims as she looks around the classroom. “You must be wondering where everyone is. They’re doing a lab outside. Why don’t I get you the papers and you can get started, too. Is that alright with you? Or would you like to take a break today? Maybe I should give you the homework you missed now instead.”
Before she can get another word out, I quickly say that I’ll do the lab. After all, it’s beautiful outside and I can easily separate myself from others instead of being trapped with them in a classroom. Mrs. Kwan searches her desk for the lab directions and worksheet while humming the tune to “Girl, Put Your Records On”. Her dress is teal with little yellow flowers that remind me of summer. Ah, summer, how I long for you. I wish you would come sooner so I could escape this prison.
She hands me my work, and I head outside through the side door, glancing at the lab. It’s about the classification of flowers. I hate that word. Classification. Scientifically it is defined as the act of grouping organisms together based on the relationships between them. But what most people don’t know is that science labs aren’t the only place where classification takes place. In every country, every city, every school—it’s the same. People find their own groups, narrowing down the people in them, separating from others again and again until someone is left out. It’s not much different with flowers. The lilies and daisies of course will be in their own superior category, with their gorgeous long petals and bright colors. The rest of the flowers will just have to follow behind, not nearly beautiful enough to compare to those tall flowers that stand out. The wallflowers bunched in the corner however, are left unnoticed, stooping behind the parade of petals, too short to see beyond them.
I notice my class fragmented throughout the small field behind our school as they observe different plants and flowers. The cocky jerks in my grade, or as I like to call them, “The Idiots”, are off in one area hooting and cheering as one of their members makes an attempt at asking a pretty girl out. She grimaces and walks away with her friend and the hooting shifts to teasing and jeering laughter as the rejected boy’s face flushes with red.
This makes me want to roll my eyes but I don’t, not wanting to retract from my search for an isolated area. A tree enclosed by an array of daffodils catches my eye, and I walk over to it noticing that the field of yellow is interrupted by short bursts of white petals and even some purple. Squatting down on the damp grass, I stroke a band of flowers with the back of my hand, the soft tips brushing against my skin with water and fresh dew and life. I pick up the tallest flower by the stem and bring it to eye level, scrutinizing its golden petals and rotating it with my fingers. My eyes squint to catch the details, us humans always missing the most beautiful ones, and sketch it as best as I can on my lab sheet. It looks more like the sun on a stick, but I recall my past art projects and decide that it succeeds them all. I draw a white flower and a tiny purple one that I find, and stand back up once I am satisfied with the collection of multicolored suns on my paper.
I turn away from the tree and back to the field of students when I see him. Hunter. Laughing and walking with his friend Danny. And suddenly I feel sick and this feels completely and utterly wrong. Me being here at school, studying flowers and doodling them like a child when inside a knot is tightening in my stomach, making loopholes and twisting continuously like the ones the counselor at Girls’ Scout camp taught us to make to help us in the wild. Well I’m out in the wild here, just a broken animal waiting to be preyed on, and I only want to undo this knot. It is growing thick around my body, tightening its grip and lacing up to reach my throat and I feel as if I am being strangled. Choking as no words come out of my stupid mouth because he sees me and stops his walk midstride. Looks at me in disbelief as if it’s crazy that I’m here. It is crazy that I’m here. I’m not ready to be back here.
He gives me a little wave in the air in recognition of me as he conjures up a smile to welcome me back. I manage a feeble smile and give him a short wave in return, but my feet are already inching towards the classroom door. The classroom door that is only a few feet away but feels like miles as his face turns into a confused frown when he realizes that I’m going to leave without even talking. I feel bad. He’s being nice to me and I won’t even go near to have a conversation. It’s unfortunate that Analea is in my field of vision, even though she’s well behind Hunter. I can still see her picking off bright flowers and inserting them in her hair as her other friends, my old ones, do the same. Hunter follows my eyesight as if he knows that I’m only leaving because something is bothering me, and his eyes set on Analea just as she picks all the flowers in her hair out, one by one. I can see Hunter’s face turned on mine again, but this time my eyes connect with his through a barrier of glass. I’m back inside the classroom, peering through the window at him, as Mrs. Kwan rambles on, giving me tips (more like the answers) to finish the lab sheet. I pay no attention to her birdlike chattering, only focusing on the world that I used to be a part of. With girls and boys, and drama, and sports, and frantic studying for school, and all the mania that takes place in high school. It used to be inside me, a part of me, but as Hunter turns away from me and catches up to his friends, I realize that I was always on the outside.
I just had to be inside to see it.