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I draw my feet up onto the toilet so they can't be seen from under the stall door and rest my head on my knees. Maybe if I curl in on myself enough, I can hold back the screams that push at my lips, begging to be released. Maybe I can fill the throbbing emptiness in my gut.
Or maybe I can't.
A small choking noise escapes me. I bite down on my knee to stifle it. It's the closest thing to my mouth. I can't breathe, I can't breathe! I can't do this. You loser. You LOSER!
I can't do this I can't do this i cant do this i cant i cant...
Slowly, the terror begins to drain away, leaving only weariness in its place. There used to be relief as the crushing weight left my chest and I found I could breathe again. But this is the third time this week already. It's only Thursday.
I just want to cry, but I don't have the energy.
I realize I'm trembling, still biting my knee. I sit up, the cottony taste of worn denim lingering on my tongue. There's a wet spot on my jeans. It's cold now that it's exposed to the bathroom air. I stretch myself out, relaxing the muscles, still tense and stiff.
Mr. DeRosa must be wondering where I am, I realize dimly. I don't really know how long I've been here. I try, but I can't bring myself to care. He didn't send anyone after me. No one found out. It doesn't matter. I'll say I felt sick and had to go to the nurse if he asks tomorrow. I know he won't. No one ever has. I'm invisible.
Then the bell rings, and the high-pitched tone rings in the acoustics of the bathroom, echoing off tile floors and glass mirrors. And then the muffled noises of normal hallway life, the scuffle of feet, the roar of indistinct conversations, the occasional laughter that floats up over the din and under the door to stab at my heart. Normal people don't cry in bathrooms. I feel even more alone.
The door opens. I hold my breath, utterly consumed by the stupid fear of being discovered by this unknown girl. I have as much right to be in the bathroom as anybody, right? There's no need for this girl to know what I'm doing in here.
All the same, I barely move the whole time she stands in front of the mirror fixing her hair.
The nameless girl leaves, finally. The sounds from outside die down and eventually the bell rings. Fourth period. Latin. The tears burn and sting at my eyes again and I wipe them away furiously with the sleeve of my shirt.
Before my mind can register what my hands are doing, I'm holding a pen and a sheet of notebook paper with parabolas sketched out sloppily out the back and scribbling something down onto the crumpled old homework assignment. My vision blurs a bit at the edges, but now I'm even more sure of what I'm doing. It's a good feeling. I read the paper out loud, my voice small and timid in the echoing room.
"I have a secret that I need to share. I'm the girl who has it all together, who gets perfect grades and does every extracurricular to boot. I'm going to some fancy college far away." I take a shuddering breath here. "And I hate myself. I have anxiety and depression and panic attacks. I'm never good enough for myself."
I notice a blotch on the page where one of my tears must have landed and wipe it with my thumb. The blue ink smears across the paper. Now my words are crying, too.
The paper folds itself into a little square, the pen neatly marks it. "Read me." The hands wedge both into the crack between the stall door and the polished tiles below. It'll be noticed there. The note peeks out shyly, but the pen juts way out, bold and unashamed.
As I dry my eyes in front of the mirror and leave the bathroom, the door swings in my wake, waving goodbye. See you soon, it calls.
I shake my head. I hope not.