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[#070B34: Midnight Express]
At night, her worries fester in ugly little blotches and welts that form of their own accord alongside the creases in her neck. She is choking up feelings that are restive again, each one forcing its way up her throat in a reflux of self-reproach. Muted mortifications that come unbidden and yet always anticipated, shot through with the stench of decay that hasn’t decayed entirely: distress that has been left to rot and not rot. When you swipe dust under the rug it doesn't magically disappear, it only stays hidden there to stain everything on its underside gray. The smallest tug forces you into the second person, into the third person, reveals everything stripped bare, distances you from her from I.
If she were to paint the silence of her room–the eyes she knows witness doubt, regret, surrender–they would be midnight blue. Something about midnight blue— like the night sky outside, quiet, like velveteen insulation, the twinkling stars, each appearing brighter than the last—fits her room like no other color. These walls un-wreak havoc.
Pretty blue, strong and reliable, and calm.
But also dark, nasty blue-like turmoil and festering mortification.
[#2B2F77: Torea Bay]
She fishes her phone out of the pillow where it lay crevassed after throwing it too hard/not hard enough. She doesn’t know what she is expecting when she unlocks the screen, but the wordless blue glare is sufficient notification. Alone in anticipation; alone in ANTICIPATION. ALONE in ANTICIPATION. What would it feel like to become untethered, she wonders. What would it be like to be as quiet as the night, the pothos, the jar of paperclips on her desk. What would that kind of self-containment look like. Like infancy. Like retribution.
The excitement others must have felt returning to real school should have been hers as well, but instead, there is only the evidence on her neck. At the lunch tables, she purses her mouth to contain the chatter that threatens to leak past her chapped lips. She watches. Waits for the Prompter. His thin light as HE finds her place, her lines. In virtual school, she is at ease, sufficient, crackling like kindling. This is not real life, she thinks; this is only the rehearsal. Online, she can easily delete, alter, edit in a flash. A perpetual do-over. In THE REAL once she says it, it is its own weapon and the safety net is furled and stowed. She doesn’t remember how to do that.
[#357EC7: Curious Blue]
The night before REAL school, her outfit fits perfectly in her head. She is stunning in a beige sweater layered over a white shirt withthepatternedskirtandtights, warm enough for the spring morning but light enough for the afternoon. She deceives herself that this is a new first impression and uses pastels to draw the way she will be received because pastels are kinder. The boots will make her taller, in case anyone is out there with a tape measure. She burrows into her linen-lined blankets and closes her eyes. In that same shared space, that fitting room between pierced ears, she is still 5’2”. The same ineffable petite. The same baby fat. The same uncertainty. No viral load, no booster shot could have changed that.
She switches out the beige sweater for bright yellow, a promise of new beginnings. Switches out black tights for white-with-little-patterns. She thinks, too upholstered and hauls herself out of bed.
To the closet to redesign her entire outfit: pulling open drawers and tearing out hangers. Then, clothes strewn across the floor, she finds her computer and pulls it out.
It is one o’clock in the morning when she begins reordering boards on Pinterest to tell her what to do, what to wear, who to be. To PROMPT-or. She believes she will redefine herself and pick her personality of the month. The blue from the computer screen reflects on her face and she has to squint to see the boards but thinks that’s okay, and clicks the brightness up.
They say blue is the color of honesty but it is not lost on her that there is nothing honest about pinning your personality to a bunch of carefully curated photos. And don’t even get me (her) started on the verb to curate.
The night flashes pretty blue again.
[#F79547: New Dawn]
At two in the morning: teal and orange make the ugliest color combination. It’s two in the morning. Wide awake and going to school naked. Slumped forward and surrounded by plushy blue pillows, her mind is mush because she cannot control the outcome. The REAL outcome. Her mind flashes colors, always those she doesn’t own, stacking up in her brain like so many projector slides, so many could-haves, and should-haves.
Fifth-grade Spanish class. Tongue-tied and tears during an oral exam. She can’t even draw forth no sé at the front of the room. Six years later, the same red hot, humiliation washing over her, coloring her cheeks pink and causing her to burrow into the cool, blue, blankets.
Losing my sh*t, her sh*t in front of the class. Rooted in her worn blue sneakers, unable to run and getting really good at measuring shame on a one-to-ten scale. It’s a perfect 10. Standing with that same neck hunched over her hands. Looking up to see the boy in the orange and teal sweatshirt willing her to remember before looking away.
She wonders should I have practiced more, longer, harder? She makes it all about inadequacy, about second and forty-first guessing. It isn’t but the override is unsteady and untried. It’s brand new but feels rusted shut. But even six years later, she was still not able to find the Prompter, and doubts that the outcome would have been any different.
She blinks up at the blue sky and thinks it’s impossible that the universe is tucked underneath. Impossible and infinite, so big it will forever be unknown. She watches the inky night sky turn from prussian blue to cornflower blue to powder blue as the day draws closer. As the light from the window draws alongside the bed, she sits, waiting for it to warm her in the amber channel of light that nearly restores her to herself, only better. Dust flurries prick the light and disappear. The welts recede, her cheeks are dry, she swallows easily, her throat clears. Today she will begin again. The blue night wears sequins too and now they are day.
Now, she speaks the language of color fluently, from desaturated pearl to rich blue, the wide range of blues that comes with the safety of a well-known, lived-in place. The comfort of uncomfortable light shining through the curtains, enough for Felicity to feel a little more aware, the cleanliness of a dirty floor covered in clothing, the familiarity of the edge of a phone biting into Felicity’s thigh as she shifts on the bed.
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