I’ve always preferred to be by myself. I prefer the seclusion, the quiet- my own taste in music, my personal style, and just my own thoughts to contend with. Being alone you are barred from expectations of commitments and feelings. You can be yourself completely without having to be dependent on you.
My temples begin to throb as Carol Ridley comes bounding up to me as I enter Garfield High School.
She seems to have the notion that we are in some way friends. She is mistaken—I can’t stand her. Her peppiness, her cackle of a laugh, and her energy all irritate me to no end. Perhaps I can’t stand Carol because she resembles the person I used to be. I used to be happy all the time as well. Happiness was almost like a drug that I couldn’t stop taking. People would tell me all the time that I never ceased to brighten their day. But those days are long over.
They’ve been over since ‘the incident.’ Some days are better than others, and my mom finally let me quit the stupid therapy sessions to help ‘cope.’ I think she needed to cope with what happened more than I did. But I still have nightmares about him. I know he’s long gone and he probably isn’t ever going to come back, but reality doesn’t stop the cold sweat I usually wake up in.
Sometime I can feel his fingers around my throat, my own shortened breaths against the palm of his hand, my own short squeals of protest. Those are just some of the details of my ‘incident.’ I don’t like to talk about it, and not even my best friend knows the whole story.
I plunge on through and say my daily hellos to Carol. I throw just enough words her way to keep her satisfied, but not enough to give her the illusion that we’re actually friends. My brother’s blond head breaks away and heads towards his own locker. Mine is filled with a horrifying stench that finds its way to my nose. No, it’s not my stench but it’s oozing from the locker next to mine—Jackie’s locker. Jackie is on the swim team, and leaves her bag full of chlorine-soaked clothes in a gym bag in her locker. The smell is leaves behind is wretched. I grab the things I need for class and close my locker as soon as I can—it closes with a satisfying bang.
Jackie and I have known each other since we were in kindergarten. She has the same devil of a teacher that I did. She was the most loathsome woman. This isn’t my cynical nature speaking, this is the truth. The dreadful Mrs. Pool would make seven year olds copy poetry when they misbehaved. She was mean and yelled and was the furthest thing from your stereotypical childhood teacher.
I remind myself to talk to her about the stench later. Maybe I should buy her air freshener for her birthday; it’d be a win- win, I think to myself.
I continue throughout my day, talking only to those who address me directly; diving into my book as the girls’ cackle around me at our lunch booth.
At the end of the day I race to my car as if my life depended on it. I do this partly so I can get out of the suffocating place that is called high school, and partly to beat traffic.
Traffic at Garfield High is the worst. There is one narrow exit with two lanes that diverge so you can go either left or right. If you don’t get to your car and out of the parking lot within the first five minutes after school, you’ll be waiting forever.
I dart home as fast as possible, and when I reach the door to the garage, I begin my daily routine. I go up to my room, and peel off my school clothes and change into what I call my second skin. A pair of yoga pants, a baggy T-shirt and a messy bun complete my look. Sometimes I’ll add a pair of fuzzy socks for good measure. I plug my iTouch into the speakers and I’m surrounded by the wonderful lyrics of Florence + The Machine- my latest obsession. I climb into my bed and crack open The Hunger Games.
I devour books like they are air. I can’t stop reading once I’ve started. It’s as if I’m addicted to them, but there are no support groups for being addicted to books. I often to think to myself- Hi I’m Lily, and I’m a reading addict. It gets to the point where I have to allot myself one hour before homework to read.
Books are my form of escape. Here I can dive into the life of somebody else. I can worry about their problems and go on their adventure with them. I don’t have to be Lily Hawthorne, because I can be somebody completely different.
The real world seems drab to me and I would much rather follow Katniss and Peeta on their adventure to defy the capitol than watch a reality TV show or call up a friend. Maybe I like books because the characters always accomplish something. They go on an adventure, change the world, fall in love; there is never a dull moment. My life is just a chain of these dull moments. My friends can be fun at times, but again, I still prefer to be alone. No boys are turning their heads as I walk by- I’m just another face in the crowd that is forced through high school.
Other people’s opinions used to mean the world to me. I would hear comments about my hair, about my weight, and everything about me. But that was when I was the old me—the one who cared about how others thought.
When I would hear a comment about my large, frizzy hair- it would torture me. It was as if somebody knocked the wind out of me.
My mother would always try and reassure me that my hair was gorgeous- a precious gem- she would say. But to me it was a mound of problems that I walked with on top of my head. All throughout middle school I wore my hair in a bun. That way I didn’t get as many looks; I didn’t get noticed.
When I arrived in high school I was determined to find some way to contain my hair, but after my first day I was back to my old ways.
Sophomore year was different. I walked in on the first day with my hair down, and somehow I managed to somewhat contain its volume. “I thought she always wore her hair up,” one girl had commented as I walked to my breakfast table to greet my friends. I knew it was some sort of culture shock for the people of GHS, because nobody ever did anything different.
But that was the old me. The Lily now doesn’t even hear people when they make comments about her. I just float through life, trying not to be called out or spoken to directly.
Here is where I love to be—in my bed with a book and my second set of skin. I could spend the rest of my life here.
My dream world would be filled with an unlimited amount of books. Stacks and piles would occupy every crevice of my room. A small mini fridge in my closet for drinks.
I would hoard my books, and go back and reread all of them. I wouldn’t need anything else to survive—not even food.
Not that I eat the much food now. I’m not anorexic, I do not have an eating disorder, or have some unreachable goal to look like a swim suit model before spring break. I’m simply don’t have an appetite.
My eating schedule is a little wonky. A bag of peanuts in second period, a nibble of apples at lunch, and my Cheez- Its when I get home. I’m set on that diet. What is most agonizing is when my mom calls me down for dinner. At first I would tell her I wasn’t hungry, and I could usually get away with it. But after a while my attendance at dinner became required, and no matter what I said, my mom wouldn’t let me out of it. She grew a little paranoid about my appetite after the incident.
I’ve become an expert of sorts with dinner. I can push my food around on my plate, and act like I’m engrossed in getting the perfect bite. I take a few bites here and there when my mom’s suspicions arouse. And when the time is perfect, I excuse myself and dump the rest of the food from my plate into the never-ending abyss of my sink.
The garbage disposal shocks to life as I flip the switch, and all evidence of my crime is washed away. I dash upstairs, usually without notice, but when somebody does notice, I grumble an excuse about homework to attend to. I start my Florence + The Machine and attempt to do my homework. But my thoughts are always clouded by the need to finish my book. It beckons to me to read one more chapter, to find out what happens next, to travel back to the world that I so long to live in.
Have you ever had the sensation that you just have to cry? To let all of your stress, and sadness come flowing out of your eyes. That’s what happened to me tonight. I curled up in my bed, put on a sad song and let the sadness stream from my eyes. It lasted a good hour or so, I maybe listened to the same song eight times, since the sadness had me paralyzed in my bed. My bed is the same as my books. It’s an escape, where sleep overcomes me and comforts me in its hazy nothingness. No dreams bother me, no memories or thoughts- my mind is as blank as a canvas; but I don’t mind. I’d rather there be no dreams, because those dreams can easily turn into nightmares- as easily as the flip of a switch. So I stick to the emptiness that inhabits my brain during the hours between eleven and seven. I sometimes fall asleep reflecting on the part of my book that I had just finished, but that’s as close as I ever get to dreaming.
I continue the process for a while. Get up, pack my lunch (the one I know I’m not going to eat), grab my book, drive me and my brother to school, suffer, come home, change, music, book, homework, insufferable dinner, book, sleep, repeat. For weeks this goes on, and every once in a while I curl up in my bed and cry. The crying has become more common since my dad went away.
I don’t mind though. Crying lets me get all of my pent up anger, frustration and sadness out. One look from somebody who cares would tell then that I’m not happy. But nobody cares, so I go on suffering all by my lonesome.