I sat in the room and no one spoke to me. No one told me they knew what I had for lunch because there was still some peanut butter stuck to my face. No one told me they didn’t like me. They didn’t need to.
I thought I was fine. But not because anyone told me so. Mostly people told me I needed to try a lot harder, or be more quiet. Or their eyes told me to leave them alone even when they smiled. Somehow I still thought I was an all right kind of person. The kind that people didn’t really think much of unless they had to.
None of the boys had a crush on me. None of the girls wanted to do my makeup or style my hair. Some people laughed at my jokes and whispered afterwards. Some people weren’t so bad. But those were the people who liked everyone and they don’t count. They’re the people who stay friends with the girl who lies all the time because she’s the same girl who wants to be just like them. And it makes them feel nice and special.
If I was written into a story then, I’d be the one in place to show the strength of norms and convention in society. I’d be the one who stood out and broke the rules and was alienated because of it. And then they’d probably write that I killed myself or died too young in some tragic accident. I’d be the character put in place to show that there are victims when traditions are rigidly upheld. And the writer wouldn’t know they were punishing me. They would claim it was just reality. In reality young people die. And they didn’t do anything wrong in portraying things as such.
So when I was 10, I thought I’d be dead by 15. And when I was 13, I thought I’d be dead by 18. And by 18, I hoped I’d be dead by 19.
But that didn’t happen.
I thought for a long time maybe it started when I stopped believing in god. Maybe it started when thought being cool meant drugs, and I wanted desperately to be cool. Maybe it started the day I was born. I know now everything about me started before that.
I sit in rooms now, and people smile at me. They ask me how my life is, what my dreams are, who I’m dating. They ask me things like: Do you know how to get to the bathroom? Do you know when that paper is due? Are you going to class? Do you want to meet for lunch?
I’m prettier now. Even though sometimes I still have peanut butter on my face after lunch (at least people tell me). Even though sometimes I forget to fix my hair and my lips are always chapped. Even though I have trouble making eye contact and curse a whole bunch. And sometimes I smell like cigarette smoke. Or booze at two in the afternoon.
And people tell me that I’m funny. And they don’t see through me anymore. I’m real to them. I’m as real to them as all of the other people.
It’s not their fault that I sat in the room and no one spoke to me. Or that the people behind me were laughing because my jeans rode down and they could see half of my butt. It’s not their fault that I’m scared of talking because I don’t know how.
I thought I was fine. I thought I was okay. I thought that people didn’t like me because I was different. And I didn’t care.
And now I feel naked all of the time. I feel ugly and exposed. I feel uneducated in how to interact. I doubt myself. That confidence, that security, it’s gone. And I’m still not quite like them. But as you get older that’s part of your charm. You’re not like them so they are drawn to you. Or maybe it is their fault that some other woman feels just the same as me and being kind to me is their way of giving back.
Now if I was written into a book I’d be the woman who challenges the perception of women. I’d be the loose one who seems like a lot of fun but has a past full of issues. And that makes her beautiful to men and strange to women. But they like her too. And no one understands her because she never makes herself too clear because she already feels transparent enough. She’s a mystery not because she has secrets, but because she reveals them. And how could a woman do that?
I feel between two rooms. In a doorway – half in and half out – in something else. I am not fully who I was or who I am. I am distant from everyone because not all of me is close, and my two halves are distant enough from one another for this to be problematic. I know enough of the world of alone and the world of not alone to know I do not belong to either. And I know there are people like me. Pretending to be one or another because it makes things easier.
And sometimes I feel like I need to get outside of myself. I want to escape from everything that makes me who I am. I want to collapse into myself. I want to transform into something else. I want to kill away all the parts of the world that make me hurt. I want to escape.
They say it will be okay when I find meaning. Or create meaning. I can only do that with my words. I feel alive only when I can transcribe my life onto a screen or into a notebook. But I can’t do this often because there are many forces in my life inside and outside of me that won’t allow it. And I want to break down walls. I want to challenge things.
But I don’t ever was to be in a room full of people, feeling alone, with peanut butter on my face.