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There are so many people here.
They’re all looking at me.
They think I’m ugly.
They’re all so sweaty and gross.
Why did I come here?
Michael could feel his cheeks start to flame as he took in his surroundings. The club was so crowded, and everyone around him smelled like beer and sweat. It was so dirty and gross there- what if someone was already hungover? What if they threw up? Michael not-so discreetly hit his palm against the side of his outer thigh, trying to will the thoughts away. It didn’t work. It never did.
“Michael, come on,” His brother, Caden, whined from beside him, latching his hand into his and trying to tug him along with him. “I want to get to the front before they come on stage.”
Michael shook his head, burying his face into the crook of Caden’s neck. He was a little sweaty, but Michael didn’t care. Besides their sister, Kylie, he was the only person Michael didn’t mind coming in physical contact with- he was his brother and his closest friend, after all. “But there’s so many people up there. I don’t want to have to be so close to them. Caden, I-I promise I’ll go up there n-next t-”
“You said that the last time we were here,” Caden sighed, letting go of his brother’s hand and turning around, looking him in the eye. Caden always tried his best to be gentle with Michael- he knew how easily he could break down. “Look, Mike, I know you don’t want to, but you really need to. We need to work on getting you over this before it gets any worse. We’ll start slow, okay? We can go stand near the edge of the stage this time, then slowly work our way closer to the middle each night we come here. Does that sound good?”
Michael stared at him for a minute. He didn’t like being treated like a baby; he wasn’t helpless. But then again, he acted like a baby, so maybe he needed this close attention, whether he liked it or not. Either way, he thought over what Caden had said. He was right: Michael did need to work on this; he needed to get better. He shouldn’t keep acting like a baby. He shouldn’t keep being so nervous about everything.
But then again, being nervous was all he had ever known.
Michael eventually nodded, and Caden smiled. He nudged his brother along, and they slowly made their way towards the stage. There was already somebody setting up the drums for the first band that was going to play- aka, Caden’s favorite band, and what he hoped would be Michael’s too.
Michael tried not to pay attention to all of the drunk, stinky people in the middle of the floor. He tried to look away and follow behind Caden. But he couldn’t focus on anything but them. They were all so close. He could feel the walls closing in. He could feel them getting closer and closer and closer. He had to get out.
“Caden!” he yelled over all of the people, tugging on his hand. The dark-haired boy turned around quickly at the sound of his timid little brother’s voice, worry etched onto his face.
Michael spoke again before Caden could even attempt to. “I-I need to go to the bathroom.”
“Do you want me to come with you?” Caden asked, a skeptical look in his eye. Michael sighed. I’m not a fucking baby.
“N-no,” Michael almost yelled, letting go of Caden’s hand. “I’m fine all b-by myself. I just h-have to pee, and I’m f-fifteen. I don’t need y-you coming with me to pee. I’m not a b-baby.”
“OK, sorry. Just making sure you were okay...” Caden still looked suspicious of Michael’s strange behavior, but nodded. Michael took off in a sprint.
Luckily, the door was push-opened, so Michael didn’t have to worry about touching the handle; he could just lean on it with his shoulder. He knew he would have to touch it when he left, but there were most likely some paper towels by the sinks, so he could just use those to open the door. He would be fine.
Everything is fine.
Michael sighed in relief when he didn’t see anyone in the bathroom. He even checked under the stall doors to be sure: no one. He was completely alone- which was a good thing to him. Michael liked being alone.
He stood in front of the mirror, staring at himself. His eyes scanned over every inch of his body. Michael didn’t really like his body all that much.
His wrists and hands were way too small, and he couldn’t wear bracelets because they always slid off. He didn’t like the way his teeth looked. His ears poked out too much. There were too many pimples on his forehead. His belly poked out a little bit, even though he barely ate anymore. Sometimes Michael thought about hurting himself on purpose.
But the thoughts were too controlling to let him focus on doing that.
Michael looked down at his feet. He noticed that his right foot was completely inside one of the tiles on the floor he was standing on, but his left was only partly inside of it. He quickly shuffled over and fit both feet inside of the tile. Michael didn’t know why he did this. He just knew that he’d go crazy if he didn’t.
Sometimes Michael thought he was insane. Sometimes he was sure he was. This was one of those times.
Suddenly, the bathroom door opened. Michael cursed at himself; he was too deep inside of his thoughts to even notice the footsteps outside.
He expected the person walking inside to be Caden. His older brother always checked up on him when he took too long doing something that shouldn’t take very long to do, an example being using the bathroom. Michael had been gone for about fifteen minutes. But the person walking in wasn’t Caden. His footsteps were too light; he didn’t sigh when he stood beside Michael at the sinks.
Michael quickly looked up, reaching out towards the soap pump beside the motion activated sink (he was relieved at that, too: he didn’t have to touch a dirty handle to get the sink to gush out water like most other sinks). He started to wash his hands as slowly as he could- anything to rid the room of awkward tension until the stranger left. Something that would take time.
But, Michael’s hands froze when he heard the soft pop of what sounded like a tube of lipstick being opened.
His green eyes slowly glanced to his left, towards where the stranger was standing beside him. He could tell even out of the corner of his eye that they were a woman, not a man. Crap, I’m in the wrong restroom, aren’t I? Michael sucked in a sharp breath as he began to speak.
“A-Am I in the wrong, um, r-restroom?” He asked, cursing at himself. Stop stuttering, stop stuttering, stop stuttering...
The girl laughed, the sudden and loud sound startling him. Michael turned his head all the way towards her, taking in her features.
She was pale, but not nearly as pale as Michael. Her hair was a dark brown like Michael’s, but shorter than his, though, and was styled into a cute pixie cut that closely resembled Emma Watson’s, excluding the color. Her eyes were a bright blue, which contrasted perfectly with the dark red lipstick she was applying to her lips. Michael couldn’t ignore the fact that she was mysteriously beautiful, which only made him more nervous.
She continued to look in the mirror as she spoke, adding a few more layers of lipstick to her full lips as she did so. “Nope, you’re in the right restroom; I’m not. I usually come in here instead- call me sexist, but the men’s room is normally free of petty gossip, unlike the women’s. I hate gossip, it’s so unprofessional- and, overall, a complete nuisance. Like, ′Holy shit, Tiffany, did you hear Brad got Chelsea pregnant? I always knew she was a slut...’”
As she spoke, Michael looked back down to his hands and continued to scrub them together. He held back a hiss as one of the cracks on the backs of his hands opened a little, the soap stinging the cut. He knew he needed to stop washing because his hands would just get more irritated and raw, but he couldn’t. And not because he was scared that they were dirty this time, but because he was nervous. But that may have been obvious.
“Hey, dude, are you okay?”
Michael’s hands froze at the sound of the girl’s voice, speaking to him once again. He gulped loudly.
After Michael didn’t respond for a good thirty seconds, the girl spoke up once more. Michael could feel her stare on him, but his eyes only moved towards his timid-looking reflection in the mirror.
“I’m Leslie, by the way,” she spoke, and Michael only slightly glanced in her direction. “My full name is Leslie Christine Fitzpatrick, but I hate that name, so most people know me as Leslie Axl Coverdale. I made it up myself- Guns N Roses and Whitesnake are my favorite bands, so it only makes sense.”
Michael turned his head to the side a little, looking at Leslie. He actually managed to look her in the eye this time. He could really see the deep, bright blue of her eyes like that, and some part of him wanted to smile, but he held it back.
Leslie cleared her throat after a moment, slipping her lipstick into her jeans pocket. “What’s your name? And tell it to me in full. We can stalk each other.” She smiled, but not in a creepy way.
Michael didn’t want to, but he started to speak. “It’s M-Michael Carter Wilson.”
Leslie nodded, running her fingers through her hair. Michael hadn’t noticed until then, but there was a touch of blue on the ends of her bangs.
“But, one more thing, Mike,” she spoke, turning her head and fully looking at him. Her smile had faded, and she eyed him up and down. “Are you really okay?”
Michael sighed before speaking. “That d-depends on what y-your definition of o-okay is.”
It was silent for a moment after that. Leslie stared at Michael curiously, as if she was trying to read him or something. But Michael had always been impossible to read. He didn’t even seem like he could be read. He appeared to be an open book with blank pages- easy to look into but with nothing there. But, in fact, he was the total opposite- more like a locked diary filled to the core with entries. The thing was, though, that was exactly what he wanted. No opened covers, no ripped pages. Under lock and key, completely safe.
Leslie finally opened her mouth to speak right when the door opened.
“L, you’re on stage in five,” the man at the door said, adjusting the headphones that were resting over his head. Leslie nodded in response, giving him a thumbs up as to dismiss him.
Leslie then turned back to Michael. She kind of just stood there for a moment, staring at him. It seemed to Michael that there had been a lot, almost too much, staring going on between them in the past few minutes.
“Well,” Leslie said, backing up towards the door. “Honestly, my definition of being okay is feeling good on the inside. Mentally, not physically. Emotionally. Feeling, I don’t know, Not Broken Internally.”
Michael didn't say anything. He just looked down at his cracked, slightly-bleeding hands once more.
"Well," Leslie repeated, sighing. Michael could see her smile at him out of the corner of his eye. "Catch ya later, I guess."
Michael looked down at his feet once the restroom door thumped closed, and he was fully positive that Leslie was gone. Great, there’s another person that I’ve scared away. Why am I so weird? Why am I such a screw-up?
He looked back up after a moment, staring intently at his reflection in the mirror. Michael didn’t like himself a whole lot more now. Almost hated. But he didn’t really know why.
What if I killed myself?
Michael put his hands up to the side of his head, squinting his eyes shut as he tried to lull the thought out of his mind. He started to mutter a swirl of nos and stops under his breath. He hated when he thought like this.
Sometimes, thoughts just randomly appeared in Michael’s mind. Thoughts that didn’t make any sense. Like, one time when his foster mother- he guessed that that was what you’d call her- lit candles in the living room, he just randomly thought, What if I knocked those candles over and burned the house down on purpose? And killed everyone here in the process? He would never do it. But the thoughts still scared him. They made him feel even more crazy than he already felt he was.
One last time, Michael really looked at himself in the mirror. He was pale, more than he should be, and his green eyes were dull. Not full of life. They didn’t look like they were Not Broken Internally.
Michael definitely wasn’t Leslie’s definition of okay.
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