School the next day brought a lot of surprises and quiet inquisitions. For reasons unbeknownst to me, Mr. Dylan seemed determined to earn my participation in class. He’d call on me in that annoying way teachers do when your hand was nowhere near the air, he actively rounded up to my desk to ensure that I was doing the assignment, and he had threatened multiple times to take my notebook from me if I didn’t put it away. That was not happening any time soon. So I eventually found myself entertaining vocabulary words and essay topics. When the bell finally dismissed the class, I couldn’t escape fast enough. If I’d known a simple poem would enlist such a reaction I would’ve gratefully taken an F.
Other surprises that greeted me were Justin Grey’s odd and somewhat unnerving attention he gave to me. We don’t have any classes together this semester, but we did pass each other in the halls and have the same hour for lunch. These brief encounters allowed him to watch me, and being the outspoken person he was, I wasn’t too surprised to find him waiting for me at my locker after my sixth period class; right before lunch.
Twisting my combination, I waited patiently for him to start speaking, like I knew he would. Shoving my books on the metal shelf, I quickly scan the contents of my locker for lunch money before his voice breaks my train of thought.
“So, Lillian,” He begins, putting unnecessary emphasis on my name; feeling proud that he discovered such information that had been available to him for years, “I thought about what you said yesterday. Not only the name stuff, but how you claimed to of been going to school with me for a while. Which you were right by the way,” He adds as an afterthought.
“Did you not believe me or something?” I ask, resisting the strong urge to roll my eyes at him.
“No! No, that’s not what I meant at all. I just can’t believe I didn’t know or recognize you. After I discovered you were actually Lillian Alvarado, it just clicked. I could hardly believe it,” He babbles on. Usually I found Justin’s stark honesty an admirable trait on him, but now, more than anything, I hated it. I felt a cruel smirk twist on my face as the bittersweet remembrance of the person I used to be infiltrated my thoughts.
“Well, if you haven’t noticed, I’m not exactly the same girl who would read her written stories to the class and befriend everyone. People change,” I slammed the locker door shut with unnecessary force. I haven’t spoken my mind or been this truthful in a long, long time.
“You’re right. People do change. But never without a reason,” He was giving me that look of his that I knew well; curiosity. He was curious about me. What would cause the outgoing, bubbly Lillian from the 9th grade to turn into this brooding enigma? It was the same question him and every other person who bothers to acknowledge my existence have asked themselves.
“I’ll see you later Justin. And by the way, it’s just Lilly now.” And then I was gone.
I knew my mother would eventually make me go and see my dad. It was inevitable in her eyes. I would be forced to go to his new place and play house, be a fake doll of a perfect daughter. I never had a choice in these matters.
I also pondered the angry thoughts and feelings I currently harbored for an outspoken idiot named Justin. Our conversation from today was bringing back unwanted feelings from the past, and they threatened to suffocate me. I didn’t know how to escape the cage of my mind.
I didn’t have any companions that joined me for lunch, so I never bothered to even enter the cafeteria besides on the odd days I choose to purchase food. Instead, I opted to sit in the library with my headphones and thoughts. I sometimes felt annoyed with myself for doing so, because I felt like some stereotypical loser who hides in the library. Oh well.
My notebook brought me small comfort. Flipping through its pages, I skimmed over what thoughts I would let spill onto the page. My pencil lightly scraped the blank canvas before me as I scribbling a mess of marks that soon configured into words.
I often think of my thoughts as these twirling wisps of smoke that fill my lungs and infiltrate my brain; making my breathing lack and my memory fade. These thoughts seem to have hands that choke me, make me exhale my dreams. For nothing is more terrifying than the human mind, for there you have nowhere left to hide. These thoughts seem to take form and steal my breath; they become me. I become these thoughts and they fuel the monster inside of me who hurts others and herself. I become an embodiment of this darkness and it swallows me in its depths.
The intakes of the air I breathe are the only things keeping me alive. This oxygen surrounding me is the only thing grounding me. Sometimes I wish my body would forget this simple instruction of taking a breath. Maybe then I could forget.
I set my pencil down lightly, letting the rhythmic music fill my ears; hoping that it just might take me away from these thoughts for a while.