I wake up at 6 AM to my two alarm clocks and a phone call, like every morning, and then wake up again at 6:45, also like every morning. I wouldn’t wake up at all if Dad weren’t yelling from downstairs. I finally roll out of bed. I remember, like I do every morning, that being awake entails seeing people and doing things. My stomach drops.
I try to get dressed and do my makeup in the 15 minutes before the bus comes. All my clothes are black and I can barely see with sleepy eyes, so I fumble around and put on whatever I grab first, which ends up being my leather skirt and a T-shirt. I hate wearing T-shirts.
I trudge to the bathroom, halfheartedly dab some powder on my face, and swipe a blob of black over each eye. I push everything on the counter into my bag so I can do a better job once I get to school.
I don’t want to hate things. I don’t want to be a walking stereotype like Janis Ian, who exists only to embody melodramatic teenage angst, represented through knotted black hair, torn-up clothes, and too much makeup. But I am a walking stereotype. I’ve accepted it.
My bag is dull camo green. It is heavy, which is funny because I don’t use any of the stuff I haul around in it.
The bus arrives. I get on. I fake a cheery “good morning” to the driver like I do every morning, because she bought me a hat once and remembers my name. I see people staring at me because they know the bus won’t move until I sit down. My heart races because for a second, millions of eyes are watching my every move. I almost trip as I speed-walk to the back, where the empty seats are. It’s always the same people in the empty backseats. One boy is in my history class. I don’t know the rest. One of them cries silently every morning in the last seat.
I try to listen to Arcade Fire. I put on Funeral, my favorite album. I hate it. I hate music in the morning. I put my headphones away and stare out the window. It looks humid somehow. It might be the gray sky, which I associate with heat since living in China. In China it was air pollution. Today, here, it is overcast. It is ominous almost-rain, like a pimple that hasn’t broken the surface yet and is just a raised bump, not even red.
I get off the bus. “Thank you, have a good day!” I take out my list notebook. I flip through the pages for the next blank one. I pull a pen out of my pocket. People I Need to Avoid Today. Four people. I draw out my route to all my classes and find out where it will overlap theirs. The schedule is all jumbled today because of standardized tests, so the morning is completely full of seeing people I can’t see. I can’t go into school.
My black velvet jacket is almost knee-length, terrible quality, and ripped up. It weighs down my shoulders as I walk away from the school. I hear a few people calling out “witch” faintly in the background, but it doesn’t bother me. It used to, but I’d pretend not to care. Now I really don’t. I’m a nihilist. Their opinions are irrelevant. I barely hear other people.
I walk past the kids smoking pot behind the tennis courts. They say hi and I just nod, because I don’t smoke and I don’t feel like talking. There’s not much to talk about. I trudge away, my hair falling in a sheet around my head. It looks like Violet Parr’s today: thin and straight, not its usual wild and knotty. I’m so tired. Every part of me is exhausted. I’m mentally tired out of my mind. I walk deeper into the woods behind the courts until I can’t see any houses.
I turn on my phone and put OK Computer on repeat. I lay my backpack on a soft-looking area of dirt. I lie on my side, facing my phone, bag under my head like a sack of rocks. I hope nobody comes by. They’ll think I’m trying to look poetic or romantic or dramatic or something. I just want to be alone.
I fall asleep. I dream the same dream I always do, where I need to scream but I can’t, or at least not loudly enough. My throat is buzzing, but I can’t use my lungs. I grow dizzier with every attempted yell.
I wake up. The buzzing was my phone. I ignore it and go back to sleep, where even nightmares are nice because they are in the moment, and when scary things happen you don’t have to think.
I look at pictures of people I miss. Why do I do that? It’s so fucking stupid. I hate myself when I do that.
I’m not tired at all. I try to fall asleep again but can only succeed for a few minutes.
At lunchtime I walk back to school, looking a mess and not caring in the least. I’m too exhausted to care. I want to see my friends. I live for them almost completely and can give up a few minutes of my nice little solitude for them.
I check my phone. My dad got a call saying I never showed up to school. I feel too exhausted to panic. I panic anyway. He’s going to call the police. He’s going to put me back in the hospital.
A teacher finds me in the lunchroom.
“Ruby, looks like this is for you.” My friends have grown used to watching me be escorted away.
“Oh, shit.” I say a goodbye as I’m led to the office.
I want to be in the woods again. I want to be alone and asleep. ♦