It’s day one again. Sophomore year this time. First time attending one school for two years in a row since I was six. I am not new. Nothing is new. Everything is old and stale and unchanged. The school is just like it was before the summer. It is not warm and familiar; it is cold, and it knows all my secrets. The floors are still gray tile. The lockers are still a dull dark blue. The walls are still off-white and chalky and full of scratches.

The first-period bell has not even rung yet.

I go back outside. It is raining and very humid.

I stare at the faded brick. The memories of last year do not rush back; they are just there again, and feel like they never left.

I close my eyes and see the black of the Seclusion Room. I can almost feel the padded rubber walls against my hands and feel myself screaming. I hear the echo in my head of my voice bouncing off the soundproof walls for what feels like hours, and hearing my own heartbeat in the following silence. I almost heard complete silence, but my own heartbeat broke it.

I wring my hands like I did when my dad sat us down one year, three months, and 10 days ago and told us about Mom.

I feel the feeling I felt this exact time last year. Shoved into a wall. Just so you know, you’re not going to look at me, or my friends, and don’t even try to talk to us. The girl takes her forearm off my collarbones. Stay away from us—or else.

I close my eyes and try to push the hospital images out of my mind. I can’t. I see the patients who lie in bed and pretend to sleep but really never do; I see the caregiver telling a transgender boy that he must go by Jennifer here. I see the Seclusion Room.

School is essentially a mental hospital. It’s supposedly there to help you, but it just teaches you how to act the way they want you to. It teaches you to fake it. Also, you’re trapped.

My head has become the hospital. My head has become the school. I am trapped in every sense of the word. I can’t think and I can’t leave.

I can’t fuck up again. ♦