But when is the right time to really say something of this magnitude? I watch my best friend, see her chattering, giggling, completely oblivious to the world. I just want to shake her, let her know that I have something I need to say, and I need her absolute attention to say it.
I want to say what I’m thinking. I want to stop pretending.
But when I feel the words come to my lips, they die. I shake my head, I smile my Stepfordgrin, and I think to myself, Later. Later on today, definitely. But our days are so rushed that we barely have time to say hello, let alone to make startling confessions. By the time we get to her locker, I lose my nerve again. She is talking, completely at ease. She looks at me, but I have run out of words to say. I just shrug.
I start to walk out of the hallway – That was the perfect time, I tell myself. You missed your one chance. Opportunities like that don’t occur every day, and you just missed yours.
I’m not so relieved to see TJ is there. I wanted some time to be by myself. And anyways, he must have already gone to his locker. Why is he still here? Is he waiting for me?
“Hi, Alice” he says softly. I don’t know why he’s so shy. Or so quiet, so un-talkative. It’s. only me. Doesn’t he know I won’t bite?
I prattle off, operating on auto-pilot. I have no idea what I’m talking about. TJ just stands there, nodding at me. I have no idea what I’m saying, but I do know that I’m thinking of something completely different.
TJ looks at his shoes and then at me. And then, we’re both on auto-pilot; we go down stairs, talking vaguely about things that don’t matter (Or rather, I’m talking. TJ’s walking next to me, barely alive). We hug goodbye and I think that, as he leaves, I hear him muttering something under his breath; something that - I have an awkward feeling – he doesn’t want me to hear.
I throw water hastily onto my face and try to breathe normally. I try to undo the knot in my stomach – the one that is accompanied by the sick, crying feeling. I don’t know how to handle it. I tremble and try to hold back the hurt and the need to cry – finding it impossible, and that tears are streaming down my face. My stomach begins to jerk away from the rest of my body. I am losing it. I am becoming more and more unable to hold in my sick tears and sad nausea.
I straighten up and stare into the mirror on the wall in front of me. I stared straight in, furrowing my brow and frowning. All of this just makes things worse. Look at yourself. Failure. That’s what you are. You have no courage. You’re just lucky you can breathe on your own.
I don’t want to look at myself as I start crying. I can feel my face contort – and that’s bad enough. I don’t want anyone else – namely my parents – to see me like this. I don’t want them to ask, I don’t want to explain.
What has happened to me? How have I suddenly gone from a strong, independent girl who relied on no one, who treated everyone with the same cynical, sarcastic manner, to a girl who is sad and cries all the time, who depends on others to help her through her misery, who sets one person apart from all the rest for special treatment?
I bang my head on the wall. My parents hear this and everything gets quiet. “Alice?” my mother calls. “Are you alright?” I mumble something, suddenly terrified that any noise above a grunt will give away my secret. Had my parents not been in the house, I would have broken the mirror into a million pieces and taken care of this pesky heart of mine.
Oh, how I hate my life.
I approach the lockers the next morning with caution. It isn’t often that I see TJ so flustered and angry with emotion. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him angry. I try to reach out to comfort him, but he moves too quickly away.
And that has never happened to me before. I’m not sure if I should be hurt by his rejection or worried about his sudden cold shoulder, but either way, there’s no time for me to deal with it.
And things don’t get better when I see her again. She’s smiling and perfect and happy and everything I’m not. I’ve never felt so jealous of someone in my life, or so intimidated – how is it that she can be so wonderful? I lose all resolve to say anything again, and I resent her for it.
But when she looks at me, I am overwhelmed with this feeling –
This feeling of overwhelming pain and anguish that comes with liking someone who can never return your feelings… the feeling you can’t hold back, so you cry – or almost do, but are too afraid of the reactions of those in the room. You literally feel the pain coursing inside you.
Not only can I not talk now, but I don’t want to, and I don’t see any time in the future when I will. I can’t help my feelings. As I look at her, my rational heart knows that nothing will ever change. She will never feel the way that I feel. My mind draws me into imaginations in which my heart gets what it wants, but I know this can never be true. I can only hope the rest of the day goes normally. The last thing I want is something else to worry about.
But it doesn’t. TJ is rushing past me, and I barely have time to reach out and stop him. He doesn’t give me any time to think before he is screaming at me – “How could you let this happen? Why did you let it happen? Because for awhile, I felt nothing for you, and I was content with the way life was going. Then, you had to treat me like you do, had to be all flirty when you know well that it means nothing. I’m tired of it. Leave me alone,” he snaps. He then sighs, letting out a deep breath he was holding within, and walks quickly in the other direction.
And now I’m jealous of TJ as well. At least he said what he needed to say, at least he has courage. I’m still waiting for mine to come in. I’m still waiting to exhale.