The guidance counselor looks up from her stack of files and lets out a sigh that says that last thing she needs is another student who is having a mental breakdown.
"Alright, Ms. [insert last name here]. You might have an idea of why I've asked you to meet me. "
I give her a blank look. (Of course I have an idea. But I pretend that I do not.)
"Your friends are worried about you. They said you have been throwing away your lunches and that you've lost a lot of weight lately."
I say nothing.
She continues, "Alright. Um. Well, let's start there then. Have eaten today?"
"Yes," I lie.
"Are you eating regularly?"
"Yes," I lie again.
She knows that I am lying.
I know that she knows that I am lying.
But she allows the lies anyway because neither of us wants to go there.
"Good. Well, I just wanted to make sure that you were doing okay. Are you? Doing okay, I mean?"
"Yeah, I am. I promise," I say, mustering up every ounce of energy that is left in my body so she won't hear my voice break or notice the fatigue that is threatening to overtake me. "But thank you for checking. I'm so lucky to have people around me who care. I think I was just overwhelmed with classes and family drama. But I really am okay. I'm taking care of myself."
I give her my most convincing I-am-doing-amazing-but-aren't-you-just-the-sweetest-for-worrying-about-me smile.
She smiles back and her shoulders relax some. One less angst-ridden high school student to worry about.
"Great. Good. I guess that's it then. If you ever need to talk to someone, you know where my office is. You can stop by anytime."
I nod and smile at her reassuringly, "I will."
I will not.
I will go to my locker and throw out the lunch that I carefully made that morning for my parents' benefit.
I will go home and run until I can't breathe and then run some more.
I will go to bed tonight and feel my ribs pushing through my skin. My stomach will burn and beg me for food. My heartbeat will feel too slow and I will wonder if I will wake up in the morning.
She will go home tonight and lay on the couch with the TV droning in the background, her balding husband heating up leftover mashed potatoes, and her two screaming toddler sons throwing Legos at each other.
Most likely she will forget about this conversation completely.
I am dying.
I am lying.
I am dying.
I am lying so that I can die.
I do not like to lie. I am good at lying. But I do not like it.
The Thing likes it when I lie.
The Thing is all that matters. I have to protect it, even if it means lying to everyone in my life.
The Thing / The Monster / The Darkness
I get up and walk out of her office. As soon as I'm out of the counselor's sight I collapse against the wall and take three deep breaths so that I don't faint. I tug down the sleeves of my baggy sweatshirt to cover my bony wrists. My nail polish is chipping and the bluish tint of hypothermia is showing through and I can't stop shivering, oh god, I can't stop shivering. All I want is to feel warm again.
A small whisper somewhere inside of me I want out / please help me / I don't want to die / I don't want to die
The Thing laughs. I feel sick.
It's so hard to think. Everything is gray and heavy and I miss having energy. I miss food. I think of spaghetti and ice cream and the casseroles my grandma makes and NO. STOP IT. I cannot let myself go there because if I do, I will lose control completely.
I miss the time before The Monster was in my head. I can barely remember it anymore. My short sixteen years of life has been cut cleanly into two sections: Before The Thing and The Thing.
Maybe someday I will cut a third: After The Thing.