Hallways in my mind are made of brick.
Red, rough edges of brick, mortar, metal lockers.
Hallways of my high school in Mississippi.
Cold metal, brick, glass windows.
Cold feelings or feeling cold?
Wait, quite sure. Certain.
I’m unable to feel.
Everything feels cold, alien, void. Surreal.
Thoughts going through my head.
This isn’t real, I am not real. Nothing is real.
But I am real. Everything is real. This is real.
In my mind, I float through the motions. I am a Sophomore on my way to biology class. I breeze through the halls. I smile at the right people. I ignore the “wrong people”.
I ask the right people how they are. I don’t care, but I ask anyway.
They ask how I am, they don’t care, but they ask anyway.
We lie. We all lie. We all say, “I’m fine” “I’m great”
Or the good ol’ Southern standby: “I’m blessed”.
Really? These are our conversations? They have to be. We’ve been lying about our lives practically from birth.
I, for one, despise it.
I want authenticity. Raw emotion. Truth. Blood, Sweat. Tears.
I crave to respond like this:
High School Person: “Hey, How are you?”
Me: “Honestly, today sucks. Despite drinking diet Coke and starving myself, I still weighed 103 this morning. I’m still too short to be a serious model. My dad is a total pervert that can’t carry on an emotional conversation unless its a stream of expletives that is merely a mixture of fierce profanity, anger and intimidation that could have been summed up easily by saying, “Don’t fuck with me you little shit”. My mom is scared of my dad because, well, he’s scary. My brother is scared of my dad because he almost choked him to death last week. I’m scared of my dad for some unknown reason that will probably haunt me later in life. Everyone here thinks my dad is great which totally sucks for me. And to top it off that chunky blond girl my brother is friends with keeps looking me like she hates me. Rumor has it she wants to beat me up. Why? Because I’m emaciated and she’s a fat ass? Do you think my brother will try to stop her? Doubtful. Oh, I should also mention that all of my friends are having sex. Am I the only girl alive not the least bit interested? Doesn’t matter, I’ll probably do it anyway because that’s what good girlfriends do, right? Then, I’ll have go to church and act like it never happened. So yeah, that’s how I am. How are you?
High School Person: “I’m just about as bad. My dad lost his job. I have to get free lunches again. Free lunches in high school. I’m ashamed of my dad. My mom can’t drag her ragged ass out of bed long enough to cook for us or do the laundry. I’ll likely not have a car until I get to college, but really…why complain? We live in the armpit of America in one of the worst school systems in the country and our teachers act like we should love this place. My only chance of going to college is a band scholarship. Band. Did I say Band? I hate the fucking band, but I’m going to put on that monkey suit and march my bony ass all over that football field because that’s pretty much the epitome of scholarly advancement here in the Delta.
So that’s how I am. My family is broke, my mom is lazy and I hate band. Oh, and I may be pregnant, but I won’t know for a few more days. I hope no one at my church finds out I’ve been having sex. I will be shunned after they all lay hands on me and try to cast the demon of teenage sex right out of me. What am I saying? I can’t be pregnant, then, there would be no band scholarship. I didn’t want to have sex anyway but everyone else was doing it. What am I supposed to do? Not have a boyfriend?
Wow! It feels so great to be able to share all of this with some one. There is so much stress involved in having to act like I’m fine all the time.”
To which I would then respond:
“Oh my gawd! Thank you so much for your honesty. I am so glad to be able to just spill my guts and be myself with someone, too! This is amazing! We were destined to be friends. Just to think, all this time we have BS’d our way through life. We could’ve been there for each other. We could have not felt alone. Wow, we should start a movement. Surely there are more of us. We could be called “Southern Girls That Refuse to Suck by Lying About Life” I’ll gladly let you be President. We change the world. We can start something that actually means something. We will print some t-shirts. Get a few more members. We can…”
At this point I am abruptly cut off by High School Person,
“Uhmmm, Do you have a fever? You said, “How are you?” I said, “I’m blessed. Didn’t I?” If you say I said anything else, I will deny it and tell everyone you are lying. I’m blessed damn it and my family is fine. And for the record, I’m a virgin and will be until marriage.
Me, in a deflated tone: “Yeah, that’s what I was afraid of. “
The brief sparkle of authenticity and truth had faded from her eyes.
We were back to square one.
I was back to square one in my alternate universe.
This is how we are.
We are a people of lies. Big lies, little lies, benign lies, malignant lies. Lies. Lies. Lies.
Liars, the whole lot of us.
There is no way to stop the stream of lies that spill from our well-meaning lips. These lies
are the cement and mortar of the walls in the hallways of our lives.
They protect us. They keep us right where we do not want to be, but where we are the most comfortable. Alone, secluded from the truth, encapsulated in the false reality we have created for ourselves.
As our inner beings scream to be heard, our craving for close personal connection is fed by fake color additives and self-serving preservatives that sustain our shelf life in society.
A cancer grows within us dulling who we are until we reach acceptance of whatever it is we have become.
Fear takes up residence in the hallways of our minds and the cold, rough brick stands firm. We are safe in the shadows of the status quo.
Occasionally, an enthusiastic, courageous person will steps forth and slap us around with their authenticity. Unable to respond as we did when we were children, when we craved this type of connection. With fearless exuberance, we lash out, tell them to tone it down, shut it down, get over it and get on with it.
How dare they intrude into our fearful residence and chink away at our brick and mortar safety? We are enraged, our souls inflamed, our senses on edge.
The more introspective ones of us struggle to find what exactly it is about this person that gets to us. How dare a person be authentic, use real words, have real feelings?
So what’s the hoopla?
The pits of our stomachs feel it. As it gnaws, sizzles and churns about we name it: Burning Jealousy.
We covet their courage and silently salute their strength.
We wish we could live our lives freely, authentically, courageously. Share our hopes, fears and dreams with no threat of ridicule or belittling.
A millisecond of hope springs within us-we could be like them, then it is squashed by the difficulty of it all.
We turn from who we were meant to be, who we are aching to be, we hang our heads in shame, stretch out our hand to the status quo. Grab it and walk back into our safety zone, turning our backs on truly living once again.
Oh to be an authentic, enthusiastic, courageous person for more than just a millisecond.
Oh to be seen and heard and loved.
Oh to be able to feel.
Oh to be real.
It’s my Alternate Universe.