Read an Excerpt
THE CLICK OF MY VAN DOOR IS SIMILAR to the monotonous beeps of an alarm clock. You know how, after you've heard the same incessant noise day after dayalways with the same dreaded awakeningyou begin to cringe at the sound? That's what our van door, sliding open, does to me. It's the bugle of yet another school day.
Since I'm totally into mythology, I'll relate how I feel about school by referencing a well-known tale of a fellow named Sisyphus who, for doing something punishable to the gods, was forced to push an extremely heavy boulder up a hill day after day. Once he got to the top, the boulder would roll back down and he'd have to start all over again. School is my boulder. And I have no idea what I did to piss off Zeus.
I think it has less to do with school and more to do with the people occupying it. I'm, under no lesser terms, the opposite of a 'people person.' I'm a loner, and I like it that way. But humanity is kind of a nationwide epidemic, as any die-hard Buffy fan would quote, so I hobble myself down the sidewalk and into the glass doors of my high school.
I walk down the halls, watching my admittedly ugly tennis shoes clomp themselves over shiny tiles. I try to stay on one line as I make my way to my locker and on to homeroom. When I get to my seat and classes start, the evaluation begins. You know how people say you are your own toughest critic? It's totally true.
I zone out once the teacher starts talking, and the only thing I think about is how people view me. I check my breathing to make sure I can't be heard. I yank my shirt and pants so there's no way anyone can see an inch of me. I bite my lip and suffer through what I'm sure is just an assessment of how I look, cleverly disguised as 'Homeroom.'
Everything comes down to how I act, too. I know I'm quiet, but I'd rather go unnoticed than say something wrong and be insulted for it. Right now, I'm on the edge of my seat, waiting for my name to be called for attendance. Waiting, in dread, to speak out the word 'here.' When I quietly do, I wonder if I said it too silently or if my voice pitched awkwardly.
Everyone starts talking in whispers while the rest of the attendance is called. I hear everything I'd ever want to know about X's party or A's concert. People always talk like nobody's listening in. It's not like I eavesdrop on purpose, but if someone's having a conversation right next to a ghost, that poor ghost can't help but pick up a few disjointed words.
'The football game was . . .' 'I can't believe she . . .' 'Were you at . . . ?'
Sometimes I wonder what it'd be like to be someone else, like the girl two rows up and one seat over who had 'an awesome time' this weekend. If we somehow pulled a Freaky Friday with our minds, would life be easier? I'm not naive enough to think other people don't have problems . . . we all do. But I know it'd be nice to not care so much. To just let things go and be happy and carefree.
I made a promise to myself that this year, my freshman year in high school, would be different. I moved from my last school in Berea to get a fresh start here at Avon Lake. I was done being labeled 'mute,' and I thought with a new school I could make myself over and be a new, outgoing person. As it turns out, it doesn't matter what school I'm at; I'm still chronically shy. While everyone else is busy talking like normal teenagers, I'm doodling. It's pretty depressing when someone who can't even draw a basic stick figure is resorting to 'art' just to busy herself. There are lumps of mashed potatoes where my clouds are supposed to be.
The bell rings, and I'm five minutes closer to the end of the day. Welcome to my life.
©2010. Chelsea Rae Swigget. All rights reserved. Reprinted from Rae. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the publisher. Publisher: Health Communications, Inc., 3201 SW 15th Street, Deerfield Beach, FL 33442