Maybe it was a chemical imbalance; maybe her veins were tangled inside her body. Whatever the reason, she was different. When she was in social settings she seemed to turn mute, her tongue fell silent and she morphed into a chameleon, blending into the background, trying her hardest to remain unseen by her predators. She was a chameleon living with a family of Macaw’s, loud, colourful birds, always pulling attention. She was in the seventh grade, she was gawky and shy and she dreaded social settings. Lunch in the cafeteria was her least favourite. After having purchased lunch, which consisted of peas and corn and an unidentifiable slop that was being passed off as meat she took her tray and scanned the cafeteria. She spotted a group of four girls sitting at a table smiling and laughing and attempting to be inconspicuous as they snuck glances at the boys sitting at the table over. Their friendly faces made them seem welcoming and gave her the courage to approach the table. However as she got closer, their faces morphed from warm and friendly to cold and territorial. A sense of panic began to arise in her and she quickly re-scanned the cafeteria to find a new destination. She spotted a small empty table by the garbage can and redirected herself towards it keeping her eyes on the cream tiles littered with food that had fallen from people’s lunch. They remained there, un-noticed, being stepped on by kids weaving around tables. She was the leftover food on the ground. She felt herself shrinking, becoming less and less important as she sat alone, the stench of rotting food surrounding her, creating an even larger barrier between her and her classmates.
She found comfort in books and drowned herself in literature. The stories kept her mind occupied and distracted her from reality and the bond she felt with the characters was the closest thing she had to friendship. She loved nothing more than the written word that is until she tried alcohol and suddenly she began to drown herself in drinks. She was in the ninth grade, 15 years old and incredibly insecure, longing to be seen. The music was so loud she couldn’t hear herself think, the pounding beat rattled the house, cheap liquor splashed around inside red cups as the table shook. She was in a dimly light basement and squinted in an attempt to sharpen her blurred vision and get a better look at her surroundings. She sat alone on an old orange and brown plaid couch; covered in lint balls that gave away it’s age. She plucked off a piece of lint and let it fall to the maple wood floor. A large deer head stared at her as it hung on the wall opposite the couch; she avoided looking straight ahead at it. The décor reminded her of a cottage, old and rugged. The song switched to “Say my name” by Destiny’s Child and suddenly a group of girls began scream/singing the lyrics and dancing with satisfied grins on their faces for the audience of boys that had began to stare. A sharp tang of embarrassment hit her as she thought of what it would be like to join them. She felt as if she wasn’t really there in that moment, only an outsider looking in, dissolving into the chaos of the party. Life seemed to be a painting and she lived in the background, while everyone important lived in the foreground, front and center, the focus of the painting. Sometimes she just wanted to scream, “hello! I am here, it’s me Amy, don’t you see me?” but of course she never did. A surge of anger rushed through her, as if she had just been plugged into an electrical socket. She saw the way people looked at them, why couldn’t someone look at me that way? She couldn’t help but think. All she ever got were glances, uninterested and unintentional glances, no one ever lingered, because no one ever really cared. She noticed a common thread throughout these girls; they all had a drink in their hand, so she poured herself a glass and had her first drink. It burned going down her throat, a trail of fire lighting up her insides, she was sure she must have been glowing. Her eyes watered from the strong smell that burned her nostrils and she tried to contain her choke/coughing. When it reached her stomach she felt warm inside, the fire had dulled to a small flame and it kept her insides toasty. It all hit her at once, her head felt heavy and woozy, as if she was on a ship slowly swaying with the pull of the ocean. Her body felt numb, but in a strangely pleasant way, in a way that made her feel like she was floating. It all felt like a dream, she was giddy and warm and her limbs felt like they were melting away off her body, she was no longer in control of them. A sudden burst of courage washed over her, she stumbled her way across the room over to a group of people. Her legs felt like limp spaghetti noodles, unstable and incredibly wobbly.
“I’m so sorry” she squeaked as she took a misstep into a boy with shaggy hair.
“That’s alright, no worries. Are you okay?”
“Yeah… yes, yeah. Totally fine”
“Are you sure?” he asked, placing his hand on the small of her back.
She could feel the warmth radiating off his sweaty palm, “What’s your name?” she slurred.
He grinned at her, “What’s yours?”
“Amy,” she stated weakly, noticing his eyes on her.
“Nice to meet you Amy,” his breath smelled of cheap beer.
The conversation continued and words flowed out of her like water down a drainpipe in the middle of a storm. She was unsure of what she was saying, but for the first time in her life she didn’t feel invisible. His hand slowly slid lower and his lips slowly moved closer. Suddenly she was in a dark laundry room away from the rest of the party. Sweaty, nervous hands fumbled around under her shirt and sloppy lips left wet kisses on her face.
Drinking became her coping mechanism, her courage, and her escape. When she didn’t want to face her problems she drank and when the sun came up and the alcohol wore off and she woke up crushed by regret and self-loathing, she poured herself another drink to forget. By her senior year of high school her parents were very aware she had a problem. She fumbled in one morning after a night out that was just as blurry as the smudged eyeliner on her face. Rummaging through her bag for her keys, her fingers finally came across cold sharp metal, she opened the door as silently as she possibly could. She smelled of cigarettes and alcohol and the scents combined into a rancid stench that wafted off of her, finding it’s way to her parent’s noses as they sat on the couch in her god-awful living room that she despised. When they were painting it she had picked out a lovely blue colour, but her mother had insisted on a horrendous yellow that she had told her looked like piss. They fought about it and her mother won, she refused to step foot in the room since. This paired with the purple/red mark on her neck insisted she hadn’t spent the night at Lindsey’s studying. She avoided eye contact although she could see her parents watching her through her peripheral, disapproval radiating off of them and suffocating her in guilt.
When she reached the staircase, “Amy, how was your night at Lindsey’s?” her mother asked in a sarcastic tone.
She glared at her mother coldly.
“Amy, how was your night at Lindsey’s?”
“It was great mom, really fucking great. When we were finished studying we braided each other’s hair and made friendship bracelets.”
“Watch your language,” she said weakly, her voice beginning to tremble.
She watched as her mother’s eyes turned into pools of water and her cheeks flushed red. Her father placed his palm on her shoulder as if it would stop her mother from crying. He shot Amy a disappointed look, which she pretended to disregard and then angrily continued up the staircase to her room. The look he had given her burned like a fresh wound. Not a small scrape from falling of your bike, but a deep cut that exposed the bone and required stiches. She was furious with herself, why do you have to be so terrible and nasty all the time, stop it. Then another thought hit her, they made me this way, they never gave me the time of day when I was a ‘good girl’, but now that I am like this, now they suddenly care, suddenly they want to fix me? She reassured herself that she was not at fault.
She continued on her destructive path all the way from high school to university, which brought her to her first sorority party. She had rolled her eyes when her classmate had told her sorority parties were an “essential” part of the university experience and “everyone” would be there, but of course she still went. She was 18 and extremely misguided, still longing to find her place in the world. The house was littered in cans and bottles, rowdy students yelled and banged on tables showing their school spirit. People competitively played drinking games, chugging and funnelling beer as if it was the last thing they’d ever do.
“Let’s do a shot!” screamed a girl in the corner of the room.
“YEAH!” responded the group around her.
“Hey, come over here you can do one with us,” a skinny blonde in tiny shorts called to her.
“Okay” she responded, walking over to her.
“I haven’t seen you around before, you’re a first year too right?” she asked as she handed her a shot.
“Yeah I am, we’re in the same philosophy class and you were in my group during frosh week”. She downed the shot and poured herself another. Alcohol didn’t burn anymore.
As the night continued she became increasingly unaware of what she was doing and whom she was talking to, everything became a blur. She could feel a male’s clammy hands, touching and grabbing at her, but she lacked the coherency and the will to get him away from her. By the end of the night she was on a sorority house floor, unconscious and alone. No one thought to check the “sleeping” girl for a pulse, or to turn her over on her side. Her body helplessly tried to reject all the alcohol it had consumed. It was no use, gravity forced the vomit back down her throat and ironically she drowned in the one thing that she had used to stay afloat.