By: Timothy Swenarton
I forget about my brain’s unpopular appetite. Call it voracious amnesia. It really doesn’t care for time or location, either. An unpicky eater. It knows to wait, fester, bide its time. It hungers for words of a certain order. A collection of syllables laid out in a pleasing feast. From this desire, my brain and I have developed a cooperative parasiteness. We both know each other’s weaknesses, but exploit them when most necessary– when most hungry. Only, as of late, it has been feeling starving; an empty void of craving and needing and waiting and feeling.
In the natural flurry of a shopping spree, I inevitably find myself standing in a dressing room. This room is perceptibly different, in that it has an abundance of space. I bunch my trial clothes in the corner and begin to undress, running my socked feet against the purple carpet and imagining the circles I could run in here. There are no rules to the back world of dressing rooms. Consciously, we have divided public and private space into gendered areas, but here, born from necessity, boys and girls can try on clothes in rooms right alongside each other. Almost as if they are equally human. In the room beside mine, a boy is dressing in a variety of clothes his mother has picked out for him. If I don’t make any noise, I can hear the gushes of air he swallows in hopes of fitting into smaller clothing. Then, the creak of the swinging door as he presents himself. I never see their faces. Her tisks and tutters can be heard next. Oh, no no no. This just will not do. Guilt begins to creep in. All the other stalls are empty, and they most likely don’t even know I’m here.
“The presence of a highly attractive person can make others around them feel worse. Members of your sex will hold your looks against you if you are attractive and successful, according to work by German psychologists. If you are accomplished and unattractive, they found, heterosexual people of your sex tend to attribute your success to innate talent. If you are good-looking, however—a sexual competitor— they will more likely chalk your achievements up to luck.” – Laura Curren, writer for Psychology Today.
It’s negativity. That’s the weakness my brain knows too well, but also the substance that it pines. It likes to chew over phrases. Bite and bite. Crunch and crunch. Escape is melodramatic. I would never say I need to escape. But, between you and me, I need to escape.
My father sits in his leather chair. The one that has cracks running through the cushions from overuse. The one that will conform only to the shape of his rear, taunting me to try and fit. He doesn’t have a clue. We go weeks without speaking and I love those weeks. It’s a comfortable silence that fills me more than words. The hypocrisy sustains the void. Me.
I know. I want to tell him I know, I’m just worried. Worried what curved mouths say behind my turned back. Worried that I’ll misspell the word fine. Worried that I can see my value best when the lights are turned off.
About 11 percent of adolescents have a depressive disorder by the age of 18.
“A nationwide survey of college students at 2- and 4-year institutions—found that about 30 percent of college students reported feeling “so depressed that it was difficult to function” at some time in the past year.” – National Institute of Mental Health
An era of apathy has ended, now replaced by an age of disassociation via mathematics. Who is hiding behind the percentages? Shadowed faces cast their eyes downward. Just another number.
The mother came back with more clothes this time. Leaving wasn’t an option yet. My socked feet now felt as if they rested in glue. I heard how her eyes could cut and I’m afraid of drawing blood. The boy let a quick sigh slip through his teeth. The mother did not speak. A ballistic yell gathered itself in the back of my throat. A plea to make my presence known. To pay the bill before my brain had even ordered its meal. She threw the clothes over the door and the whole process began again. The creaking of the door, my brain beginning to drool. Zippers began to unzip faster; buttons began to pop quicker. Until, finally, the door creaked a last time.
Long after they had left, I sat in the dressing room feeling scattered, forgotten. The spacious stall now seemed filled with dense, unbreathable air. My mind consumed.