Gimme Shelter

Sometime in Early 2000’s…

The familiar scent of burning plastic permeates the air, drifting over the pile of jeans, tank tops, and undergarments strewn haphazardly about the carpet of my bedroom. It floats past the obligatory Tupac poster and the various black-light responsive tapestries hung from push pins on the wall.

It merges with the sound-waves pouring out of my dust-covered sub-woofers, riding atop the melodic riffs of the latest Incubus album, before finally reaching my nostrils.

I launch myself out of bed and towards the mirrored wardrobe where the scent originates. I carefully lift the squeaky plastic lid to expose my hot-rollers and feel the oven-like warmth hit my face. No need to check the indicator… the smell is all I need to confirm that they’re ready to use.

With a practiced ease that comes from years of repetition, I grab a section of hair and a roller and carefully begin to wind them together, securing the finished product with a worn-out metallic pin. I repeat the process, systematically weaving a loom of both hair and roller, until no strand is left untouched.

I dump tiny blobs of foundation on my palm, in varying shades of tan and ivory. I mix them together like acrylic paint and dab the miasma of beige onto my cheeks and forehead, smearing it’s cold creamy texture across my skin.

I hum along to my favorite Sum 41 song and apply the perfect shade of glittery eye shadow from my growing collection. I grab my black eye-pencil and carefully start to drag it’s point across my lashes. I flinch, a gasp escaping my mouth, as I miscalculate the position of my pencil tip and feel it’s tapered point strike my eyeball. Tears pour from the offended eye as I scramble for a Kleenex to preserve my precious work.

Several outfit changes later, my hot rollers are no longer hot. I yank on a pin and watch as the curl cascades downwards, framing my freshly-powdered face.

As a finishing touch, I spritz a tiny bit of perfume into the air, then make an awkward, ungraceful leap through the invisible mist.

I take one last look in the mirror, and smile. I hit a button on my radio and the music peters out, giving way to silence.

I walk towards my bedroom door. Reach my arm out for the doorknob.

And leave it there.

I stand quietly, with my hand resting on the cold brass. Study the swirling pattern of the wood grain .

Feel my arm fall away in defeat.

I turn. Grab the cordless phone from it’s dock. A familiar melody rings cheerily into the air as my fingers dial the numbers.

Hey. Yeah, look. It’s me. Um… dude, I have this massive headache and I just don’t think I can manage to make it tonight. I know. I know I promised. I’m sorry. I wish I could be there, I just… yeah.

Disappointment crackles through the airwaves as I listen to the disheartened response. I hang up. I sit on the edge of my bed and stare blankly at the wall, hand trembling. I picture my friends piling into a car, and leaving, without me. I picture them laughing and dancing. Without me. Again.

It’s better this way. Really, it is.

They can’t ever know. I can’t let them find out. My heart, it pounds in my ears when I walk into those parties. My hands shake and my breath catches. The panic creeps up and snatches words right out of my mouth. The anxiety is unbearable. They mustn’t know any of that. That I’m not normal.

So I pull the comforter over my freshly-pressed clothes and curl into a ball. I lie there until the light fades. The voices of other teenagers out on the sidewalk tinkle through my window, and I feel the sharp pang of jealousy hit my belly.

I may not be normal. But at least here, in this dark room, all alone, I can be safe.

My secret… is safe. For now.

Author: Julie Peters

I'm 33. I work in Health Care by day, battle crippling anxiety and depression by night.

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