Today and Tomorrow

Riley always has a way of putting a sarcastic twist on just about anything. Their depression. Their friend's suicide attempt. Their sexuality, gender, love life. It's not even that their life is terrible. It's that their life is empty. And it appears that will never change. That is, of course, until Alex. [Entry for the Diversity Competition]


2. One

//Six Months Prior//


I drew little rainbow dots along my thumb as my Bio teacher wrote the homework on the whiteboard. Little acts of defiance. Those were the things that kept me alive back then. I don't even know what my hope was. Maybe I was thinking some dream lover would come up to me, whisper in my ear that they liked the doodles on my hand and then kiss me sweetly in the stairwell next to the cafeteria. Yeah, that never happened. But what did happened is me completely forgetting the homework for that day. Worth it? It's a possibility. 


My phone was sitting idle on my desk, so I flipped it towards me as I suppose a nice man with a not so nice gambling addiction would do with the deck dealt to him which would send his bank forever into the negatives. Except the stakes weren't quite as high. I was, am a teacher's pet and being the domestic animal of the one in power has its perks. Not getting your phone taken away in the near middle of class is one of them. I see a couple texts, none of which require my immediate attention. I would have responded if Ava had texted me. She tried to kill herself a couple months ago. And so began the long and nearly deathly depression that would permeate my life for the rest of the foreseeable future. Great. But I could never stop loving Ava. From the very beginning, those first award exchanges, she did something to my soul, and so I was bound to love her and have my heart torn to pieces at her near suicide. At the time, I was still figuring out how all the shards fit together without cutting myself in the process. Take the last bit of that sentence as literally as you'd like. 


The bell rang. So then, like the trained cattle teenagers seem to be, all the seats moved back in near unison, and everyone was out the door within the minute. Time for lunch. Of course, it took me a little bit longer. As much as I was looking forward to the near nothing I would be eating like every other teen with a near eating disorder, I'm clumsy as hell. And stealth is not one of my strong suits. Let the awkward of being the last one stuck in the classroom with absolutely nothing to say to the teacher begin. Luckily, I'm out the door before any dreaded... conversation must ensure, and I enter the wave of students down the hallways whose paint vaguely reminds me of the color between vomit and shit. High school, it is a lovely experience. 


Soon, I'm in the outside, and I make the march towards the picnic table. Well, it's not the only picnic table on campus, but it's the only picnic table that counts in this story. A few of my friends who are more ninja-like than me when it comes to packing their backpacks before the bell rings are sitting around. 


"Heyo," I say just loud enough so no one hears me. Except Maggie. That child has the hearing of a bat. A smile crosses her face as she pats the spot next to her. She had recently cut her dark brown hair and begun to straight iron it on a regular basis. She had caramel skin, dark eyebrows, and lightning blue eyes that lit up every time her signature smile crossed her face.  I relieve myself of my backpack, and it makes a rather loud thunk on the grass bellow me. Sorry nature. I slide on next to her and let the people around me talk. At least, that was my goal. 


"How's your day been, Riles?" I smile. Will is sitting across from me. Even when my depression's been at its worst this year, I was still able to know that Will genuinely cared how I was doing. Those soft green eyes couldn't be insincere if they wanted to be. As to the question, I wasn't really ready to give the full blow by blow in front of all of my friends right now. They'd think I was prying for attention, you see. At least, that's what my brain was telling me. Brains. Always the reliable organ. 




"Fine as in there's nothing to write home about that's happened today or fine as in life's being a bitch?" A little laugh felt like a spasm in my lungs. Will also had a habit of being able to see right through me. 


"Probably more like the latter." 


"Amen to that," says Nicki. Her face is framed in unruly red curls that have always refused to be tamed. I speak from first hand experience. The simple sentence also has a certain irony because she used to be quite the religious girl. Then some combination of hooking up with girls and talking to us led that to fizzle out. And her dad, a pastor, died almost a year ago. No longer was she the angelical pastor's daughter, and I think having that weight off her shoulders probably did her well. 


Lunch continued in a way that wasn't particularly memorable. Conversation volleyed back and forth, and I did a lot of listening. Actually, the whole day kind of went on in that manner. Lots of listening. Very little talking. I wasn't visibly depressed enough for anyone to take too much notice, and Allen wasn't too late on getting me home - he's my ride for most things as my poor car is not really in driving condition. 


I guess most days were like that from my perspective back then. People always ask what you'd say to yourself in the past. I'd tell me one thing: "Patience. They'll be here soon." That would have been enough. I think. 



When I do get home, I immediately retreat back to my room and pull up to my desk. My parents are teachers, and they'll be home earlier than I'd like. Not enough time to be anti-social. I plug in my music and let Radiohead fill my ears. My eyes drop closed at the familiar sounds. But then productivity calls me, and I sit up. My room is an absolute mess. At least, it's a mess for me: markers and pens are sprawled across my desk in between the several empty cups from the week prior and books sit on pretty much every flat surface around me. All of the disorganization makes my head buzz, and my hands fidget. I love my brain. But there's no time to fall down a spiral of cleaning and adjusting and my lovely thoughts in general. Homework. School is the most important. 


But of course that doesn't work. Every time I tell myself that I can just ignore my brain's ramblings and, every single time I fail. Hours of shaky hands and shaky thoughts are lost in my life, and it's late at night by the time my thoughts touch down. That was a short one. Lucky. Who even am I? If I'm not control of my own thoughts and my thoughts are what really make me... me.... Am I something else? Is someone, something in control of me that I can only feel and barely that. No. I'm not crazy. I don't have a mental illness. I don't have the symptoms. I'm not suicidal. I don't have an urge to self-harm. Rephrase. I don't have a strong urge to self-harm. I say that because I deserve it. 


"Everything's fine," I whisper into the dead air as I push a notebook into its place. If I didn't move that notebook, something bad would happen. I just knew it. I knew it in my bones. I knew it more than I know anything else. 


No. Not. Again. 


I take a deep breath. 






My breathing is shaky and unsure. I shift in my seat that I don't remember sitting down in. Every sound is so much louder, and it echoes in my brain. Why is everything so loud? Why can't I be left alone? Why am I so alone? I can't cry, but my breathing is quick and comes in spasms. The sound of the air flooding my lungs and rushing out fills my whole head. 


Homework. I need to do my homework. Because if I don't do my homework the teachers won't like me. What does my watch say? I don't have my watch on. Let my check my phone. There are a lot of texts on my phone. I'm sorry that I can't be there for them. Not that any of them need me. I 'm not important to them. Worse. They probably hate me. I know they hate me. Everyone hates me, and I've turned off my phone, and I don't know what time it is. It's late. Really late. Late enough that I won't get enough sleep. Insomnia doesn't help with mental illnesses. Which I don't have. 


I'm not crazy. 


I swear. 


Crazy people aren't productive. Can't do things. I'm going to do things. 


Homework. I need to do my homework. 


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