Writers (in order): Sophia Liao, Alyssa Tang, Andrea Esparza, Fiona Li, Emma Kochenderfer, Lindsey Segi, Madelyn Guzmán, Lucy Zhao, Miguel Lopez, Kaitlyn Chen, pasta, Basil Lera, Langston Wu, Eileen Hung, and Irene Tsen. Editor: Ms. Ja.
You stare at yourself in the mirror one last time before you leave. The glass is cracked, fractured in the shape of a spider web from when your father struck it with his fist all those months ago. Sharp lines run down the glass, juxtaposing those curves that you’ve spent your entire life hating so much. You wish you could do the same as he did—smash, break, and mold yourself until you’re only sharp lines again. Instead, you only pinch and pull at your skin, the dull sting a stringent reminder of all your broken promises to yourself. You swear to yourself that today will be different.
Today is the day you will stop lying to yourself and convincing yourself that you are not pretty just because you don’t conform to what society deems as beautiful. Looking at your reflection in the mirror, you contemplate the idea of deleting social media, because of the toxic and hypocritical people hiding behind screens and telling you to lose weight or eat less even though they don’t practice what they preach.
It’s all so tiring. Everything is so tiring. It just doesn’t make sense.
How could your family, your friends, even yourself think of a living being as something so vile? Bulky hips morphing as you swivel in front of the glass, shapeshifting from one form to another, your mind only buzzes with static and a wearisome thrum of disappointment. A body should be nothing but lines and shadows and angles, a living miracle, really. You’ve never looked at a circle wishing it were a square. These were neutral things, naturally occuring on the same plane. A body owes nothing to anyone besides itself dignity and kindness. But, why, why is it so hard to grant yourself that peace?
Is it difficult to receive that peace because of what your friends said that day when you were hanging out with them by the pool? “Oh my gosh! Look at my abs!” Shannon said. “Dang! You look great,” another friend said. Hearing those comments made your gut feel sick.
You ran to the bathroom and scrutinized yourself in the bathroom mirror. You outlined those stretch marks on your stomach, looked down at your jiggly pale thighs. Thick tears streamed down your cheeks. “Why me? Why do I have to look like this? Why can’t I have a flat stomach like Shannon?” You only left the pool bathroom when Shannon’s mom came, looking for you after everyone else had left.
You stare in the mirror at your reflection again, not quite ready to face reality—your father downstairs or your classmates at school. The skirt comes to your knees and your sleeveless top exposes more of you than you’ve shown since you stopped swimming out of self-consciousness. Before, the voice in your head was submissive, accepting that rounder figures were not shown off the way slender ones were. Now, it protests this unfair treatment. Why shouldn’t I wear clothes that keep me cool in the heat? My body deserves comfort and acceptance, just like everyone else’s. You take a deep breath, and carry your backpack down the stairs to the living room. As you step into the kitchen to grab a granola bar and banana, your father looks up from his newspaper. He stares.
“You’re wearing that to school?”
Your cheeks grow warm. You think bitterly, Why shouldn’t I? Why do you need justification? but you mumble, “Yes.”
And just like that, any inkling of self confidence you’d convinced yourself of is gone, replaced only by shame, self pity, and guilt. You’ve never known why you feel so guilty, but it is there, nagging, infecting your thoughts like a slow poison. You’d feel that familiar twinge of guilt when you took a second serving at dinner, or when those workout ads came across your Instagram feed. Or when you found yourself in the depths of Tumblr, scrolling through images of beautiful, thin women, or when you so much as went out with friends and you each ordered food. You knew that your food was no different than everyone else’s, but you couldn’t help double checking the calories, as if those tiny numbers would erase the pale lines carved into your hips, as if they would change the person you saw in the mirror.
You hurry out of the house before your father can say another word. As you approach the school entrance, you feel as if everyone is staring at you. Has walking always felt this unusual? Are those girls laughing at me? Take a deep breath. Calm down. No one’s looking at you. After getting materials from your locker, you rush to the bathroom and stare at the person in the mirror. You stare at your reflection dead in the eye as if in a staring contest with yourself, and quietly say, “Today will be different, today will be different,” while holding back tears you feel wanting to come out. You take a deep breath, swallow your spit, and walk out the door. In your mind you keep repeating, today will be different.
As you walk to your first class, you try to not make eye contact with anyone because if you do, you feel like they will just judge you, as unforgivably as if you’d killed someone. But even thinking that, you feel like everyone’s eyes are pointed towards you. You bump into someone and drop everything. You look up at who you just bumped into and begin to blush.
Breathe. Just breathe. Of course you had to bump into Amy Sharpe, best friend turned nemesis after she called you a “fugly loser” in seventh grade.
“Cute outfit,” she says, sneering, as you reach for your things.
You know she is making fun of you. You know she’s being sarcastic. Ignore it ignore it ignore it, you tell yourself. But it’s so hard to ignore it. You know what she says is true: you can feel your thighs pressed up against one another; you feel like you take up the whole hallway, brushing by everyone who tries to pass. You tremble a bit, tears forming in your eyes as you try to squint them away, knowing that if you blink they will all come out in big heavy drops.
“Awww… is the baby crying?” she says in a pout while her friends high five her and laugh around you. But you can see her eyes smiling, silently laughing at you. In that moment, you somehow feel so big and yet, so small.
Plop. Plop. Plop. The tears start to fall one after the other, as you cower against the wall. The asinine smiles and the laughing escalate in your head, amped by the despair of the morning and the constant self loathing that has built up over the days. The cork of emotions and sadness and anger in your mind build up, and then break like a dam with your tears as they fall on the floor. I wish they would just disappear, you think. I wish everyone would disappear. And then, they did.
Instead of the cold, hard floors and walls being your only supporters, you find yourself in a whole new world, free of everything besides the color black. How long this state lasts is unknown, but it feels as if an eternity goes by before your very eyes. Motionless, the void gives no answer, no movement, no reaction. You are there, waiting for something to pull you back into the reality you had suffered in for far too long. Is this punishment? After all of the pain you have endured for so long, are you now condemned to this lifeless hole of darkness? Then you look down. Your body is gone, yet you can still feel its presence. You flail your arms around. They too have disappeared from sight but you can still feel them. You “stand” up, your legs standing on a plane of pitch black. You begin a lonely trek. Step after step, mile after mile, you find nothing. Nothing at all. No people to stare at you as you walk down the sidewalk, no classmates to give sneer comments about how you looked, no screen to tell you how you should look, no father to look down upon you, no one to judge the way you look. Not even you can see yourself and despite the fact you are not visible, you have finally found yourself.