The bathroom was dirty. The off-white tiles shined almost brown in the cheap fluorescent lighting. She noticed right away there were no paper towels, only hand dryers, the kind that blow all the dust and germs around.
She checked the first stall and then the seconds-no, still dirty. She would have to hold it until she got home after school, or skip 3rd period to go home to pee.
Grabbing her bag, she ran to her English III class, making it just in time before the bell. The teacher had announced she had a treat for everyone today, and the girl had been looking forward to it for a while. M n M’s; natural serotonin. Good. Maybe now her mind would calm down a little. Maybe now she would stop imagining the bathroom air sticking to her, soiling her clothes and skin.
The teacher lifted the giant jar out from under her desk. The candy was not individually wrapped.
The girl’s heart began to pound in her chest. Damn it. In reached the 1st students hands, grabbing what he could. Then the 2nd, then the 3rd. Dirty.
She’d have to go without. Too risky. The fear outweighed the momentary benefit-and so she refrained, once again, from experiencing life. She couldn’t help but feel punished.
As class drew to a close, she reached for her bag. A classmate noticed her hands, red and raw and asked if she had a rash.
No, just wash them a lot. Understatement.
You need to get some help, then. Cause that’s weird.
Then a breath, angry and hurt. She squeezed her hand into a fist, and the skin began to crack and bleed.
She was smart, so smart, so she couldn’t understand how she couldn’t reason herself out of this.
The color was gone from her life, and fear had taken its place.
By this time, skipping 3rd period was a must. She couldn’t wait until the day’s end to use the bathroom. So she ducked out of class and snuck off to her car.
On the familiar drive home, she let the tears come freely as she drove. Punishment seemed too friendly a term. Hell was more like it. Confined, in her own head.
She gripped the wheel tightly, as her hands shook. The road was empty; no one would see. The car was already picking up speed. The Slow down – Sharp Curve Ahead sign far in front of her kept whispering its ominous warning. All she had to do was let go, just for a moment, and it would all be over.
Maybe in the next life she’d be normal.
But as usual, I’m just not brave enough, she thought.
She pulled into her parent’s driveway, thankful they weren’t home. No witnesses to see her suffer. She preferred aloneness; silence was the most loyal friend.
After using the bathroom, going back to school right away seemed useless, somehow. So she turned on the shower and let the steam fill the room. She still felt dirty from stepping into the high school bathroom, and she felt just crazy enough to try anything, so she stepped into the shower, fully clothed, praying that the hot water would heal her.
And she sank lower and lower underneath the heat, until she was curled up in a corner, letting the water burn her skin clean.
Too bad she went crazy. They all said. Too bad.
But this wasn’t crazy. This was OCD. But she didn’t know.
And she didn’t know how to not blame herself. For not being like everyone else-not able to let things flow off her, down the drain.
Photo Credit: Andrew Gustar Flickr via Compfight cc