The Empty Seat

Photo by Sin on Unsplash

Thwack. A bold shoulder knocked me with powerful force. I heard giggling from others and a faint slur being thrown my way. A metallic taste in my mouth as I realized I’d been biting my lip. I could smell the school lunch wafting through the air from the end of the hall. The smell of fried chicken filled my nose. But all I saw was black. My eyes were sealed shut, and my brain wished I stayed home. Silly Sally for thinking she’d get a break for once. 

I cringed as my teacher deadnamed me for the hundredth time this year as I walked into class. Circling the drain, my mind went to the dark thoughts swirling in my head. Suddenly, I felt a pit in my stomach as I saw my seat covered in gum, spelling out a word that carries so much hate. I excused myself as I ran to the bathroom, ridding myself of the bagel I had for breakfast. I clenched my stomach as I walked to the nurse, rehearsing my act. 

“I don’t feel so good. I vomited in the bathroom and I’m all shaky,” I whined. 

“This is the third time this month. This is looking suspicious. But you do look unwell. I’ll call your mother,” Nurse Patty said. 

“I promise this is the last time,” I stated, knowing I’d keep this promise. I sat on a couch in the office letting my thoughts take over. 

“Looks like your mom is busy. The day is practically over. Why don’t you chill in here until we dismiss,” the nurse said. 

“She’s always busy,” I muttered under my breath. I laid down attempting to steady my breathing. I spent the remaining time making conversation with the nurse until my bus finally arrived. I found my corner seat and popped in my headphones, drowning out the screaming words in my head. 

“Hey bud, are you okay being alone? I don’t see a car,” my old bus driver observed.  

“Oh yeah, I’m 16,” I said, trying to hold my excitement as I realized it was an empty house. My bus driver let me go hesitantly, and I practically ran inside. As soon as I shut the door my smile faded.

I remembered the thoughts and comments from earlier in the day. My hands shook like an earthquake as the thoughts crept back in. I walked to my room and sat on my bed, finally letting the thoughts take over. Worthless. Waste of space. Disgusting. The phrases got louder. UGLY. SENSITIVE. What was I supposed to do, I believe these things now. I can’t pretend anymore. A solution popped into my head, making the voices slightly quieter. I pulled out my phone and tapped the contact that read Julie, who had been my friend forever. I could always count on her input. My hand quivered as I thought about the possibilities of the action I was about to commit to. I clicked to text and began to write. 

Hey, Julie. Can you talk?

Hey, sure. What’s up?

People are calling me names again at school. I can’t take it anymore.

Girl, just ignore them! They have nothing better to do.

But what if they’re right? What if I just… disappear?

You’ll be okay. Tune them out.

*******

I put down my phone and looked at my ceiling. Why me? I tuned into my senses as my breathing became shallow. In one, two, three. Damnit. Why should I ignore the bullies, why can’t they ignore me? I became more panicked as I realized my strategies were failing; my breathing became more rapid. As I gave up on my breathing, the dam in my head began to flood. The thoughts rushed in, smashing against my skull. I think of the phrase I’ve heard too many times, but this time I was ready to commit. I got up and began to pace around my room gathering materials and I found my eyes constantly rising to my ceiling fan. I laughed as I thought about my days in Girl Scouts, as now I would use those same knot skills. When the water reached the top of my skull and there was no room to stall, I let go. 

I woke up wondering how Sally was doing. I re-read my last text to her. I felt slightly uneasy as I sent a follow-up text. I simply wrote a trusty “How are you doing”, and hit send. I put down my phone and began to get ready for school. Sally always wore baggy, black clothing. I don’t know why, she’s so pretty. I wear tight, bright clothing because I love the compliments. I decided on basic leggings and a crop top for today. Walking downstairs to eat breakfast, I felt heavy eyes focused on me. My parents were acting weird, but I figured they were just fighting over something small and I continued to prepare for school. I checked my phone and saw ‘No new messages’ appear on my screen. That’s weird, Sally was usually up by now. I finished up and as I walked out the door I was forced into a sandwich hug containing my mom and dad. I recited the three-word phrase that holds so much weight, and I walked out the door. 

When I got to school the air was cool, but the atmosphere was different today. I was greeted by random students and teachers that I’d frankly never seen or noticed before. There must be something going on today, and I probably forgot. Others I noticed seemed glum. I remembered a test in my first-period English class. Sally HATES English. The teacher is a bigot and could care less about anyone, but I just ignored his remarks. I checked my phone for the last time as I was about to enter my class. I saw that I had no messages and figured I would just talk to Sally in class. I entered the classroom and my eyes scanned the room. My stomach dropped when I found Sally’s seat. Empty. 

About Alicia Hillmann 452 Articles

Alicia Hillmann is a junior at Clayton A. Bouton High School.