I drum my fingers against the table I’m sitting at. My thumb rests as the other four fingers on my hand beat a melodic rhythm against the cool table top. It’s a tick, an attempt to focus on something else. Anything else. I can feel the burn rising from the pit of my stomach. The anxiety is creeping its way up from the depths of my body. They say anxiety is in the mind, but I feel it rise from my feet to my head. It feels like it hits my head last. Right now it’s in my stomach, pushing up through the lower esophageal sphincter and burning its way up the back of my throat.
My eyelids get heavy and I want to close my eyes and cut myself off from the rest of the room. I’d still be in the room, but I couldn’t see it. It’s like playing peek-a-boo with an infant. The scratches of pencils and pens against paper become increasingly louder and I can hear whispering among the other students in the room. My breathing is speeding up and I can feel the cold sweat breaking out across my hairline. I squeeze my eyes shut. If I just focus on my breathing I can stop this from happening. I don’t have to have an episode now.
“Stop it,” a voice says. It’s not mine, it’s deeper.
I ignore it. I won’t let this take control of me. This is my body and my mind and no one is going to take that away from me. I move my fingers, wiggle my toes, roll out my neck. I’m in control of what my body does.
“Open your eyes. Look at me,” the voice says again. No. No, no, no. He can’t be here again. Not at school.
“God damn it, Melanie. Don’t make me make a scene. Look at me!” he snaps.
I open my eyes and his face is two inches away from mine. His honey brown eyes are boring right into my blue ones. He looks pissed, mad that I was ignoring him. His jaw is set and his mouth is formed into a scowl. His short hair, which is the same color of his eyes, is perfectly styled, as it always is. Not one stray hair out of place, unlike my own brown frizzy mess kept back in a ponytail. He’s wearing the same white scrubs he always wears. Always impeccably white and clean. He looks so sterile that it’s almost frightening.
“Are you not going to talk to me?” he asks.
I don’t say anything. Because I know he’s in my head and if I speak to him, it looks to the rest of the world like I’m speaking to no one. I think that no, in fact, I am not talking to him. I know he can hear that. But it’s not what he wants. He wants me to talk out loud. He wants people to see me talking to no one so they can laugh and make fun of me. But I’m not going to give him that satisfaction.
“I’d think real hard, Melanie,” he says. I can feel his cold breath against my face. “You know what I can do.”
“Go away,” I mumble under my breath. He’s close enough to hear me, but no one else is.
A slow smile spreads across his lips. It’s happy, yet malevolent. He’s pleased that I acknowledged him. It was a mistake. Now he knows he has power over me.
“Say it louder and maybe I’ll listen,” he says. We both know that’s a lie. He’ll only want more and more until I’m screaming at him like a blithering idiot and having a total breakdown in front of everyone in study hall.
I give my head the slightest of shakes. His smile falters. He stands up straight, looking down at me from the other side of the table I’m sitting at. I breathe in and out, the tiniest bit relieved that he isn’t so close to me anymore. He takes a few steps away from my table, into the middle of the room. Now he’s standing in between all of the tables, all of them facing him. He spins around slowly, looking at every person in the room. When he’s facing me, he’s smiling again. My hands start shaking and my heart rate speeds up again. He’s up to something and it’s not going to be pretty.
He walks over to the table closest to his left. There’s no one sitting at it but there’s books and papers littering the surface. He kicks the table. It falls on its side and hits the floor with a thunderous boom. I tense up and clench my fists. He smiles and walks towards the overturned desk. He jumps up and stomps on one of the books. He kicks it to the other side of the room and starts stomping on the papers, ripping them apart amidst the squeak of his sneakers on the tile.
“Melanie is crazy!” he shouts as he continues his destructiveness. “She’s insane!”
My bottom lip begins to tremble and I look down to the surface of the table I’m sitting at. I can see him out of my peripheral vision moving to another desk. There’s a girl sitting at this one but he doesn’t care. He puts both of his hands underneath the edge of it and he flips the desk over. It topples on top of the girl. Ella is her name, I think. She screams and her books go flying behind her, hitting the wall. He jumps over the desk and starts kicking the girl in the ribs, laughing as he does.
“This is all Melanie’s fault! If only she would be my friend, I wouldn’t act this way,” he yells.
I feel a whine escape my lips and I shut my eyes. This isn’t really happening. Logically, I know that. But it’s so real. I hear the squeaking of his sneakers, the cries of Ella, the books hitting the walls and floor.
I lay my head down on the table and cover it with my hands. I need to drown out the sounds he’s making. They’re not real, they’ll go away. I try to reassure myself of that over and over again. But I still hear it. Ella’s screaming louder and I can still feel his honey eyes staring at me while he does his dirty work. I feel my body start to tremble.
“Melanie is crazy! Melanie is crazy!” he keeps shouting in a sing-song voice.
My body starts to tremble even harder against the table. The table starts to rattle, sounding like chattering teeth. I hold my arms tighter against my head. He’ll go away, he’ll go away.
A hand grabs my shoulder and I jump. I sit up straight, looking up in fear. But it’s not him. It’s Eliza, the only person in study hall I know. She’s looking at me.
“Melanie, are you okay?” Eliza asks.
I dare a chance to look around the room. A few of the students are looking at me, but most of them are still doing their own thing. All of the tables are standing up straight, in the same square formation that they were before. No books or papers were on the floor and Ella was sitting at her desk, quietly reading a book to herself. He wasn’t there anymore. He’s gone.
“I’m okay,” I say. I nod and try a convincing smile at Eliza. She doesn’t seem convinced but she takes her hand off of my shoulder anyway.
“Okay. Let me know if you need anything,” she says. She walks back over to the table she was sitting at and puts her headphones back on.
I take a deep breath and look around the room again. He’s gone. I feel the relief rush through me and I’m able to relax against my chair.
The bell rings and I grab my backpack from the floor. I slip it on my back and join the herd to get out of the room. As I’m in the bunch, I hear a deep voice mutter one word.
Amy La Porta studied writing at the University of South Florida and was a part of their Creative Writing Club. She recently completed writing her first Young Adult novel and is working on completing her second.