“Little darling, I feel that ice is slowly melting
Little darling, it seems like years since it’s been clear
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it’s alright
Here comes the sun, here comes the sun
And I say it’s alright.” -Here Comes the Sun; by George Harrison and the Beatles
Spring dance is the most beautiful time of year. Just one night in one season and the world is finally starting to wake up. I start to get out of the depression and funk that blankets my soul in the winter like a gross, wet snowfall. Where I am now, lights are glittering in a thousand colours. Obviously the SAC cares more about school events than just the money they bring in. Camera flashes from a nearby photobooth stream through my peripheral. I wonder if thousands and thousands of pictures will be taken tonight, of thousands of versions of the same few poses, right? The music is so loud it seems to pound into every space of my physical being; it’s like a heartbeat from outside my body. Which is oddly comforting, like I’m not in control and I like that. But my heart is beating twice as fast as the music. Three cups of coffee doesn’t sound like a lot, but it’s a lot for a tenth grader that’s only been hooked since November. Being a caffeine junkie is small potatoes. It’s my small right which I abuse at every opportunity.
I’m nervous and in 16 years, I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never been to a high school dance. All my friends are home so I’m hanging with a few girls from my homeroom. We laugh and I listen a lot more than I talk because I’m trying not to be too dorky. At some point we get up for pictures and I hate how I look in every single one. My song comes on! I’m screaming the chorus and hanging off of Juanita, and we’re both laughing so hard. Somehow there’s tears in my eyes.
“I should stop singing I’m an idiot,” I’m joking but actually serious.
Juanita glances at me: “no, it’s fine.”
Soon she’s singing too and I’m having a good time. At some point I’m cursing the practicality of heels and heading back to our table to nurse my sore feet. When a couple in the corner catches my eye. I don’t mean to be watching Seojun and Britany, but suddenly I’m back inside my own thoughts.
Even when his head turns like he’s going to look away from her, his eyes stay glued in some shy and hungry way that makes me sad somehow and I want to look away. But I can’t look away, like how you can’t look away from a train wreck. She’s laughing and giggling and I don’t hate her but I want to shred his stupid beanie into a million pieces. She swoons towards him like she’s drunk or on something. But if she actually is I’m a leprechaun, because she’s not the type. Then quick like it’s nothing she’s rubbing his back and he’s eating her face. Both their eyes are closed and they seem happy, and I want them to be. Honestly I don’t know what I want anymore. I liked him a lot and then all of a sudden I didn’t. I’m still stinging from a rejection anyway. I stop staring at them because it probably got weird a while ago. I already spend too much time worrying about how we never talk anymore, how I wrecked our friendship. Which is stupid and I try to tell myself that we were probably never super close anyway. Which used to hurt but is an idea I’m becoming increasingly comfortable with. It’s a confusing story that I’m never going to tell him and that’s okay.
The meds seemed to be working great, because I felt more like myself than I had in a year. That was a good time. Seojun was the first real friend I’d made in a while, since the eating disorder, incapacitating germaphobia, and thoughts of suicide so common and so intense I almost carried out my plan. Or jumped in front of a car, if I couldn’t be patient enough to buy a bus ticket. I remember walking along a highway bridge with him and a few friends. I stopped to look at how the red, yellow, and white car lights were kinetic against shadows coming out for the evening. From my precipice the world was quiet and beautiful; and I didn’t want to leave it just yet. Then someone was at my shoulder, and he had stopped to watch the twisting highway landscape with me.
We were both in band and had the same fifth period. He was a friend of a friend and once we started talking, I understood what made him fun to be around. He’s genuine and ridiculous, with a contagious smile and a lighthearted laugh. I started feeling closer to him than I had to almost anyone in a long time. He told me some personal stuff, and I opened my whole heart to him. I keep telling myself I didn’t know him as well as I thought I did, because I misinterpreted some personality quirks to mean something entirely different. The worst was when I decided I liked him back. On too little sleep and serotonin boosters making me feel a little high all the time, I tried to clear the air and ultimately was rejected. I got a nice message but never again the trust I thought we had before. I thought we were okay but he’s been ghosting me ever since. I guess we’re even, because I’ve called him a pussy a million times to friends. And my mom. I got over it almost too fast, but I’m not expecting feelings for him when I barely feel anything anymore. I only love my pills that make me, essentially, emotionally unresponsive. I never suffered the terrible, unbearable sense of awkwardness and embarrassment that should come as a result of situations like this.
“I love this song!!!” Chelsea is screaming all of a sudden, and slides out of her seat with her sights set on the dance floor.
“Wait for me, bitch, The Weeknd’s my jam,” and I grab her arm to join. I wish I were out of my own head already. I grab Juanita too and pull her out with us. Cynthia grooves over like some 30’s flapper and Diya begrudgingly comes out with us so she won’t be alone at the table. My dancing isn’t any better than Cynthia’s, but it’s not like it matters because I’m doubled over in laughter half the time anyway. If it weren’t for Diya clinging onto me like death I would’ve broken a heel.
The girls are all wearing little black dresses and fake lashes. But everyone looks beautiful tonight. Their faces are happy and free; I wish I felt like that. But I start to relax despite the unholy amounts of caffeine running through my veins. We’re yelling and screaming and I don’t care that I’m too loud. Spring is here, right? My throat is dry and soon I’m at the table carrying an unhygienically large bowl of punch. I grab a plastic cup and grip the cool metal ladle in my hand, staring into the dark, red abyss of fruit punch in front of me. Suddenly the thought of the sugar content in that punch is bowling me over like a truck. So I opt for a bottle of water instead. I can hear Chelsea and Juanita teasing Cynthia while Diya is pretending not to know us. My smile is involuntary. As much as I want to ask Cynthia to do the rumba, I take off to the bathroom.
I think I’m being smart to go upstairs to avoid couples making out, but I pass five just on the way. My head is starting to feel foggy and already I’ve gone longer than I have at any school event without having a panic attack. A funny thing happens because there are these huge windows the length of the wall in our school stairwells. On an impulse I slip out an emergency exit into the blackness of the night.
The air is cool and crisp. I feel like I can breathe for the first time in hours. I hug my shoulders and stare into the sky with a million questions I can’t formulate. How can medication be the right choice if my reality is now feeling nothing at all? I always took emotion for granted, never realizing how hard it would be to go through life without. Personal connections feel shallow and the world is unreal. I don’t care when I say the wrong thing, offend a good person, or lose a friend. I’m left with regrets that my heart is somehow completely numb to. I keep trying to explain myself and explain everything I’ve done over the past few months. Even though it feels like none of it should matter, it hurts anyway. I wanted to increase my dosage because it was still too hard to talk to people, but now it feels like when I do I always mess it up. But it’s not like I’ll even care after. My drugged and slugged mind is torn between the lesser of two evils, if that isn’t taking myself too seriously.
I look down at my pale knees against the dark fringe of my skirt. I hate the fabric; it’s somehow rough and smooth at the same time? If I think about that too much I get so uncomfortable, almost like if you were to be itchy all over, and I imagine the top of my skull blowing off my head. I eat so much more than I use to but I’m not fat. I’m not skinny either but I still look fire in my dress. But thank God not good enough to stand out, otherwise why would I even wear a little black dress in the first place? A biting wind chills my legs and somehow jars my thoughts to our last spring concert. It must’ve been almost exactly a year ago when I outmaneuvered our conductors to escape outside, where I took a deep breath then sprinted 300 metres to blow off anxiety. It was cold that night, too. I reach for the door handle only to realize it locks from the inside and I cuss school safety procedures. I check my phone while I walk to the main entrance in an effort to seem less pathetic, walking alone outside during a school dance.
But as I turn the corner I’m facing the most unwelcome scene I could imagine, because I had been deliberately avoiding Seojun all night. He’s standing awkwardly to the side while his date giggles with her friends. I keep my head down in my phone, hoping he won’t notice me. But Britany waves hi because we talk sometimes. I smile to her and I’m glad it’s dark because I can feel my face burning. I give him a slight nod which he returns, and we both look away quickly. But then something happens that I’d never expect in hundred years. I walk by Seojun, pretending to be engrossed in my texts. But as I’m about to turn a corner I hear footsteps behind me and a tentative hand grabs my elbow. When I turn around I can’t hide my surprise. Because this is the first time Seojun has acknowledged my existence since January. He seems embarrassed.
Something I know is that Seojun is never a risk taker. He rarely starts conversations. I might have called him pussy out of anger, but a lot of the time it’s true. Sometimes I imagine his whole life is a game of follow the leader. Seojun taking the first step is like me admitting I was wrong.
“We’re good, right?” he asks hesitantly. The same question I’d DMed him over a month ago, of course he told me before he never checks those. For a long time I had just wanted my friend back. I know I should be happy about this. I had spammed his Insta with questions and apologies until a friend told me it was getting to be a bit much. I had decided there was a reason we hadn’t talked the entire second semester, and that now I needed to make him dead to me. It’s funny because I think I was clinging to our friendship because, for a while, it was some real piece of a world I had just been re-entering. And it was hard to imagine that world without him. I’ve spent the last three months trying to forget. And I had done a pretty good job imagining we were never friends. But we were friends, and that still means something to me.
“Course we are,” and I experiment with opening myself up to any other person again. He looks relieved because he can’t seem to hide a full, easy smile and his eyes glance up at the sky. And all of a sudden I feel happy for real.
“Enjoy your date, heartbreaker. I’ll cya round.”
“I’ll cya round,” he smiles a little awkwardly, and as he turns to walk away I punch him in the arm. He flips me off, so I flip him off. It feels like old times and like we’re friends again. I finally turn the corner.
That brief feeling of joy has flooded out of me. Just as I reach the main doors, I feel something wet on my arm. I look up at the sky and see tiny snowflakes starting to fall all around me. I shiver and retreat inside. Maybe we’ll have a few more weeks of winter after all.
Back to the dance, where all my feelings and experiences once more feel fake and shallow after a short reprieve. Maybe I’ll go home early. With my eyes on the floor in defeat, I’m oblivious to a short girl barreling towards me and Chelsea hugs me from behind. I’m startled and cuss so loud Seojun and Britany could probably hear me from outside. But she laughs and asks me where I was. She says that everyone was worried when they hadn’t seen me for too long. “Diya thought you’d found a date.”
“Nah, tonight I’m hanging with my girls,” and I smile for real, the first genuine smile I’d given anyone in a while.
When we get back to the table everyone yells my name like in Cheers: “LUCY!” By the way, my name’s Lucy. And just like that I think I’m going to cry, because I’ve never felt like people have ever missed me like this. Or maybe I’m PMSing. But let me explain.
In grade nine, I was in and out of school and skipped more of the second semester than I actually remember being at. I barely talked to anyone, and no one would notice when I was or wasn’t gone. My friends are bent over the reel of pictures from the photobooth earlier. I’m a part of their world, and they are without a doubt part of mine.
“Ew, look at my nose!”
“Haha! You seem so toasted.”
“You’re so cute in this one.”
“Why is my nose so big??”
“Cynthia, you’re not even in the frame here.”
“What are we even doing there?”
So I don’t leave early. And the rest of that night was magic. I remembered that Seojun wasn’t the only friend I could love completely platonically. I even call up a day one from elementary because her spring dance is the same night, but she’s so wasted I doubt she’ll even know we talked by tomorrow morning. Of course there’s for anything other than cringe worthy dance numbers, a game of truth or dare that is way too loud, and talking about so many other things I couldn’t remember afterwards with a gun to my head. A few minutes before the teachers kick us out of the school, Cynthia trips Diya while trying to do the jitterbug, and both of them go headfirst into a balloon arch. But I never thought I’d see Diya laugh that hard. By the end of the dance I’m so tired and I call up my mom so that I can crash at Juanita’s place across the street from the school.
Luckily I got a few spare doses in my clutch, so I don’t miss taking my medication that night. While Juanita’s in the bathroom I check all her kitchen cupboards until I find a glass. I turn on the tap and let crystalline water flow into the cup. I choke down one sour, ten milligram pill and split another so that I can take a half. I hear steps behind me and Juanita’s sharp gasp.
“Oh my God, Lucy! What the freak? Do you have a pill problem?” She rushes towards me and I’m having to cover my arms and face because she starts to hit me. Juanita’s face looks mad but she sounds like she’s about to cry.
“No, don’t worry. Umm, it’s not really like that…” And I tell her everything.