They gather around me with their neat personalities and orderly personas. They are, each of them, so composed in who they are. Some are quiet; some are leaders; some are kind.
By their very presence, the warmth of them huddled so close around me, I feel a buzz like a live wire in my gut. I cannot stop the surge of adrenaline: the rush of realization that this social gathering is now a life or death situation. It is now, sink or swim. To simply exist within the group leaves me feeling crippling loneliness. I thrust myself into the thick of the interaction, trying to keep at least one set of eyes on me at all times. One pair of eyes is all I need to feel wanted.
I invest so much thought into everyone else, uncovering so much of them and leaving myself so much a mystery. They seem to show no interest. In a genuine way, they never do. I wonder how startled I would be if I were sought out, known so deeply as I know others.
So many sorry’s. So many apologies. I apologize for mistakes, opinions, the weather. But I know what all the apologies are really for—taking up space. The counterfeit must forfeit, right?
The evening descends farther and farther into this sickening spiral as the interaction crawls by. This relaxed evening becomes a tailspin for me, glueing me to this rapid pace of words and jokes. Against my deepest desires, I feel the donning of my mask, covered in flashing lights, glittering colors, and jingling bells. It obsesses their attention; it distracts from the fear in my voice. As the evening goes on, the tighter and tighter the mask cinches, and the harder and harder I gasp for air. By the end of the night, I have become some grotesque version I cannot claim as myself though I have spent the entire evening crafting her. She is everything I project into the naked teeth of life, and nothing of what I truly am. I have learned so much about the others, and I fear that they have learned so much about “me”. How can they abide the grotesque jester I have portrayed?
But what should I do? Who should I be?
I am fathoms deep inside, and they would all drown in me. I make myself bite-sized and let them all take a bite out of me. I stumble home, exhausted, believing it is better to be eaten alive than to eat alone.
I wish I could be alone and quiet. These people feel less like friends and more like clutter. If only I could block out the noise of the crowd and find a note that matches mine.
To make sense.
To be desired in completeness.
Oh, God, make me secure, life-vest strapped tight. Tether me to You before I drown within myself.