Wednesday, March 14, 2012

You'll never get off the playground (short fiction)

She knew it was ridiculous, she knew she was obsolete, and most of all she knew she was alone.

There were days when everything just seemed to be in spin. Not that it was exciting or anything, in fact she could barely see or remain upright. A person her age? Should be able to see by now. Or make sense of things at least.

It was the computer, no, the way things had changed, no, the expectations on her, no, the way you were just supposed to know things without any learning process at all.

Did she really need to review all this again? How many times was this, anyway, the fifty-thousandth?  Didn't she remember when she couldn't skip double-Dutch and was thrown off the team and then after a while stopped trying and hid in a corner of the playground?

That was where she was spat upon. Literally, some boys from the other side of the playground. They banded together and held her down. Because she was such a loser. Loser loser loser loser loser loser loser. She stood there hunch-shouldered and crying, looking like the thing she was.

Years later, and oh yes this was in public, a woman she knew old biddy really, stood behind her and grabbed her shoulders and began pulling and yanking and pulling and yanking. "Stand up straight! I can barely stand to look at you."

That, too, was her fault.

So she wondered why, no, she didn't wonder why certain things just ripped the top off, ripped off the carefully-constructed facade she lived behind and exposed the raw unhealed flesh beneath. The unacceptable her, the real her.

The thing is, you're supposed to just know how to do these things. You're born knowing. Boy, I got to the party late, very late, so late that everyone else knew each other already and was proficient at things, party games and the like, that I knew nothing about and would never know anything about because it was too late.

She has been writing and deleting, writing and deleting for several days now, trying to get rid of feelings she doesn't want to have. She can only talk about a tiny fraction of them now, because she is beginning to realize that the internet is just one big stage, a protracted performance and a huge popularity contest. Just like back in school! If you're a good performer and have lots of "social skills," you do great. The more Facebook "friends" you have, the more successful you are as a person. But it must be a bare minimum of 300. That's the quota, don't you know? If you

(No, strike that, it was "bad" and someone would see it.)
I was always rotten at all of it. What makes me think it's going to be any different now? I constantly have a feeling of being hopelessly out of my depth. I came to the party late, far too late, and everyone knows each other already - wait, I already said that - and has no interest in talking to that odd person standing awkwardly in the corner with her head sunk between her shoulders like a dog that has been treated very, very badly.

When did this start? Probably before the egg met the sperm. Laugh now, laugh like the therapist did, not once but twice when I was trying to express a pain beyond language. "Oh, Sarah!" she exclaimed, and threw her head back. She thought I was being witty, entertaining and ironic. Or else performing, which for once I was not. Or else so outrageous, I had no right to be that way. Oh, Sarah!

Not that anyone's listening, but, see, I learned to be entertaining and I learned it young because it was the only way I could survive. If I didn't constantly play the court jester I would be almost literally thrown on the scrap-heap, so I kept on frantically performing. I got especially good laughs when the mask fell off and some of my pain slipped out.

I will never forget. It was the time I was really teetering, and for once I just could not wear the mask. Someone close to me said, "You're just faking this to get attention." It was a double-twist, one of those deliriously sick half-nelsons that may have caused all this insanity in the first place. I was faking being sick, when it was one of the rare times I was NOT faking. The rest of the time, I was faking being well, but to almost everyone I knew, it was "real" and this self-indulgent whimpering was "fake". When your brain is twisted around into a corkscrew, can you help being in pain, can you help crying out? Yes, you can, so SHUT UP.

Anyway, back to more important things.  This Facebook stuff, everyone else gets it, but all she gets is blunders, criticisms, awkwardness and more pain. Like double-Dutch, she does't even know how to do it. There are no instructions, and everyone is too embarrassed to show her any of it because you are supposed to know. This doesn't just damage her self-esteem, it reminds her once again that she doesn't have any.

(A few weeks ago she was publicly ripped apart on someone's blog in a way that was truly breathtaking. But it was HER fault, for putting her stuff out there! Everyone told her so, especially people who "loved" her. If she actually had those mysterious social skills that everyone else seems to have been born with, it never would have happened at all)

So she ruthlessly cut two paragraphs. Then three more. What am I going to do with this? But it was only her diary. Her diary? Why was she editing a diary no one would even see? She didn't even read it herself. Because it was just too bloody difficult. Even if no one ever saw it at all.