In a complete daze, I focus straight ahead at the house across the street. The image before me is…well, perfect. A white picket fence surrounds a beautiful brick home with matching white shutters. The neatly manicured lawn beckons me to lie soundlessly on its bright green surface. It's this temporary comfort, this temporary peace, which tugs at my consciousness. But it’s beyond my reach. My eyes roam over to the left side of the lawn. Catching my breath, I admire the oversized pink dogwood tree. It gives the home a pop of color, a cheerful color. I look up at the terrace on the second level, which appears to wrap around the entire home. It looks like the perfect place for the owners to relax and enjoy a glass of wine or simply sit and enjoy the sunrise.
My home, twice the size of this one, is twice as beautiful on the outside, yet on the inside, it’s filled with darkness. Filled with taunting judgments. Filled with sadness. There’s nothing flawless behind my house’s closed doors. The image of the house is just a facade for those who pass by to smile at. It’s an illusion engineered to make them think, “There’s the perfect home with the perfect family and the perfect life.” If only they knew the truth. The truth that haunts me endlessly, the truth that longs to break free. Instead, the truth is hidden behind flower boxes and shiny glass windows and wood and walls and lies.
Just like me.
I continue to stare at the home, trying to discover if there’s something else behind the brick walls other than perfection. I can’t be the only one in this world, in this state, or even in this damn neighborhood that’s screwed up. My mind shifts to a few years ago, when I was just as confused as I am today.
I like it up here. As high up as I am, I’m not afraid. The roof is my sacred place to get away. No one knows this is my escape, not even Eric. Well, except for Brooke. The only reason she knows is because she followed me one day, which is a usual Brooke thing to do. Still, she swore never to tell, and she hasn’t as of yet. I like it this way. Quiet. Even when cars zoom by in the distance or birds sing during the day or the crickets chirp at night, it’s peaceful. Just me and my thoughts.
But something is happening to me. My thoughts are slowly being taken over by someone else. I hear voices; I don’t know whose. It started with one voice a few weeks ago. The voice said awful things about me and even about Eric. Then it multiplied to two, then three different voices—all consuming my thoughts. The voices are draining me. I try to shake them off, pound my head with my fist, anything to get them out and make them stop. Nothing works. I can’t ignore them…except when I run. I run and run until the voices vanish, and by then I’m exhausted and collapse.
The first night it happened, I was scared and alone. I was home, sitting in bed studying for the SAT exam. Everything had been going great. My grades were improving and I’d applied to several colleges, hoping to be accepted into the same university as Brooke. Eric and I were doing better than ever. I’d never felt such a high in my life, even with all the pressure from my mother to do better in school. But then darkness descended and clouded over my world. My mood instantly changed. I felt like someone was in the room with me, spying. I grew paranoid. Then the voice began. It called me stupid and other foul names. It spat out hurtful words. It made me feel disgusted with myself.
It’s becoming more and more difficult to concentrate in school. The voices are getting worse. I don’t know how to control them. Dinner with my parents is always bad. I can hear them chatting about their day, very distantly, but the voices are overpowering them too. It’s hard to even hear my own thoughts. Because of this, I’ve been excusing myself from dinner every night. I think Mom is catching on, though. She’s been watching me a bit more than usual.
Then there’s Eric. He has no idea what’s going on with me. I’m afraid to tell him. All of this is bottled up inside, and I’m going through it alone. I don’t know any other way. I keep lashing out at him, which isn’t fair, but I have no clue how to handle…whatever this is.
Why is this happening to me?
Earlier today, the voices were poking and prodding, yelling. Each day they’re getting louder and speaking faster. I sat on the edge of the sofa at Eric’s parents’ home. Eric rented a movie and ordered pizza for our date night while his parents were out.
He sat beside me on the couch, wrapping his arm around my shoulder and pulling me in closer to him. Usually, I’m a puddle of mush in his arms, but today I felt off about him. He was on the phone for a few seconds in the kitchen, whispering. When he came back to the couch and settled beside me, I tried not to let it get to me, but the voices were persistent. “Who were you on the phone with?” The question came out in a harsher and more demanding tone than I had intended.
He looked at me and shrugged a shoulder. “It was Jim. Why?”
“Jim?” I questioned.
Eric raised a brow. “Yeah, Jim. Is that a problem?”
“Yes. I know you’re lying.”
His eyes widened at the accusation. “Excuse me? Why on earth would I lie about being on the phone with Jim?”
Angry that he would lie to my face, I stood and pushed him away. “You were whispering in the kitchen, Eric.”
His features etched in confusion. He raised a hand, palm up. “I have no idea what you’re talking about, Jenna. I wasn’t whispering.”
“Were you really talking to her?”
“Don’t act like I don’t know what you’re keeping from me.”
He got to his feet and brought his hands to my shoulders. His body towered over me, and his eyes pierced into mine. “Jenna, listen to how you sound right now. What are you talking about? And who is ‘she?’”
“The other girl you’ve been screwing with!”
Shocked, he let go of me and took a step back. “You’re crazy.”
Then the voices began to chant his words over and over again.
You’re crazy, You’re psycho, You’re crazy, You’re psycho, You’re crazy, You’re psycho…
It repeated in my head, and it didn’t want to shut off. So I ran out of his house. I ran all the way home. I ran up the stairs into my room and climbed out the window onto the roof. Where I am now.
I wish Brooke were here and not away at college. I’m not sure if I’d tell her what’s going on with me, but at this moment, I need someone to talk to.
My thoughts are all I have and they’re the last things I want to keep me company. I’m a prisoner of my own mind, trapped with the unknown, angry voices.