The College Bar

Entry by: Sirona

9th September 2015
The College Bar

I’m an alien. Oh, on the outside I look like I belong, but on the inside, I’m very different. My look is a studied copy of what is worn around me; a costume. I am trying so very hard to fit in, but it only makes me realise that I don’t. I probably never will.
The music is too loud for conversation, but still people are talking. They lean in towards each other with no regard for personal space, sliding into easy embraces. They laugh loudly, share themselves effortlessly. The more they expand, the more I withdraw into my own, tight circle. I envy them. I want to be like them, to be part of the crowd, but I don’t know how. I’m waiting for an invitation, but I don’t see one. I’m not sure that I would recognise one, even if it came.
I’m a few years older than they are, 21 to their 18 or 19. They’re ‘Freshers’ and I’m a visitor, but they are warm and welcoming. My friend is popular, as is her boyfriend, and I sense the willingness of the group to include me too. Then somehow, some look, some gesture, some phrase, and I can see that willingness disappear. I have been categorised as ‘other’.
They’re not wrong. We are all the product of our experiences, and mine have been very different to most.
As a child I felt like a reflection on glass, something easily looked through unless you thought the transparent worthy of focus. Raised in an emotionally uncertain environment, I learnt to be watchful and to echo back what I thought others wanted from me. I responded, reacted, but never instigated. New experiences were fraught with anxiety until I learnt the rules of engagement, what was expected.
There is a certain type of person who is attracted to people like me. You have to be broken to want nothing more than a pale reflection of yourself to love. When I imitated what he hated in himself, his anger would spill over into harsh words, cruel behaviour and physical violence. I remember being held under the bath water, looking up at his face, distorted by fury and the bubbles of my breath and wondering if this would be the end of me. It wasn’t, only a piece of me died that day.
I was so lost, so empty, that I couldn’t even tell myself to walk away. It was a friend who made a signpost to the exit, making me phone my family. He couldn’t see me disappear, he said. I could do for him what I couldn’t do for myself. Returning to the passive, negligent abuse of my family was such a relief.
I wanted to be different, to reinvent myself. I made new friends and formed myself in their image. I recreated their style, just bits of each person so I am a composite of the whole group. The facade is right, but it is veneer over rotting wood. People engage with me long enough to be unnerved by the absence of originality, to sense the falseness, and then they back away.
It’s happening now, as the music thumps and relationships are formed all around me. I am an island of isolation; awkward, unsettling to those who make the attempt at connection only to find me vacant. I realise that there is no miracle, that I cannot suddenly become the person I aspire to be. I feel like a child, playing dress up.
I make my excuses and leave.
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