Trolls And Bridges

Entry by: Briergate

27th March 2017
“Trip, trap, trip trap over the wooden bridge,” Sim snorts, peering over my shoulder, moving my hair back to the nape of my neck to view the iphone screen more clearly. I shrug him off, refusing to turn around and let him see the heat in my cheeks.

He’s right, of course. The goats speak, and more follow, the internet trolls jabbing away at their keyboards behind the safety glass of an anti-glare façade. They can imagine, perhaps, if they try, the effect their taunts are having on me. And yet, I suspect they don’t try, beyond a quick giggle over a milkshake in McDonalds, as they trade insults about me.

“Midget Meg, Meg Mog, Minging Megan,” they will say, singing the names out like a mantra of solidarity, wiping damp eyes, rocking with laughter as they huddle over a smartphone and conjure up ever-more poetic ways to offend me. The pack mentality inures them against remorse, perhaps. I understand. I do. I can imagine so clearly how the laughter gets more high-pitched as they spur each other on to new heights of insulting language.

Sometimes, after a particularly brutal onslaught when I’m huddled alone, sheets pulled up to my chin, I think back, back back. Before all of this, when I had friends beyond Simon.

I was the popular one, once. The one they followed, and the one who led them easily. I could influence the way their coloured their hair, shaped their brows, the way they’d copy the shortened hem of my school skirt, or subtly got hold of a similar pin badge for the lapel of their blazers. I felt untouchable, then.

I loved it. I admit, even now when I feel nothing but hatred for them all, that I loved the friendship. It hadn’t felt shallow, then. It had felt like sustenance. A protective sheen against school life, which made me bolder and taller; gave me the courage to back-talk at teachers, knowing it would only elevate me in their eyes even as my mother would shake her head, lips pursed, at another detention report.

I even liked detention. Sometimes in solidarity, three or four of them would act out on purpose so we’d get that extra hour after classes, perched on the desks in the detention room, popping bubblegum, applying a fresh layer of mascara and sharing ear buds to hum along to the latest chart topper. It was fun. It felt as if we were untouchable, and it was fun.

My mum used to get so frustrated with me, I know she did. It was palpable; tangible. The wave of displeasure masking the deeper sadness that her well-behaved, academic little girl was turning into a stroppy, cocky teenager.

While I wasn’t overly provocative, and didn’t ‘give out’ like some of my girlfriends did, she still disapproved. Checking my pockets for discarded smokes, or kissing my cheek as a ruse to try and inhale, to detect the bitter afterscent of vodka or weed on my carefully-held breath. I know she thought I’d let her down. I think she even suspected I’d lost my virginity; handed it away like a burst bubble to one of the guys who used to form the Megan Fan club. The cute ones. The tall ones, the ones with carefully-dishevelled hair and nurtured five o clock shadows, voices deeper and more adult than their years ought to have allowed.

I didn’t though. Somewhere beneath the bravado, I was still her little girl. I still am. And yet, I can’t turn to her for sympathy now, while my smartphone vibrates and vibrates, on and on and on alerting me to a new message, new message, new message.

Meg the Minger. Mouthy Meg. Miserable, melancholy, martyred Meg. Meg the Mean, Meg the Messed-up, the Morbid, the malignant, malformed, manky misery. Ping, ping ping.

I don’t know why I don’t turn the alerts off. Perhaps in a warped way, it’s comforting that I still command all their attention, all of the time. That even with me hidden away out of sight of their jeering glances, they still can’t let me go. When a girl falls from her podium, she’s fascinating.

I feel angry, but not embittered. I almost feel proud. What I achieved was more than any of them could ever aspire to. I have reached heights that all of them, the bitchy little girls with their snide comments and mouthy bluster, could only peer up to view. They used me to clamber up, too. To scale the social heights in the popularity stakes and firmly implant a flag of belonging at my shoulder. I was the summit, once. The one they wanted to have, or to be, or to be with, or be like.

I’m pretty. I know that. I can tell from the way Simon lets his hand graze my face, or when the psychotherapist leans his hot heavy hand on my bare leg in a clumsy show of solidarity or empathy.

The way the media pored over my pictures, gloating at the perfect skin, the wide eyes and glossy honey-coloured hair which I kept in perfect condition. Girls don’t really like pretty girls. They pretend to, they aspire to be like them, but they don’t really genuinely feel any affection. I saw that as soon as the tide of friendship turned, leaving me with nothing left but a handful of torn photographs, a defaced image of a smiling, younger me in the yearbook with red horns protruding from my picture, and speech bubble issuing from my mouth.

I don’t think about her often, the person responsible for my downfall. After all, what was she to me, truly? A shadow of a self, huddling into her shabby uniform and hiding behind lank hair in a fruitless effort to escape notice. The problem with people like her, the more they try to make themselves invisible, to become a no one, a no body, the more they draw the eye of popular people like me. Easy pickings, I suppose. Instant gratification when just a veiled comment can make them pale and turn away. It was almost addictive, the way that the bitchier I became towards her, the more the carrion around me followed suit.

Stinky Sal. Stupid Sal. Smeggy, skinny, skint, shabby-Sal-sans-chic. Scumrat Sal, scrubber, soiled, shitty old Sal.

I didn’t even know her, not really. Not in the way the media made out She was just target practice, because she made it so damn easy to fell. Instant tears, or those stupid shaking hands with gross nails bitten to the quick. Seedy Sal.

They went crazy when she lost it. Suicidal Sal. Making out, of course, that she was some sort of introvert genius, little miss Perfect, headed for a great academic career, to musical glory with her violin. What’s that worth, though, when you’re always picked last for sports, and I never wanted her on my team? Shaking Sal, spastic Sal who’d rather run the other way than face up over a hockey puck. Sick Sal, who spent so many days off ‘ill’ her father got fined for truancy. Not so great then, was she?

Social media Sal. Murdering Meg.

I didn’t kill her. People like me don’t murder other people. Imagine, getting my hands dirty? Getting involved in something so seedy as suicide, where I’ve heard you can piss yourself or even crap your innards out when you swing. There’s no way I should have my name associated with that. It’s gross. She made her own bed, and she can lie in comfort now, causing all of this just by one selfish act which pointed all the blame at me.

God. Even I didn’t have that much sway over people. I know I influenced, but I’m not some sort of deity that has the power to persuade someone to kill themselves just because of me.

Ping, ping, ping.

Still popular, even here. Simon touches my shoulder and I turn this time, face pale once more.

“Come on, Megan. Time’s up,” he says. He’s OK, for a screw. I know he likes me. Some of the other inmates are jealous of the favouritism. They don’t dare to challenge me on it, though.

One more minute left of rec time and then I’ll have to go back to my cell. And then, it will be me, the ghost of her, and the relentless vibration of reminders that no matter where I am, nor how long they can keep me locked up out of the public eye, I still have a hold on the trolls. Trip, trap, trip trap, over the bridge they go.