Disclaimer: Twilight belongs to Stephenie Meyer; "I feel infinite" is from The Perks of Being a Wallflower. 'A Partial Death' and the bit where Bella talks about leading a "factless" life are references to The Book of Disquiet by Fernando Pessoa.
I walked into the lecture room a few minutes early for once and made my way to the front to get a handout. I grabbed one quickly and sat down at the end of the third row from the front. I started mechanically unpacking my things and getting ready for the lecture. When I picked up the handout, I realized I had grabbed two copies instead of one and, too lazy to return it to the pile at the front, I just put the extra copy on the seat next to me at the end of the row.
People had begun to take their seats around me, most sitting at the back with a few of the more eager students sitting at the front with me. The lecture started soon after. I had already covered some of this material, so I let my mind drift as the professor went over the introductory points.
I always liked lectures because they reminded me of going to the park. When it's busy and you're by yourself and you sit down on a bench and everyone talks and laughs around you. Then you can feel the crowd stripping you of your identity.
It's such a peaceful sensation. It creeps through every part of your body, each part forgetting slowly until there you sit: no one. That's when I feel anonymous, that's when "I feel infinite." And then when you look at some stranger who sits on the bench next to you, you see him as Another. He is not me. That alone is a very attractive quality. He doesn't know me. He only sees what my mouth, my eyes, my body tells him. And he takes all this in only through his own tainted eyes and the selective interpretations of his mind. I become Another to him.
I can see this "me" in his eyes and I'll always like his version more than mine. Even if he has a poor opinion of me, his version is appealing in its simplicity, its almost-clarity. I can at least understand his version of me, like I can try to understand anything else external.
That probably didn't make sense (and is why I'd never attempt to explain it to anyone like him even if he did ask). But I liked feeling that way, like I was on the fringe instead of in the middle – it's both pleasant and a little sad. I got almost the same feeling here in the crowded lecture room, except that I did know some of the other students. But since almost all of them sat at the back, as long as I didn't turn around I could hold on to the sensation. Someone and no one at the same time.
I always thought of myself as leading a 'factless' life. The facts – my name, where I was from, what my CV looked like, how well I got along with my parents – these are inevitable, possessions accumulating over time and gathering dust on my shelves. They are just things that happen in between the moments when I truly felt alive. Those moments when I'd feel alone and independent, absorbed in my random, pointless thoughts and feelings. I don't live for these moments; these moments are my life.
My inner ramblings were interrupted by a male voice shoving me out of my daydream and back into reality. I had almost forgotten that I was supposed to be listening to a lecture right now… but then again forgetting was the whole point. Forgetting, escaping… whatever you want to call it… it's exactly what I wanted, what I craved.
"Do you mind?"
I tilted my face up just enough to see a hand holding the extra copy of the handout I had left on the seat next to me and, feeling the familiar panic invading, I mumbled out a quick "no" and dropped my head back down to my lap. It was fucking ridiculous how terrified I became every time someone unexpectedly spoke to me. I had learnt to push down the panic enough to be almost-comfortable when I was around my "friends" or when I knew someone was about to say something, but every now and then someone would catch me off-guard and I would forget all my careful training. My instinctive reaction was always the same: paralyzing fear.
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw the boy who had come in late sit down in an empty seat in the row in front of me. He sat one seat to the left so although I couldn't see his face, I could see more than the back of his head and his peculiarly messy reddish-brown hair. I could see him take out his pen and start looking for the right place on the handout. I normally would have looked away by now, sinking comfortably back into my daydreams, but his ink-stained fingers caught my attention and held it.
That was new. And more than a little disconcerting.
I wondered if he liked to write or if he just had a shitty pen that didn't work properly. I wondered if he had ever written something on his hand and then, in a class-induced haze, leaned the side of his head against it resulting in an imprint on his cheek of whatever had been written on his hand. That had happened to me on numerous occasions like that one night while studying on my bed, furiously highlighting some notes, when I had fallen asleep on top of them. In the morning, there were bright green smudges all over my cheek and they were ridiculously difficult to get out. I wondered if that had ever happened to him.
He looked just like the rest of them – so put together. Neat and Clean. Whole and Defined. Like he knew what he was doing, at least for now. Not like me.
I always felt … unsure and unstable… and my haphazard fashion style (if you could even call it that) certainly reflected that. I suppose I could have put more effort in. I could sacrifice thirty minutes of sleep every morning to do my hair and color co-ordinate my outfit. I could probably look like them if I tried hard enough. I could. But I never did. I'm not sure if it was because I was just too fucking lazy to give up my precious sleep, or if I was just convinced that it was pointless to try at this point. I felt like they could all see through my pathetic attempts to keep myself together anyway. God knows it felt like a lie to try to hide it.
Or maybe it just seemed too hopeful and hoping was so painful these days. Maybe I was just too much of a coward to let them know I was trying. At the same time, I was terrified that they might think I wasn't trying.
I know it doesn't make sense, but logic never helps me anyway. It just holds me more securely in my paralyzed state. My logic always runs in every direction and pulls me apart from the inside out.
Still… there were some things about him that were different - his messy hair, his ink-stained fingers. He wouldn't have caught my attention if he was just like them. Maybe he wasn't like them. Maybe he was like me. There's always a chance. Anything's possible. Right? Yeah, right.
I scolded myself for being such an idiot. How many times did life have to teach me this lesson before it sunk in? My brain immediately recalled that quote from Nietzsche: "If something is to stay in the memory it must be burned in; only that which never ceases hurting stays in the memory." I couldn't help but shiver and shrink further into my seat. How much more pain would it take to kill that last shred of torturous hope?
These thoughts filled me with a sickening dread. I wished I could just disappear right now. I had thought about suicide before. Sure, lots of times. But would I ever go through with it? Of course not. I'm too much of a coward for that. People would know that I had actually killed myself… they'd know.
Also, if I were being honest with myself, I didn't want to die. I wanted to never have existed at all. I wanted some other student to be sitting in my seat right now, listening to my professor, making notes with my pen. If I died right now, it wouldn't erase all my mistakes, it wouldn't erase me. I would still leave behind the mess I had become. And it would be obvious everywhere you looked. Mess spattered on my lecture notes, on my clothes, in my dorm room, in my room back home. It would be everywhere. Mess.
Coward that I am, I tried to run from my thoughts too. I tried desperately to return my attention to the professor but it was too late. I had zoned out for too long and what he was saying no longer made sense. Fuck. I had gotten up early so I could come and now it was a waste. I had screwed up yet again. Perfect. Well done, Bella, you moron!
I sighed quietly and rubbed my eyes in defeat. A big part of me was completely miserable right now. Well not just right now... for quite some time I guess.
But at the same time an equally dominant part of me just wanted to be miserable. I had earned it. I deserved it – in the good sense and the bad. In the bad sense, I felt like I had messed up so much that being happy would just be absurd – a non sequitur. It made so little sense for me to be happy right now that even if I was genuinely happy, it would feel like a lie. In the good sense, I also felt like I deserved it. I deserved to wallow in it a little, indulge my self-pity. Like almost everything in my life, it felt both good and bad at the same time. I never really understood how people could pick out just one word to describe how they were feeling at a certain time or about a certain thing. It always felt like I was feeling every emotion at once. Happy and sad – they were never opposites to me, but couples wandering hand in hand through my life. The real opposite for me was feeling everything and feeling nothing. Those numb moments… those were the ones I dreaded the most. When your heart is asleep and so cold, but your brain is wide awake and documenting every moment of it. 'A Partial Death'. In those moments I would give anything to almost feel.
I sighed again and decided my best strategy right now was to just take notes. Just listen to the professor and copy down everything he said. Anything to stop my mind from wandering.