She painfully lifted her head up from the wooden table it had clumsily landed on a few hours ago, and stared up at the screen. "Would you like to contact a suicide operator?" read the Facebook message she had received. Her fingers rubbed at her eyes insistently; as if with every forced motion, a sense of clarity would somehow inject itself into her system. Frustrated, she rummaged through the chaos that had become her mind, trying desperately to restore its normal functioning. What the fuck is that? A scent had been pestering her, rendering her increasingly nauseous by the minute. She looked around for traces of the foul odor; her eyes bouncing across every corner of the room. Whiskey. Two bottles of Jameson lay toppled over on the ground next to her; their emptiness explaining her current state of confusion.
She looked up at the screen again; regret quickly replacing the alcohol residue floating around in her system, and checked the reason for the message she had received. It took her a few minutes, but after clicking the “What’s this?” link found at the bottom of the message, she understood that the Facebook administration sends messages like that when they suspect that the user is inflicting self-harm, or in extreme cases, suicidal thoughts. But she hadn’t posted any content that could indicate a mentally unstable state; or had she? She looked back through her posts one by one, and found it. “I don’t want to exist anymore” was the unintentional night-time confession which had gotten her into this whole mess. She sat up for a minute, carefully weighing her options. She could either ignore the message and move on with her day, or she could actually give it a shot and call the hotline, even if it didn’t lead anywhere. Screw it. I’m calling. She picked up the phone, and dialed the number which had appeared on her screen. She waited. And waited. And waited. And wait-
“Good morning Jamie”, answered a soft, reassuring voice.
“You can call me Roger. I would like you to answer a couple of questions, if that’s okay with you.”
Despite the calm tone Roger maintained, Jamie couldn’t help but feel annoyed with the idea of answering a bunch of questions; especially if it’s a complete stranger asking them.
“How are you feeling right now?”
“Fine I guess. A little hung over, if this is what feeling hungover is like.”
“Did you consume any medication with your alcohol, Jamie?”
“No.” This was such a stupid idea.
“Okay, that’s good. Now, moving on to a harder question. The post you made yesterday, how were you feeling when you wrote it?”
“To be honest I don’t know. I was drunk when I wrote it.” Her body tensed, caving in on itself. She realized she hadn’t actually given much thought to the subject. Why had she written that? She was drunk. That’s why. But aren’t drunken confessions subconscious wishes? Fuck.
“Okay Jamie. Can I ask you one last question?”
She hesitated. “Yes.”
“Was there a reason behind your excessive drinking, or did it happen randomly?”
“I was with friends,” she lied, “we just finished midterms, so we were out celebrating. You know how it is.”
“Yes,” Roger replied sounding slightly unconvinced, “I do. Is there anything you would like to talk about, Jamie?”
“Not really, no,” she said, silently picking her brain for possible conversation topics. There was a feeling of safety with him. She couldn’t pinpoint the reason behind it, but she wanted to keep talking to Roger. Perhaps it was Roger’s anonymity; the fact that he didn’t know her, so he couldn’t really judge her. And even if he did, she couldn’t see it on his face. His judgment wouldn’t follow her back home. She’d just cut the call and it would all end.
“Okay. I’m going to give you my extension in case you ever feel like using it.” Roger mentioned a series of numbers Jamie was able to memorize instantly, to her surprise, and then said, “If you ever feel like things aren’t okay, you can call this hotline. It’s not just for extreme cases.”
A small smile drew itself onto Jamie’s face.
“Okay. Thank you, Roger. Bye.”
A moment of silence, quickly followed by the deet deet deet sound of a phone call ended; and Jamie suddenly found herself feeling alone. Not lonely. Alone.
She didn’t want to think about last night. She didn’t want to think about what could’ve possibly triggered her mental journey through the realm of her apparently destructive subconscious. She decided to clean up the mess she’d made, and watch the latest Hannibal episode.
The next day, she forced her body out of bed at 4:30 a.m. and started catching up on the homework she should’ve been doing two nights ago. Her grades were nothing short of A’s and she wanted to keep it that way. She sat down at the desk she had fallen asleep on the night before, and started studying for her accounting exam. She hated the subject, so she figured she should work on it first, to get it out of the way. After about three hours of studying, she opened her drawer, and took out some of the Milky Way bars she had hidden in there. She knew that if her little brother, George, found them he’d give in to his chocolate addiction and devour them entirely. He had been warned of diabetes a few months before, so Jamie always tried to hide the sugary treats she got for herself to keep George from getting to them. After scarfing down three bars, Jamie decided she’d had enough, and threw away the wrappers.
Damn it. One of the wrappers had not made it to the bin, so Jamie had to detach her body from the chair it had been stuck in for so long, and got up to throw the wrapper properly. After her journey to the garbage bin had reached its finish, she found herself standing over the bin, staring at what looked like torn pages of a magazine. What happened? She tried to think of the possible scenarios that had lead to her findings. Maybe, after coming home from her night out, her mother simply tore up the magazine out of anger and threw its pages in Jamie’s trash can; but that would mean that her mom found out about Jamie’s late night-intoxication, which isn’t possible, since Jamie would’ve been punished by now. Jamie then considered the unlikely possibility of having torn the magazine herself, but she couldn’t remember doing that at all. She never even cared for magazines that much. She’d sometimes find herself glancing at their covers, taking notice of the models’ bodies and then quickly looking away. She decided to shrug it off, and get back to what she was doing. But she couldn’t.
She couldn’t stop thinking. The questions in her mind were too important to be left unanswered. She kept going back and forth, over and over again, trying to make sense of things, but it all seemed like one big confusing blur.
Fuck this. Seriously, fuck all of this.
Frustrated with herself, she thought that some fresh air would be a good change of atmosphere for her, so she decided to pass by the CD shop and check for the new Arctic Monkeys album, in hopes that music would succeed once more in silencing her thoughts. She decided to wear what she wears on most days: jeans, a t-shirt, and a pair of Converse sneakers. After her outfit was complete, she slowly began to pace back and forth, deciding whether or not to look at herself, like really look at herself, in the mirror. She hadn’t been a fan of mirrors ever since she was a kid, and that wasn’t going to change any time soon. She decided to give it a shot, just to see if that day would prove different. She stood before the object she had considered her enemy for so long; back straight, head held high, and faced her reflection.Why do I look like this? Her eyes immediately widened, as the image presented before her was one she had not particularly expected. At all. She remembered why she had avoided anything with a reflective surface for all those years. She couldn’t stand the figure standing before her. Fuck. Shut up. Shut up. Shut. The fuck. Up. Her mind was screaming, cursing back at her.
Breathe. She blamed common insecurity on what she was feeling. Nobody’s comfortable with their body. Right?
She decided to call the hotline.
“Yes, Jamie; I’m here. Are you feeling alright?” Jamie wondered how Roger was so calm all the time. It was a bit of a peeve, the steady tone, but Jamie found some sort of solace in it.
“I guess. I don’t know. I mean I’m not suicidal or anything, but something weird just happened.” It’s as though her words had spent years hiding within her confines, fearing exposure. She felt safe with Roger, safe with the idea of a stranger on the other end of the line, rather than someone she knew personally. She found herself wanting to share parts of herself with Roger that she hadn’t really shown anyone before.
“Go ahead Jamie, I’m listening.”
“I stood in front of the mirror, and it’s like, I don’t really know how to explain it.” Trembles shook her core with every utterance of a word, “it’s like I couldn’t recognize myself somehow. I hated what I saw.” Breathe. Just keep breathing. You’re normal.
“I’m going to ask you a question, Jamie.”
“Okay.” This felt like the first time she called the hotline all over again. This time, though, a different, more intense type of anxiety shook her system at the thought of answering Roger’s new question.
“When was the last time you were comfortable with the reflection in the mirror?”
Jamie did not expect such a question. What was even more unexpected was her lack of an answer for that question. Her train of thought jumped from memory to memory for what seemed like ages. She started getting frustrated with herself. Why the fuck can’t I remember anything?
Then, amidst her mental journey through her past, she did in fact remember something. An event which she hadn’t told anyone about. Her mouth opened and the words started pouring out, like droplets of water slowly and strategically sliding out of the brim of a cup.
“I think I was about four. I was in my mom’s room, and for some reason I decided to try on her heels. My feet sunk into them, naturally, but I didn’t care. It felt good. It felt right. I started walking around, trying to get used to my new footwear, when I saw the make-up on the table. I reached over, and started applying some, exactly the way I had seen my mom doing all those years. When I was done, I looked up at the mirror, and smiled. Like really smiled.” Wait, what? It’s as though Jamie had been dreaming the whole time she was narrating her childhood.
“Jamie, are you okay?” Hang up. Now. He can’t know this.
“Uhm, I…” Tears began making their way into the crevices of her eyes, “I have to go now. I’m sorry.”
“No, wait,” Panic made its way into Roger’s voice, “I can hel-”
Deet deet deet. Jamie sat at the edge of her bed, head resting between her hands, and she breathed. Over and over until it felt tolerable to look up again. She needed to get away. She needed to forget everything. She remembered a party one of her classmates said he’d be hosting at his house. She knew how to get there, and she could just tell her parents she’s sleeping over at a friend’s house. Jamie’s mom was a bit strict when it came to Jamie’s outings. The restrictions diminished over time, but they were always there.
She told her mom about her plans and got going.
Jamie’s footsteps followed the sidewalk; her vision mostly directed downwards. She couldn’t handle seeing even a glimmer of her reflection in people’s eyes. She kept her gaze fixed to the ground, and kept walking with absolutely no intent to go back home.
Loud R&B music uncomfortably filled her ears as she waited for somebody to get the door. Shit. The door opened and Jamie noticed the abundance of people present at the house. She thought it would be a bit less crowded; but decided not to get intimidated. She moved between the people; some dancing, others rubbing up against each other, and she sat down on the couch. She noticed an open, but still full bottle of beer next to her, and decided to take a chug.
“Can I have a sip of that?” he asked, smiling. It was Andrew. Jamie liked Andrew. A lot. She felt a small grin painting itself onto her face.
After swallowing a dollop of Jamie’s beer, Andrew and Jamie stirred up a conversation. They talked about university at first; mostly about their courses and their teachers. Then they got a bit deeper, and started talking about their personal lives, bit by bit, and getting to know each other. Jamie felt comfortable with Andrew. She couldn’t help marveling at his features, at the way the veins in his neck tense up every time he arches his neck backwards and laughs, or the way his chest, wide and muscular, expands and contracts when he’s nerv-
“Do you wanna maybe go somewhere?” Andrew asked, biting his lip.
Oh my god. “Sure.”
Andrew held Jamie’s hand as though it were a delicate vase, and lead Jamie to an empty bedroom.
It was quick, the way he touched her. She thought he’d be a bit more gentle, but she didn’t mind.
“You’re so hard,” Andrew whispered in between struggling breaths, hands lightly touching the outline of Jamie’s cock.
“Stop it. Stop touching me.” Jamie demanded, a sense of understanding reigning over her.
It’s not that I don’t want him to touch me. It’s not that I don’t want him to touch me there. It’s that I don’t like the there that he’s touching.
“Jamie, I’m sorry, please, please stop shaking. I’m not touching you anymore.”
I hate this skin.
I hate these clothes.
I hate this sex.
“Jamie, please, please don’t cry, please I’m so sorry, I-I won’t touch you again.”
I hate this voice.
I hate this hair.
I hate these shoulders.
This hurts. This hurts so much.
I can’t breathe.
Suddenly, with the every inhale and exhales Jamie’s body forced in and out her, she slowly found herself back to the conversation she had with Roger. The words rang so loudly in her head; she couldn’t hear anything else.
“When was the last time you were comfortable with the reflection in the mirror?”
“I think I was about four. I was in my mom’s room, and for some reason I decided to try on her heels. My feet sunk into them, naturally, but I didn’t care. It felt good. It felt right. I started walking around, trying to get used to my new footwear; when I saw the make-up on the table. I reached over, and started applying some, exactly the way I had seen my mom doing all those years. When I was done, I looked up at the mirror, and smiled. Like really smiled.”
It didn’t hurt.
It didn’t hurt.
Christy Choueiri is currently a graduate student of English Literature at the American University of Beirut. With interests in gender and sexuality, socio-linguistics, and creative writing, she really does not know where she fits in, but she hopes to someday figure out a way to mediate between her interests and do some good in the world.