I don’t show my anxiety.
I never do.
Why would I? If I did, people would know that even though I pretend I don’t care —I actually do. People cannot know that I care; that’s how I get hurt. I mean, I still get hurt, but if I hide my feelings well enough, people won’t know about it, which is good.
I often wonder if everyone is like me, pretending not to care but actually dying inside from caring too much.
Truth is, I know all these people-—the ones at the BBQ I am on my way to—-I shouldn’t be anxious, but sometimes it’s because I know the people, that I am anxious. Not because of who they are, but because of who I am when I am around them, and how they make me feel.
Feelings aren’t real right?
Yeah, tell that to someone who hears their feelings screaming in their head all day.
It’s a show.
I’m smiling now.
And: action, my mind says.
As I walk closer to the bonfire where a few of my feelings sit warming their hands, I straighten my shoulders. They smile when they see me. I wonder if the words: and action popped into their heads too?
Insecurity registers my face, she gives me an awkward hello. She is more beautiful than me, cooler than me, and comes from a better life than me. She’s also an asshole; which is why we’re not talking currently; I smile and give an equally awkward wave.
I’ve spotted Rejection, I think in a way I knew he would be here. I don’t get the same punch in the stomach when I see him now. Now I am just so mad at myself for ever loving him in the first place.
I see Failure on the other side of the fire. She is always weird with me. I tried to connect with her once, and she was not interested in being my friend. I almost want her to be doing badly in life, just to prove that I am okay, and she should have been my friend.
Thank God that beside me, Trust has taken a seat. I trust her now, I like that. I never did before. Originally, before I got to know her, she was Betrayal. That’s what happens when you live in a small town and your heart is passed from one person to the next. We all take turns.
My ex will soon enough become your ex.
Addiction just arrived. She’s sleeping with Rejection. They make a trashy couple, and I am not just saying that. They look like trash together. A black plastic bag that a skunk has ripped open and the insides blow around the yard: that’s what they look like. I like her though, despite the fact that she’s always high, and cocaine-skinny.
I wish I could be cocaine-skinny.
A patch of her foundation has rubbed off just under her nostrils where she has been fidgeting with her runny cocaine-snarfing nose, revealing that, like me, she is winter-white and wears too much make-up.
But like I said: I like her.
Love has caught my eye and waves at me from across the yard. He is of course stuffing his face. When we got married he ate a lot, and he still eats a lot. I am comforted by his smile, and the rib he holds in his hand. He is my best friend, and even he has no idea how this is killing me; how inside I am desperately trying to find where I fit in this puzzle.
Beside me, Neutral One, Two, and Three have started talking about the housing crisis. I get involved in this subject. It is one I am passionate about. The conversation goes full circle and before I know it we’re talking about foreigners (of which I am the only one present), white men and their place in society in 2021, and my latest novel.
The conversation has magically turned into Star Wars or Star Trek?
My mind is observing Lust.
He is a good-looking man. Tall, with all the right Portuguese features.
I picture what he’s like in bed.
That makes me feel unclean.
As if I would ever choose Lust over Love again!
There are so many things to look at, so many sounds to hear. Words like bullets ricocheting off the inside of my skull.
Smiles, real and fake; discerning, always discerning.
It’s tiring, isn’t it?
Sometimes I wonder if there is anything real in my life. Am I real?
I’m laughing now.
I’m talking to Ease. She’s nice. Sometimes I am lucky enough to find some Ease in a situation like this. It could be in a person, a song, the flames, chocolate or the blue sky. I won’t know where it’s going to come from till it’s there, and when it comes, I hold onto it.
I don’t know her well, but I have always managed to have free-flowing conversations with her, she is open, I like that. We are laughing about the fact that our lip rings sometimes get caught on our teeth; especially when eating peanut butter.
It’s nice to have someone to relate to.
I forget about all the feelings.
I am with her.
I am not laughing aloud in the hopes that everyone will think, Wow she’s so happy. I am not looking around to see what everyone else is doing; making sure it’s not better than what I am doing.
My mind has become still.
I have learned some things about myself today. And as long as I am learning, I am growing, and eventually perhaps: I will be a human being that is okay with not fitting in, one that can let go of feelings that do not serve me.
I stare into the bonfire now.
The flames are in sync, a cabaret before my eyes.
I think, This is nice.
Benita Jane is a born South African now residing in Massachusetts. She writes abstract pieces on mental health and learning to cope.