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Ella Schmeits Mar 2015
Some days are better than others. Today, the sun is shining on my bare skin like the illumination of glass and the empty street means empty anxiety when I sit outside to write. Today is a good day.

Last night was not a good night. I came out to one of my oldest friends, and as she reassured the group for the third time that “I like boys, sorry guys,” the bruise on my foot throbbed as an echo to my heart-- black and blue and yellow with age, but a strong pulse just the same.

Vulnerability is a frightening concept. As human beings, we would much rather hide in secrets and pain than open ourselves up to a world of messes and relationships and hurt and beauty. Whether your bruise is “I'm gay,” “I failed English class,” or “I love you,” it doesn't matter. Discoloration does not discriminate, and as it festers under your fingertips and in the crook of your elbow, your soul will begin to shrivel. While you may be protecting yourself from pain and discomfort, it's nothing compared to the isolation you will feel as you watch girls cry on their mothers' shoulders. Vulnerability may be the scariest moment of your life, but it may also be the most necessary. It's like when little kids get sick and have to take medicine or get a shot. It hurts now, but it'll feel better soon; I promise.

Today has been a good day. Tomorrow might not be. We might end up staring out the window at 2 AM, wondering how the hell we'll find the strength to make it through this. When that moment comes, and it will come, we are going to stare at the kaleidoscope of colors in our bruises, and as black fades to blue fades to purple fades to yellow fades, we will breathe, and we will live another day.
Ella Schmeits Nov 2014
Some days it's hard to breathe. For the past two years, there's been a weight sitting on my chest. Drawing in oxygen feels like hiking through piles and piles of snow just moments after the storm. I don't know where I'm going.
Some days I take my glasses off at school. I like the way the world blurs in front of my eyes and fog settles in the forefront of my vision not unlike the way depression can blind you with only a small shift in perspective.

The first time I wanted to kiss a girl, I was fourteen, and the scars on my hips from feeling too much too young had barely healed. Picture a shy, high school freshman who hadn't yet figured out if she wanted to live. Her breath caught in a cloud of promise and mouth left open just enough to speak if she decided it was allowed, thoughts halted with the wonder of the girl laughing next to her. As the girl simultaneously overflowed with beauty and mirth as only girls can, I was terrified by the prospect of being different. I didn't know if it was allowed.

I went to see my therapist today, and he asked me why I tried to **** myself. I couldn't say it was because of my sexuality because my mother was sitting right next to me. Instead, I said it was because I felt numb. It wasn't a lie, I just left out the part where every Saturday dance class was becoming a steady stream of homophobic monologues and each passing comment left me staring at my wrists more often than the last like a lifeline- a final bridge to Terabithia where I could dance without worrying how my thighs looked and run without worrying about who from and love without the compulsory package of suicide.

My depression started as a fog. It crept over me while I watched powerless and stole away my friends one by one. Misery loves company, and we ran from it in a race to the death but we couldn't opt out. All I have left from what they call my suicide attempt is a vertical scratch on my left wrist where I was too afraid to press harder. I wasn't afraid of death. I was afraid of waking up, and the marathon that would come with it.
Ella Schmeits Sep 2014
Caring about other people when you're sixteen is like trying to complete a long jump from a high school football stadium on Friday night to a parallel universe where heteronormativity isn't even a word in the dictionary and misogyny is nothing more than a scary story told around the Girl Scout campfire- deemed impractical by everyone you know and more terrifying than you could possibly imagine.

         I. When I was in second grade, I became best friends with Hermione Granger. She taught me how to fall in love- with books, with learning. My seven year old self had a newfound adoration for life. When I laid awake at night and pretended to be at Hogwarts, I was free to fly across the night sky on adventures and then sit on my bed and read countless books whose titles I had never even heard before. In my second floor bedroom with the door shut tight, I was free to stop pretending.

         II. Fourth grade was the year I realized I could be good at something. It was also the first time I wrote a poem. It was about math, and I won a contest to have it published in a book filled with poems by other kids across the country. When I figured out how to rhyme math related words with each other to convey how much I hated the subject, I didn't know about the sense of accomplishment that would follow. I didn't know that forgetting about personal censorship was a better idea than listening to the priest who talked to our class every week. No one had ever told me about verbalizing the ink stains under your skin and liking what ends up on the page.

         III. Eighth grade was the first time I felt passionate about feminism. It was also the first time I witnessed the effects of **** culture in my tiny, Catholic grade school. The new boy in our class told girls he wanted to **** them through metaphor, as if objectification is justified by pretty words and a smooth tongue. When we informed our teachers, they promptly ordered us to "be nice" and "stop spreading rumors." Eighth grade was the first time I witnessed the effects of **** culture in myself- a loss of compassion for the boy terrorizing fourteen year old girls instead of learning analogies in English class. Boy is to girl as dog is to meat. God is to disciple as man is to woman- **** culture perpetuated by the word of God and only fifty percent of us knew it was wrong without knowing why. We were never taught to be anything more than meat.

When Hermione Granger was thirteen, she slapped a boy in the face for insulting her friend. Because she cared. Considering my complete aversion to confrontation and irreplaceable, debilitating shyness masking a deep seated feminist rage put into the words of a poet, I derive strength from Hermione Granger. Not the strength to fight on the front lines of an endless war, but the strength to care. It comes from best friends and books alike, but its ability to create bridges of freedom through parallel universes and ink scribbled hastily onto a page filled with ideas brilliant enough to fuel the world for centuries is never compromised. I don't identify with the Catholic church anymore, but I pray you find it too.
Ella Schmeits Jul 2014
Sometimes I can't fall asleep. I wonder if my brain is physically incapable of shutting off; if the thoughts constantly running round my head and through my arms to my shaking fingers and twitching legs have anything to do with her. I think I was a little bit in love with her, to be honest-- if a fourth grader can be in love. I looked at the yellow spots on her teeth and saw a beautiful birthmark- distinguishing the interesting from the dull and the good from the evil. I observed her frizzy, black hair and deemed it noteworthy to the highest extent, and although I don't remember it, I'd be lying if I said I had never dreamt of kissing her. She was so beautiful to me-- an enigma wrapped in a conundrum with a side of a heightened, fourth grade quandary.

The online counseling center of the University of Illinois defines an emotionally abusive relationship as “brain washing that systematically wears away at the victim’s self-confidence, sense of self-worth, trust in their own perceptions, and self-concept.” I'm not quite sure if I'd label a questionable elementary school friendship as emotionally abusive, but looking back, I could never really figure out what bonded us together other than mothers who enjoyed sewing and a mutual lack of trust. Her deficiency was in herself. I was just cement to fill the gaps.

Currently, my chest feels constricted and my hands are shaking like the revolution inside them hasn't yet been won, and neither the rebels nor the authorities can remember what or who they're fighting for. I think it's the caffeine that set it off, but I wouldn't put it past her to inject the cement with poison and shove it back down my throat like medicine. Maybe that's why I've been having trouble breathing.

Last night, I forgot to brush my teeth. I'm not sure if it was because I forgot or because the long term effects of my iron deficiency finally kicked in. The cement hasn't yet hardened enough to fill the cracks.
Ella Schmeits Jul 2014
The longest a human being has ever stayed awake is 264.4 hours, or 11 days and 24 minutes. A study from Harvard Medical School shows that people who are sleep deprived may not realize that they are sleep deprived. Lack of sleep makes people more sensitive to pain. Sleep deprivation leads to paranoid and delusional thoughts. I am not sleep deprived until you confirm it. The monster waiting at my front door does not exist until it has killed. I am not real until you say that I am real.

Yesterday, I almost skipped my shift volunteering at the library because of the hell hound waiting on my front lawn. There was a chain connecting my lungs and its teeth, my palms and its claws, my brain and its beady, yellow eyes-- but the door to my room was steel and my heroes were there to guard it. Next to the door I piled books and a box set of compassion and bound the lock with love and sacrifice. My palms were pale and clammy and I imagined them all standing behind me and breaking the chains-- blowing it away with a kiss and a bang.

If my younger self could see me now.
If mother could hear me cry.
If my best friend could see my panic if the girl who broke my heart could revel in my weakness
if my parents-- 16 years ago, with a new baby girl-- could grasp the knowledge that their child would be sleep deprived, devoid of certainty, hurt way on the inside and barren of acceptance for herself-- she gave it all away.

Fading away is less peaceful than you might think. I've been sleeping too lightly and giving too deeply and even though my thighs are toned from years of dancing and my feet are strong from months of overuse, I am not a physical being. I am a thought, a passing whim, a sprinkle of dust on a warm summer wind. I am certain only of my impermanence, but if I haven't been sleeping, certainty is nothing more than a short-lived sentiment capable only of fairy dust with a knack for obstruction. I may be fading away while creating a juxtaposition of reality-- my muscles becoming more dependable and my fingers pounding away on the chains harder than ever while my mind becomes less and less frequent. Feet striking the ground with an assurance unlike the persistent presence of vertigo in my bones-- I am not gone until you say that I am gone.
Ella Schmeits May 2014
When I was seven, my best friend and I used to dress up and have tea parties. We wore the torn, hand-me-down dresses from my cousins like they were gowns straight out of a princess’s wardrobe, and we were beautiful. We would prance around my room with purple plastic teacups, and there was no better place to dine than the blue **** carpet from Goodwill.

When I was seven I wanted to be a dancer. Not just a ballerina, no. I wanted to do everything. I watched with rapt attention as my cousin’s modern class tumbled to the floor of the stage, and as I stared at their neon colored tank tops and black jazz pants, it seemed that my world made sense. It seemed that as long as I was there on stage, dancing with the same skill and emotion and passion, I would be beautiful.

For my eighth birthday, my friend gave me the sixth Harry Potter book. My favorite character was Hermione. At recess, we would tie the sleeves of our red uniform sweaters around our necks and run around the blacktop pretending to play Quidditch. I thought Harry was smart and cunning and funny, but Hermione. Hermione was full of enthusiasm and rules and always made friends even if they were only in her head. She was top of her class with hair that everyone noticed and her brain was bigger than her group of friends at lunch and that was okay because she was like me. I never thought Hermione was beautiful. She didn’t need to be. Her bushy hair was full of intelligence and her buck teeth were strong enough to bite off the tongues of her oppressors and her dull, brown eyes weren’t dull at all because even the Whomping Willow began as a patch of dirt.

Hermione wasn’t beautiful like a garden. Her fiery eyes were dancing with flames that could wipe out an entire forest without even breaking a sweat. I have never wanted to be beautiful like a garden or the sunlight on the Fourth of July. As I tumble onstage in a blue dress with a tear in the front, my feet are ***** and my palms are sweaty and not one girl has brushed her hair. Footsteps pound the floor like a mighty pride of lions and hearts race as the bass drops and I am not a garden. Don’t you dare call me beautiful.
Ella Schmeits May 2014
The security guard was walking through the courtyard yelling. Lockdown mode. That’s what they do when someone has a gun. When people could die. When your school is on the news and everyone sends your family flowers and homemade lasagna. When I feel an anxiety attack coming, twitching my hands usually helps me calm down. As we were ushered into the auditorium by teachers with faces like a funeral, I didn’t feel the need to move my fingers from where they held one strap of my backpack to my shoulder. I wasn’t sure I could move them at all.

When you read a book about a school shooting, they always talk about the chaos. Kids running away from the unstable teenager with a gun, teachers trying to make sense of the disarray, wondering which window you could safely jump out of. They don’t tell you about the waiting. They don’t tell you about the graveness of the teachers’ faces as they ask you to be quiet. They don’t tell you how a tiny corner of the blackness lifts when your friend texts back. They don’t tell you how you will not stop staring at the door that leads directly to the parking lot, wondering when it will burst open with a crash, a bang, and the color red.

I stared at the stage lights still left on from drama class. I rested my muted white converse on the seat in front of me, then vaguely wondered if a teacher would get angry at me for dirtying a chair while teenagers and adults alike sat wondering who wouldn’t get to go home that day. A girl I’d known since second grade texted me and said her algebra teacher barricaded the door with an old, orange bookshelf. Three flights of stairs between us. My friend told her mom she loved her. Too many miles between them. I thought about my dog, sleeping at home on a green blanket filled with holes. I couldn’t remember the last thing I said to my mom that morning. I couldn’t remember the last time I said “I love you.”

When I read the books, I didn’t realize how scared I’d be. I didn’t realize that my throat would close up like the eye of a tornado and the rock in my stomach would double in size every time the teacher got a message on his radio. When I read the books, I wanted to know if everything would be alright. I turned each page with the raw, nervous energy I was so interested in reading about. But as I sat between my friends on the auditorium seats that were now much too red, I didn't want to know what would happen next. I wanted to grab my friends and run away from the red of the seats that could so easily be echoed in all of their faces a moment too late. As my shaking fingers tapped out a rhythm on my phone, the reassurances from three floors up and the anxiety bombarding me from all angles mixed with the clanking sounds from behind the stage to create a bloodshot mind uncertain of its actuality.
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