A short story


Molly Smith

I did explode. It was a mess to clean up. My muscles were suddenly all gone.

I like to consider myself one to forget. Not necessarily a birthday, or even to shower binightly.  I more so mean the limes to my scratches and papercuts. But still, very few things make me forget the sixth grade.

Soaking in the fact that I was leaving elementary school like a sponge’s rough end. Coming out as queer to a few close “friends” who soon turned it into the whole grade. Getting told by the football player that he had “weird visions” about such.

This dude has never said that about his straight relationships. There were multiple. This was Pennsylvania.

I had a family who I could easily confide in,  whether  coffee or academic troubles. I got to travel out of state to  visit my father and grandmother. I even had new company in my stepfather Chad. This I quite enjoyed, and still do to this day.

Even then, the glass spilled in my brain. I simply could not clean it up.  How was a glass once full “half full” if it just spilled? The concept of a struggler was one I never humored until that December.

My family remained, yet I had trouble focusing during classes. I even got called out and penalized for daydreaming and, later,  defending myself.

“I wasn’t daydreaming.” Side eye.

I had friends to laugh with, but felt I had no reason. I was simply unworthy to be seen in the pupils of others.

All the best types of things lost their effect. I was unfazed.

I remember sitting in the car on the way home from school, so expressionless. So wordless. As if humans were never able to express. My sister made a joke about school, but all I can remember now is my lack of thought. I was too wrapped up to associate.

That progressively worsened. The simple inability to wiggle out of the headspace only deepened. Beyond my control.

Every muscle in my 12-year-old being was either still or aching. I didn’t know whether or not I could have obtained these muscles. This was terrifying. Those few weeks were spent sobbing in front of my science teacher.

Adequate physical health, not so much mental.

I remember going home to my mother and her sitting me down. That science teacher had emailed about what was going on. My whole plot of keeping quiet to the busy or anyone was tanked.

At that moment, I felt exploited. Invaded. I was truly trying with my remaining muscles to appreciate concern.

But with all I had, that did not happen.

I decided to seek some help from a counselor at school. The reason they are busy is because of issues like mine after all.  This is quite literally their paygrade.

I sat down in the office. Breaths shorter.

I had a view from the bottom part of the circular table. From there laid stress balls, smiley faces and ice cream cones alike. There was a chart advertising “just taking deep breaths.”

She sat in the chair to the right of me.

“What seems to be the issue?”

“I haven’t been feeling very okay recently.”



“Why so?”

Ha. This was going to take a moment.

“I’m not sure. I’ve been feeling really burdened. Almost like I am the burden.”

I did not mention my mental muscles. Or the car ride with my sister. Or the science class.

“Can you elaborate?”

Possibly. There went nothing and everything.

“I’ve been having trouble getting motivated. It’s hard for me to do work when I can’t focus. I really think it’s because of my headspace. It all just feels foggy and hopeless.”

Foggy and Hopeless. My next novel?

“It’s valid to feel that way. Think positive thoughts!”

And all of a sudden, that was the last  thing I could do.

The remaining muscles snapped in fourths. I felt an elevator drop in my chest. I suppose my muscle structure and chest cooperated.

I appreciated her, I really did. How she was willing to listen. How she made time.

But just like the email, I tried. I tried so hard every moment of every science class. Still, my emotions never shifted. I simply could not have told myself to brighten up.

You would never say that to a fire of collapsing twigs.

“Thank you,” I smiled.

We soon played a round of Uno after a brief discussion of the get-togethers on my dad’s side.

I recalled that game bringing me joy. It had become an inside joke of sorts between my cousins and I.

But when a thing brings you temporary bliss, there is withdrawal.

Nothing lasts forever. But I knew this should not have made me upset.

So could I really have “thought happy thoughts” to make me feel less like a monster?

A monster for not feeling well and having a loving family?

A monster for not feeling well and obtaining privilege?

A monster for not feeling well with nothing in my life falling to shreds?

The clock struck three, and I was out.

A huge part of me still wishes that wasn’t the extent of help I sought.

Because this was a type of struggling that never fully went away.

I was a Mento lying in carbonation, waiting for an explosion.

I wished I were not a Mento to begin with. But at that point there was no escape.

So until that science teacher by rule of the building had to sit me in the guidance room months later, I was reliant on bubbles and sugar.

I did explode. It was a mess to clean up.

My muscles were suddenly all gone.