No one sees me over here. I am invisible, the same color and texture as the wall behind me. Beige and smooth were my new characteristics. No one can touch me here. No one can bump me or ask a question I can’t answer. I don’t have to fumble with my words. I am not making a mistake and ingraining a negative image of myself into these minds. I am safe here. This is my hideaway.
My best friend slides down the wall and lands on his butt with a thump. He sits pretending to tie his right shoe, “Going to hide all night?” He whispers, careful to not let a soul see him talking to himself.
“How did you know I was here?” I whispered back. I had been so careful when I had come in. Shrinking from shadow to shadow until I had found my little corner out of the way.
“How long have I known you?” He asked, switching to the left foot. We only had a few more seconds before this act became obvious and questionable.
“Too long,” I laughed. He stood up and gave me a wide grin. He stretched out a hand, fingers wiggling.
My whole body wanted to reach out and take that hand. I trusted him, would do anything to help and protect him. He knew almost everything about me. If anyone could lead me out of this hole, he could. But my hand refused to move.
I shouted inside my head, commanding myself to stand. Demanding that I go out there and truly laugh and have fun but my feet didn’t budge and my legs never twitched. He gave me one last pleading look before turning away and disappearing into the crowd.
I felt a tear slide down my cheek. I took a rattling breath and calmed my racing heart. It was okay, I was fine. I was perfectly content in my corner. I was safe here. Here I could watch the world, see what went wrong and not worry about being in the middle of the disaster. Here nothing could happen to me.
I sat and watched the people mingle. Some conversations were loud and excited. Big warm greetings and genuine smiles were met with boisterous demands for details about lives and loves. Other interactions were more muted, less loud and extreme but still genuine and comforting.
The quiet laughter was like music to my ears,easy and as nice to hear as were the loud shrieks and laughs. People bumped into one another, drinks spilled and no one said a word about it. Mistakes were righted and life kept moving. No one shouted at anyone else or made jokes at anyone else’s expense.
I was on my feet now, my heart racing. It was okay. I could be out there and I would leave again in one piece. I stepped an inch from the wall but still concealed by the shadows. My friend came into view, shrugging at someone’s comment.
As he turned to switch groups his foot caught on a chair and he hit the ground, hard. The room didn’t come to a stand still while everyone stared. The Earth kept spinning, and tomorrow would still come. No one shouted and pointed. Those on the opposite side of the room and no idea anything had happened. Their conversations continued without pause.
He was helped up by those he was going to speak with. He was brushed off and gave them a laugh. The breath I had been holding quickly escaped as a laughing sigh of relief and realization. My feet moved forward, one in the front of the next. As the shadows receded I came into view, my brown hair and hazel eyes catching the light of the room. My grey turtle-neck and straight black skirt made their appearance. I got a smile and a nod, but otherwise no one questioned or noticed.
I came to a halt at my friends arm, hands wrapping around his elbows. “Can you see me?” my voice shook slightly but recovered quickly.
He laughed and side-hugged me. “Yes, yes I can.”
I answered with a genuine smile and a lightened heart.