You’ve got to breathe.
Take a deep breath and stop crying.
You’ve got to do this.
I’ll see you tomorrow.
“You two are really pretty. I’m fourteen.” She shares from her table across the room.
“No talking between tables”
I take the compliment with a bow of the head.
“No I’m not,” the girl with pixie brown hair says earnestly. A few minutes earlier she shared with me her tag line.
“My parents walked in on me tying a noose. I got the directions off the internet; it’s actually really hard to do.”
Fourteen says she chased the rainbow and ended up in the ICU two nights ago.
Red, blue, purple, yellow pills.
She sips her orange juice and sighs like a veteran rehashing old war stories.
A slender boy whose name I never learned was congratulated for his progress.
“I told my dad where I hid the gun.”
The girl across the table from me picks at her pear.
“Food isn’t really my thing right now.”
I stare blankly.
“It’s okay, I’ve done the research, I know how much I need to eat not to get caught.”
I suppose she was right because I said nothing.
Who here has been bullied?
I stare at my threadbare socks and then slowly like a sunrise lift my head to see every person in the room with their hand in the air.
The silence is deafening.
Young people tell their stories and others nod in a chorus of agreement.
A sound finally escapes my throat. A gasp or sigh, something pleading for forgiveness.
“I have spent a lot of time loving a lot of things besides myself.” I look around the room and lend comfort with my guilty eyes.
“Your stories are safe with me, and your hurt stays with me because I know what it’s like to have a voice telling you that you aren’t good enough. It’s been my own.”
Silence once more.
A hand extends towards mine.
Pixie haired girl looks all the more beautiful when she cries.
Barely audible but forever ringing in my ears she mouths