The scent of fresh paint burned my nostrils and made my head pulse. I flattened my hands on my thighs as I realised I was biting my nails. I avoided her gaze and focused on the blank piece of paper before her, thick pen in hand.
‘How are you today Emma?’ She smiled. Margaret looked simple enough, but her mind was far from it. Her empathy watched me through those dark, almond eyes.
‘I’m… okay.’ I swivelled from side to side on the new orange chair, smiling weakly.
Today had been just like any other day, and I told her that. I wanted her to know that I hated this.
‘It’s the cycle, it eats at my head.’ ‘I hate it.’ I was biting my nails again, this time I looked at her. She was scribbling on her pad, and nodding her head. My mind is gone from the moment I wake up. My pace is heavy, my eyes sting and my mouth is dried. I look at myself in the mirror. The exhaustion and all that late night thinking presented itself in eye bags and cracked lips. There was a time, when my face was clear and eager for the day ahead. My gleaming blue eyes had turned into a sombre grey and the bright red lips were pale and trembling.
‘I don’t like what I see, I don’t like what I’ve become.’ The muscles around my mouth ached, I tried so hard to keep a straight face but I was moments from losing control.
‘You weren’t always like this were you? It seems to me that you liked five-year-old Emma.’ Margaret looked at me with her soft and caring eyes.
‘Yeah, I thought I was going to change the world when I was five.’ I didn’t care what others thought, I would run around with my long pony tailed hair, satchel on one shoulder. A book about dragons, pens and pencils. I gazed into my opened bag and saw a phone, a brush and school books riddled with words that meant nothing to me. Words I was forced to write down.
‘I realised in high school, that I wasn’t special.’ ‘I let myself become like everybody else and now, I don’t know who I am anymore.’ There was a mask permanently attached to my face, that I couldn’t rip off, no matter how hard I had tried.
‘I decided, that I was going to make friends, and I changed myself.’ A sniffle escaped me as I cupped my hand over my mouth.
There was a moment of silence that I’d created, and I thought of all the days before this one. Monday. I’d sit at my desk and poise my pen with an empty book before me, remnants of ripped out paper bothered me. My mind was blank. I’d clench my fist and close the book, hide it within a pile of text books and find something else to distract me.
Margaret asked me about me about my parents, my friends and school.
‘I am a good writer; did I tell you?’ I sat up straight and looked into her eyes.
‘No you didn’t, tell me about that.’ A warm feeling was quickly muffled by my frustration. Writing was what I lived and breathed. I was inspired by everything, life and people, seemingly so unique and beautiful.
‘It became a chore.’ I ran my fingers through my hair, tugging at the knots and staring behind her. The words I wrote were re assembled by others to make something that had already been done so many times. Something that suited others ‘better’.
Tuesday. Today it would come to me. I took my book out again, opened it up, pen in hand. The soft creamy paper begged to be touched. Nothing. I closed my eyes and saw the mess my mind was. A soft sigh left me as I closed the book and through it across the room. I hadn’t written in months.
‘You’ve let others change you Emma, because that is what you believed necessary to do in order to get by.’ I stared at my lap, I could feel her watching me. I knew that it would be over soon but it became harder every day to wait. After years of having my worth questioned I failed to realise that I had allowed myself to become someone I wasn’t. That was the cycle that I had grown tired of. Standing within a crowd of people who didn’t know who they were. We stare in the mirror and see a stranger, a creation of societal expectation that hides who we really are and makes us the same. Uniform, in every way they could make possible.
I could hear Margaret’s soft words ringing in my ears and my mind returned to the small room I sat in. The smell of fresh paint was gone and the piece of paper before her was filled with scribbles and bullet points.
‘Emma, It’s a healing process, to regain any passion after having it dulled by other commitments.’ ‘However I can guarantee you, that it will happen.’ I nodded and smiled, a weak smile but a smile none the less. An hour had passed, it was time to go home.
Wednesday. The empty book lay sprawled on the carpet. I sat at my desk and flattened out the crisp pages, pen poised in hand. ‘Today I forgave myself.’