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The gymnasium has undergone a metamorphosis: Cologne and flowers have replaced fusty air; an acoustic guitar strums along to a sultry voice; black and red balloons slow dance to the music; string lights reflect off the tiny sparkles on my dress, making it resemble a midnight sky. Faces are exposed—smiles revealed and outlines shown. I’m witnessing an unspoken respect, a unified rainbow.
I turn full circle and exhale. We all must be experiencing the same thing.
My mother was in charge of hair: a thick dark mane pulled back into a low bun. A chubby face with pre-menstrual acne and silhouettes for eyes aren't exactly attributes of beauty, but when looking up at the illuminating sight, a sense of freedom takes over. The fabric clinging to these childbearing hips and swollen stomach doesn’t exist. I feel as though I can swim in this dress.
Neil Kirkpatrick appears across the way. I can smell him, taste him. His black tuxedo exacts his figure. He is the admired athlete who stands above the lazy, hopeless visionary. Fantasies of the moment when he approaches the ugly duckling appear as often as hunger does. It’s an inexplicable occurrence that has no attachment to anyone but the two who will one day live to relish the tale. They will share it, hold onto it until their days fade away. Nobody else has the right to even a morsel of ownership; it will always be their moment, their mystery.
A violin creates a melodic substance that has the rhythm adjoining with the splendor of the lights. There is supremacy surrounding me, a force pounding against my chest. I am suddenly entrapped.
I can’t put my finger on it. I don’t feel thinner or taller or anything like that. A sense of confidence has been granted, a feeling I didn’t believe would ever present itself in a situation like this. For once in my short-lived life I am sick of the same old, same old. I am exhausted from standing on the sidelines while everybody else lives their lives. It’s unknown whether my peers are happy on the inside, but at least they take chances, while I’ve been hushed, afraid of stepping out of my shell. The only risk I’ve ever taken is showing up.
I drift like a phantom. Heels then toes graze as I clear a pathway. I have finally been released from this body. I am not the same girl who roams the hallways with her head hanging low. The layers have peeled, and they reveal a flawless, voluptuous female.
His blond hair is slicked back, his ice-blue eyes in plain sight. His eyes are the kind of eyes that send a fire that produces lust more suitable for adults. He could lure me into any bedroom, no matter how filthy. The mere sight of Neil Kirkpatrick converts a pure mind into an unpurified mess. A simple touch, that’s all it would take. Just one, simple touch.
A touch means so much.
I want our chests together, my arms draped around his shoulders. I want his hands slithering down my waist, inching their way towards my hips. I want his hot breath on my face. I want his lips nearing, his nose nuzzling. I want tangibility mixed in with tantalizing.
All I want is a slow dance.
The lights hover over, censoring out the rest. His aqua fragrance is thick, as if the scent will capture me at any second. All he has to do is pull me by the hand to collide. The slick smile on his face straightens, his eyes narrow, his brows furrowed. The path is no longer clear.
They move in and gather around like wolves. Guttural growls are free, some lick their lips in anticipation or out of curiosity, I can’t decipher which one. My heart is like a weed-whacker on the loose. I have nowhere to turn, no one who’ll protect me. Something circulates within the constricting air that has me relying on the lights, their influence, their allure. The feeling is much too potent to disappear. Something this powerful doesn’t forfeit. It keeps going—it keeps fighting. If something isn’t done, I might as well consider myself the easiest prey they’ve ever had. It’s flight or fight. There is no other way around it.
I clear my throat to only find that my voice is stifled. Oddly enough, the sound has surpassed the harmonizing of both the guitar and violin. “What?” he asks in a hiss that I ignore, for I haven’t made anything clear. I make sure the song replenishes every single syllable of every single word I’m about to say:
“I was wondering, would you like to dance with me?”
The record scratches, creating a nails-on-a-chalkboard effect. The heaviness of my breathing breaks through. I shut out his face.
A snort is cue for a wave of laughter. There is only one person who doesn’t see the reality of this question. “Are you serious? There’s no way in hell I’d dance with you.”
I need to see his eyes once more. Like icicles they dagger, only the longer I stare, the sharper they become. Staring at them generates the illusion of blood.
I place a hand over my wrist.
The music turns up; my eardrums pulse with the bass. His pack, they won’t stop or maybe they can’t stop, again, I can’t decipher which one. Teeth covered with braces alter into fangs. Their laughter doesn’t go unnoticed. How could it when the sounds blend in with the melody? Every sound they make mixes in.
My eyes are tender from looking up at the lights that have turned into strobes. My hands are sweaty; my forehead is clammy. My surroundings start off blurry then practically become kaleidoscopic. My hands create fists that are desperate for a grip, they squeeze, and squeeze, and squeeze some more. Nothing. They want nothing more than to be released. My strength has been taken away; it has been digested by them.
I swear they keep coming. They’re popping out from every corner, behind bodies, some appearing out of nowhere. More lips to be licked, more laughter to be had. I wouldn’t be surprised if some foam at the mouth. I have gone mad. I must be mad to even toy around with the classic idea of the ugly duckling transforming into the beautiful swan. And it’s ten times more anomalous to believe that artificial lights have the power of alteration.
They’re right—they’ve always been right.
I’m new to this school, although you’ve always known me to be who I really am. It’s only until tonight that I have discovered my identity, the person you all have been trying to tell me I am. I have finally come to terms with this. Thus I must re-introduce myself: Hello, everybody, my name is Delusional Freak. I’m unsure if I come from this land or from a foreign galaxy. The inexplicable has proven itself for a few minutes, so how is it far-fetched to consider I’m alien to your land? You all see it. Hell, you all have been throwing blatant clues in my face for years. Idiot must be my middle name. So here I am, Delusional Freak, the star of the show—the punchline to every joke. I’ve made your nights ten times better by providing an extra amount of entertainment. You are welcome.
Now, I must run from fear of the truth grabbing me by the dress and reeling me back in.