She looked down at the box of Cheerios in her hand as nostalgia took over. Is all this worth it? She stared at the picture of the bowl on the box. Those tasty little Os looking all crisp and fresh… yeah, she did want them bad. The craving had been following her like an annoying child pulling at her sleeve. All she had to do was pay. Instead her heart beat frantically in her chest as if it were being repeatedly sucked by a plunger. It left her almost breathless. It felt as if it weren’t even part of her body anymore, a foreign object pushing and pulling on her insides.
It started on an ordinary Saturday. The one day she could potentially sleep in. Dream those deliciously detailed dreams she was so fond of. The ones that made Jessica smile in her sleep. The ones that depicted her as something other than herself. The ones that made her not want to wake up. Instead sunlight had annoyingly struck Jessica's face at 7:02. Groaning she glared at that one crack in the blinds that helped the rays find her. She lazily pushed the duvet aside and trudged to the kitchen, coffee now being the only acceptable reason to be up this early. Her mother was always up this early, she rolled her eyes laughing softly as she remembered. Her mother would try her hardest to stay quiet as the others slept, but she rarely succeeded, pots and pans clattering in hand. All her life, Jessica was up early. The early bird catches the worm after all. That’s what she would say, her mother, as she fixed her daughter a bowl of Cheerios.
Now she stood in the middle of the cereal aisle. It was a struggle walking in here alone, but as long as she kept her head down and focused on what she wanted, she could get the Cheerios and get out. The bigger problem was getting out. Jessica glanced up and squinted lightly, barely making out the cashier counter on the far end of the store, about three aisles down. She watched as people smiled and participated in idle chit-chat. It made her feel sick. The thought of having to interact with people unknown to her, it made her skin crawl. It made her sweat. Why give anyone the chance to judge you if it can be avoided by all costs. So that’s what she did.
Her mother would have been disappointed. She always wished Jessica would be more open, more trusting of humanity. To go out there and live. Instead she isolated herself. Her insecurities were left at the door. In her own space she was safe from the possible humiliation, inferiority, inadequacy, or self-consciousness. It was like a dark entity hidden in plain sight. It didn’t make her cry or frightened even. It just made her nervous. Uncomfortable. It impaired her ability to function normally on a daily basis and what’s even worse is she couldn't control it. It wasn’t just cashiers. For example, it was also being introduced to other people, meeting people of authority, having to speak in front of a group, one on one situations, or phone calls to people she didn’t know. Worst of all it was the words “I love you”. She said them rarely. Even to her family. When she did, she often didn’t mean it. She just said them because she didn’t want to come across a heartless robot. She felt forced.
People called her cold. She had accepted it. However, that made it worse too. It was a judgment she took upon herself and played the role of. She refrained from having much human contact and that did nothing but push people away. She watched everyone around her form friendships, romantic relationships even. She watched them laugh and compose inside jokes she would never understand. She watched them hold hands and hug, kiss and cuddle. She craved all of it. She wanted it. But her own brain hindered her.
She held the box tightly as she made her way down the aisle, towards the check out counter. She had already prepared the exact change to her purchase in order to make this public transaction as short as possible. Her breath quickened as the line shortened. She was next in line and her armpits were already drenched, forming dark blotchy circles on your grey t-shirt. Why didn't she wear the black shirt. This always happened. Hadn't she learned her lesson? She must look like a complete idiot. She was sure of it. People were probably staring at her. At her sweatiness, but she dare not look up. She didn't want to face the spectators. She kept her eyes on the box of cereal. On the memory of her mother.
– written by Actress In Reality