I steady my breathing, clumsily adjusting my backpack straps which always end up annoyingly uneven, no matter what I do. Stopping before a set of doors, I quickly run through a list of how to seem confident that I stole from the internet. Pathetic, I know. I roll back my shoulders, tilt my head up, and toss back my hair just for good measure. Then I take a step into the unknown, otherwise known as a high school cafeteria.
I glance around, and immediately know that I’m the center of everyone’s eyes and whispers, fresh meat slapped hastily onto a cutting board. The reasonable part of my brain tells me otherwise, but unfortunately, it never seems to win. I head towards the back where everyone seems to throw their trash, as if the short walk to the garbage bin is simply too much for them. I skillfully step in between a half eaten sandwich and spilled milk carton before settling down. Nobody comes up to me as I eat my cold mac and cheese. Not that I expected them to.
Fresh meat may not have been the right word to use. I’m more like stale rotisserie chicken. I finish my lunch too fast, leaving me sitting awkwardly with nothing to do. I can hide in the bathroom, but that seems too pathetic, even for me. I feel the pull of the books I stuffed in the bottom of my backpack, and only after nobody’s looking, I pull one out.
As soon as the velvety paper hits my hands I feel my head clear, and I let out a slow breath. I flip it open to my torn bookmark, advertising a library I lived by just days ago. I am still faintly aware of the people around me, with their judgments and invisible thoughts. But it’s so worth it. I slip into a world where I’m suddenly a hopeless romantic, my latest favorite character to become and condemn. I constantly change my skin, but at least I belong in every single new world the words bring to life. Every single one.