I hate walking around school. The crowded corridors of odd teenage faces, all different features, all different emotions. Some have glasses. Some have crooked teeth. Some shave their hair at the side. Most of them travel in packs of fives or sixes or sevens. Some just stick with their best friends, walking close and sharing secrets. I walk alone and avoid eye contact. I love to look at people and their faces, their eyes, their emotions, their skin complexions, their clothes. But I fear the response. Some makes me cry. Some hurts. I wish there was such thing as a people zoo, where I could observe humans in an enclosure, separated from them by thick glass. Only I think I am the one on the wrong side of the glass, and everyone is paying to see me. They want to poke me with sticks and take photos and say how I’m such a weird looking creature.
I wish I could slink away inside myself, under layers and layers of my fake, built-up identity that I’ve spent years creating. I would hide in the smallest layer like the baby Russian doll. When I had Russian dolls, I’d always end up loosing the smallest one. It’d drop somewhere and go missing down the back of the cabinet or get kicked under the sofa or accidentally get hoovered up. I think that’s what happened to me. I got dropped somewhere along the way and now I think I’m trapped under the sofa, and it’s dark and stuffy and scary in here and I can always hear and feel people around me. I can only see them from certain angles but I don’t think they really notice me. They just notice the outside layer of me that’s still on the top shelf.
The biggest Russian doll is always the prettiest. She is larger, so it is easier to focus on the smaller details: the exact positioning of her freckles, the creases on her lips, every single eyelash the same length as all the others. But I haven’t figured out if she’s the prettiest because her size makes it easiest to design, or if she’s the prettiest because she’s the one on show. As you go through to the smaller dolls, their quality slowly declines until you reach the tiniest who is half the size of your pinky finger and her eyes are nothing more than black dots and her dress is one colour with no fancy designs of pink flowers or golden embroidery like the larger version. I am the smallest version. The real version. The forgotten version.
If I really was an animal at the zoo, I’d like to be a tortoise as they can hide away in their shell all day. The shell isn’t them but it’s a part of them that looks nice and protects them, so that’s something I’d like. Or I’d be an African snail and do the same. Or a chameleon. I’d change colours to blend in with the background and close my eyes tight so I’m never found. Then all the tourists peering in at my enclosure won’t be able to find me and they’d move on to the next one, bored.
But I think my case is, I’ve been moved to another enclosure and I’m with all the other animals now and they’re big wolves and lions and tigers and rhinos, that could take me down with one hit. I’m just a tiny being, trying to get along to the rest of the year where my exams will be over and I’ll be free, never to return. Let’s hope I don’t fall to pieces on the way.