I began writing when I was eleven, but only started writing lyrics when I was sixteen. Every night my dad would pull out his guitar and play riffs from 80’s classics, and so one day I tried it myself. The first riff I learnt was I See Fire. It was official. I was hooked.
It wasn’t long before I adapted some lyrics to a simple guitar strum and picking, and initially titled the song I Don’t Belong.
Tell Answer me this
do I does it end?
I know it does
all all my atoms
But do I
My non-existent you cannot fathom
This story cannot
defend pretend That I deserve a bad end
School used to be an escape for me, but from Grade 5 onwards, its role had reversed. Communicating with friends made my insides squirm – I was always anxious of what word I said wrong or what look I gave someone to make them invite all my friends, but me, to their birthday party.
I was great at being alone. But surrounded by peers, and without the steady hand of my parents to guide me, I was dangerously co-dependent.
I remember the first time I went on the school bus, in Grade 10. The honk was jarring as it came to a squeaky stop in front of me. It was an effort to stand, and swallow, and I already missed home even before my feet met the bus platform. I zipped my jacket up, but being as thin as I was, the effort was in vain. I had no control of my body temperature or my non-existent appetite.
To pause or play
control a remote
we don’t I don’t we don’t have We are I am We are cowardice
My sense of control was spiralling: I was often called a control freak, but could I be one if I were simply trying to regain the control I had lost? The control to be warm, the control to be hungry, the control to look how I wanted to look – the control to choose. I had none. The world was pushing me to and fro, and my state of existence was solely dependent on where the wind blew and the choices of those around me. I wanted to cut my hair, but I’d look too sickly, and I wanted to change my name, but that’d be too dramatic.
As the bus rolled up in front of my high school, anticipation writhed in my stomach – it made me feel ill. I awaited the usual greeting from my friends, as my feet met the thin layer of cold rainwater – but Casey, Meredith, Bri, and Lulu paid no mind to me, even as I walked down the path to the assembly.
I was unsure if people bullying me or not acknowledging my existence was better.
Ring me up
And throw me
throng crowd tramples me around about
Candles * have no use
^ with handles
What person would
need want light
When they thrive in the dark?
I could barely hear their whispers, but I knew they were talking about me. My grade was called into the auditorium for a speech from the principal. However, I was not focused on her words:; all I could focus on was the monotone drawls coming from behind. It was just my luck that the bullies found free seats from the row directly behind me.
They began talking louder, and I knew it was because they wanted me to hear.
‘I can’t believe she looks like that,’ one of them snickered.
‘She’s such a liar – she’s too thin to do anything,’ another chimed in, laughing.
If I had the courage, I might have turned around and told him to look in the mirror. But it would’ve been a shit comeback anyway.
‘What’s wrong? Are you crying? You’re already too ugly. You can’t cry.’
He was following closely behind me as we exited the auditorium. His voice was needlessly harsh, cutting deep into an already opened wound. He was repeating the same old script. So many people repeated it to me that I became convinced there was something wrong with me, because the only common denominator was myself.
‘You’re so fucking ugly. You’re such a liar! You’re so thin you look like you’re going to die. You might die before you kill yourself!’
As I write this now, I still wonder if I am recalling correctly. Perhaps this says less about them, and more about how I view myself.
To dance or to sing
What is true? I have They have no clue
It needs some passion
None comes from you
With my head held low, I weaved through the bustling crowd. The chilly wind managed to slip between the cracks and make its way to my pale gooseflesh. As I reached my friends, I released a tolling breath.
‘Hey,’ I sighed.
Despite trying my best to seem happy, the dread that settled itself in my stomach from the hour-long cry prevented me. I noticed that a few of my friends had yet to notice me.
‘I saw you at the front, but I think you didn’t see me.’
An awkward silence blanketed my friendship group of twelve. I glanced around and noticed that a few of my other friends were just as confused as me.
I snapped out of my confusion and side-stepped in front of Casey. She stared right through me. Some of my other friends stared at me then, and the scathing judgement in their eyes became abundantly clear to me. It felt as if the world had slowed in its spinning. Slowly but surely rotating off its axis, assuring that soon chaos would collapse the atmosphere.
I stepped in front of Meredith.
She could not see me.
I could already feel the pressure collapsing my lungs. The lack of oxygen clouded my mind as I hyperventilated. I wished that I had a remote of the world, or rather, of time. So that I could pause or play at my own leisure – but in that moment, I was utterly devoid of control.
‘Bri?’ I squeaked. My throat was tightening with each tense second. ‘Lulu?’
To them, I was a ghost.
My stomach was that of stone, and my eyes shiny little pebbles. I did not allow myself to cry: not about how I looked too thin; how I convinced myself that I was going to die; or how my entire friendship group went to Movie World without me. And even as Casey’s eyes stared directly through mine, no tears were permitted to meet my lips.
The bell rang, and I paced towards the library. It was there I stuffed myself between bookshelves and finally allowed the sorrow to meet my clammy cheeks.
dead? a ghost?
To you am I dead?
Have I met my final bed?
You cannot You can’t see me, or are you pretending?
To you my words are left
from my on my lips fall into nothing
To you is this
Can you see me descending?
The sun bore down on my shoulders as I lazily dragged a lead pencil across notebook pages. I welcomed the warmth as the winter cold seeped itself deep into my thin and pale limbs. The pervasive thoughts of my worthlessness had lessened since I left school. Though I still often had the thought that I might be better off not existing.
I turned sixteen shortly before I dropped out of high school. Casey, Meredith, Bri, and Lulu were not invited to my birthday party, and I’d taken to ignoring them myself – but they did not seem to care. What friends I did have left were divided. They were still friends with the others and ultimately prioritised them over me. But I could not fault them – four over one, right?
I had regained some control over my life. I changed my hair colour and cut it off. I continued to seriously consider changing my legal name, and though the thoughts became less intrusive, a part of me still wanted to – really wanted to.
I always wanted to escape from something.
With a wispy sigh, I turned the pages of my lyric notebook and stopped at the very last page. I found an odd comfort in watching the tear slowly soak into the ink of the title: I Don’t Belong Paradoxes Don’t Live Long.
I exist, yet
not at all I do not
Count down the clock
belong live long I am not from this world
I am not of this world
I don’t belong
I find it quite ironic that I happened to revisit this memoir exactly two years after it’s inception. I still wonder how much of my past experiences were accurate and—with time and hindsight—how shrouded in poetic language and metaphor my memories really are.
It’s been six years since I stuffed myself between bookshelves in the high school library – a lot has happened since then. I continued to cut and dye my hair, I’ve gotten to a healthier weight, I continued to write lyrics, and in the end, I changed my name. I have learnt a lot in the past two years, but I still struggle. I have yet to get over this mountain, but for now, I’ll stay perched on this cliff.
At least, I’ve come to accept myself as the paradox I am.
Author: Euri Glenn is a Jambreen/Tamborine Mountain based writer, and a third-year Creative Writing student at QUT who is currently working on a novel based in a post-apocalyptic Gold Coast Hinterland. In every story, she seeks to inspire change for the better of the world and the creatures who dwell within it. You can find more of her work in ScratchThat’s 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th, and 13th Issues, QUT Glass’ 14th Issue, and @euri.chelsea.glenn on Instagram.
Artist: Cyndra Galea (she/they) is in the third year of her Bachelor of Fine Art’s in Creative Writing with a minor in Professional Communications. When not found with her head in a book or three, Cyndra can be found radioactive antique hunting, fixing classic cars with her dad, drawing on her iPad, or writing and editing her manuscript. Cyndra aims to work as a structural editor when she finishes her Masters of Editing and Publishing, but also dreams of releasing novels of their own.
Editors: Bea Warren and Breeh Botsford