This is the ‘other side’ of me… The side that nobody has seen or understands.
The bell signals the end of class. Books and folders slam shut, chairs scrape the floor, feet pound.
She rises before the others. He folder is already closed; the bag already upon her back. She strides out the classroom door, ahead of the throng.
The door to the girl’s bathroom is heavy. She pushes it open slowly, taking care not show the agitation burning in her veins. She steps into the bathroom. The grey walls sport irregular patterns of large white squares; the B.O.T’s hasty solution to hiding last terms graffiti. The row of basins beneath the stained mirror are littered with chip packets, discarded lunches and puddles of murky water. The entire bathroom smells of a foul combination of paint, shit, cigarette smoke and cleaner. She ignores the state of the empty bathroom and walks into a cubicle.
The inside walls of the tiny cubicle are a festival of penned graffiti. The sanitary bin is foully stained and nearly overflowing. The toilet itself is in dire need of cleaning; the black plastic seat is cracked and rough, and the cistern has long since lost its whiteness. Cigarette ash fills every crack and crevice.
She shuts the cubicle door firmly and slides the latch into place. Footsteps clatter into the bathroom, doors slam shut separately and the sound effects begin. She stands for a few moments, hugging her folder to her chest for comfort. Alone in the damp, dirty cubicle.
Slowly, she places the folder on the floor and unzips her bag. She digs deep inside, searching with anxious fingers. Where… where is it? Then her fingers close around the smooth plastic sheath. Calmer, she draws it from the bag, the black plastic warming in her sweating palms. She is now oblivious to her surroundings; every little bit of concentration is focused on the small black craft knife in her hand.
She presses the knob on the side and slowly slides the silver blade out of the sheath.
The bathroom is deserted once more. Students have gone to the next class. There is little time. She pushes her left sleeve up past her elbow and brings the knife to her arm. The sharp blade tears the flesh almost effortlessly. She presses harder, lengthening each slash, driving the blade in as far as she can bear. Blood rushes to the new openings, filling the gaping flesh. Streams of crimson run down her arm and drip onto the concrete floor. The bright splashes of red exclaim loudly on the grey concrete.
She takes the knife away. Slides the bloodied blade back into its sheath. The panic and fear inside her has gone, bled out of her body in crimson streams. She now feels a deep calm washing over her. Her heart has slowed to its normal rhythm, and she can breathe again.
A thick wad of toilet paper serves as a cloth. She cleans the blood away and drops the reddened tissue into the toilet bowl, where the already grey water turns pink.
She will be late for class, but it does not matter. She unlocks the cubicle, gathers her bag and folder, and strides calmly out of the bathroom. Her anxiety has gone. Her relief has been met. She can return to the world.