"My Essay" by Sebrina Dement- Semer

Dandelion fluff wishes blew through the air on the breath of a girl who could not help but dream. She was a girl who used her imagination to bring felt wings and mesh skirts to life. That girl would cut wild grass, mahogany trees and exotic starfruit out of paper and scatter them across the room just to create an indoor rainforest. She would look at the stitches weaving together the fabric of reality, running her hands along every thread. That girl loved the shape of the world beneath her fingertips. This was all that my four-year-old self needed. As time passed, other children forgot the fantasies and dreams of their early youth; mine only grew.

As I matured, my imagination has evolved from innocent dolls and games to more elaborate illusions brought to life straight from the fibers of my dreams. I thought up several imaginary friends while in middle school, and by the time I entered high school I was dragging seven children of various species into class with me every day. Everywhere I went, I had to hold their clawed hands and respond to their every crying need. Not a moment would pass without one of the older serpents biting the younger hipogriffs, and I would have to stop my work to tend to the brawling creatures. Of course, no matter how much work it was, whenever one of my monsters brought back a new friend or playmate, I kept them, and so my family grew.

My creations loved when I told my friends about them. They would listen eagerly as I detailed each of their histories. My afternoons were filled with my babies clamoring for attention, so I would lure them on field trips with imaginary cakes and sweets. It wasn’t long before teenage dragons were constantly berating me for not paying enough attention to them, despite my also having school and family engagements. Fafnir, the fussiest of my characters, demanded I make him famous, so I wrote him a book: a book of adventure with fire and deep caves, where humans use monsters to make textiles. Both my imaginary and real friends loved it. Soon, each member of my tribe worked with me to make stories to share with the real world.  

School became an outlet for my stories. My digital media class assignments were answered with animations of packs of singing panda angels. Creative writing homework brought forth short stories of fire foxes hiding from humans in the undergrowth. My art projects transformed into vast murals of winged serpents flying through gorges and canyons trying to return home. What were once merely stuffed animals supplemented by childhood wonder have now become dreamworld creations that write my stories with me.

The fantasy world that I had envisioned was budding into life, but it wasn’t enough. I need my dreamland to be more than just friendly conversations and school assignments; I want my dreams to be seen by the world, so others can see the joy and mystique of the monsters that once lived only in my head. The fantasy land that lies just out of reach of those who cannot dream is one that I always have been, and always will be, inspired by. I created a world I wanted to see using my art, my words, and my imagination. This world I made, and am still making, is one that is meant not just for me, but also for those who dream. I want to make movies, books, and games that other people can enjoy. I want to grab the arms of my friends and throw them into the clouds I float on while sleeping, and I want to create a world where anyone can look up and see nothing but wonder in the empty space.

"My Love" by Renee Mercado

If you were a dinosaur, my love, I'd be the asteroid that annihilates you, the inevitable end decided light-years before you laid eyes on me, a fate sealed the very moment the possibility of you existing was born. Your dreams already crushed into grains of sand, melted into glass by my enraged inferno, shattered millenniums before you could open your eyes, its dust being blown into those eyes, tainting your vision of the world from the start, as the shards of those useless aspirations are fed to you by those just as helpless as yourself. 

If you were an ocean, I'd be the pollution that fills you with oil and filth and the future of children, the global warming that heats you up, killing everything inside you, those you love floating lifelessly within your waters. A preventable cause that went ignored, a tumor gone unnoticed, growing slowly into the malignant being that binds you to a chair and forces you to rely on a metal vat to breathe, rooted too deep and found too late in your system to save you. 

My love, how wrong you were to cross me. To betray the hands that took pity upon you and conquered your demons for you, the hands that rose you from their ashes and fed and nurtured you, tended to your wounds as you recovered your strength and as you stole some of mine, like a bloodsucking leech with your mouth latched tightly onto my flesh, burning the surface with your toxic bile and infecting me with your unholiness. There is no honor in thievery. You were a helpless damsel in distress that I took a chance on, and now you're merely a miserable mortal in my eyes, scum, having nothing to offer but hate and disgust, memories that bring back nothing but pain. 

Oh, my dear, how you will pay for it all. My fists will rule the earth with the wrath of God, rain down fires that'll cleanse the earth of your sins. The roars of the flames will drown out your anguished cries, but you will never suffer enough. In no reality would anything that I could ever do match the amount of pain you had caused me. No number of plagues or wars would ever reach how much you'd hurt me, the absolute and complete eradication of all my faith in love and the inner turmoil you waged in my heart excels all that a nuclear holocaust has to offer. 

The extent of your evil goes beyond the sickest thing Lucifer could ever conceive. The righteous punishment I’ll inflict upon your disgraced soul will steal the very essence of your being, eat away at all that you believe in, just as you had done to me. Nothing and no one can save you. You're trapped in my game, forced to play by my rules. There's no escaping me, at least not until I decide so. I'll eventually become bored of your pathetic screaming and the torture will no longer be as fun. You'd have already gotten tired of crying and begging for mercy after finally realizing that there's no way out. If you still had some humanity left after all the torture I’d put you through, you'd lose it in no time as the isolation will drive you to insanity, thoughts that'd torture you more severely than I could myself, digging itself into the depths of your mind, creating a special hell just for you, finally leaving you a shell of person. The thoughts will suck you in and tear you apart from within, destroying your very existence, the person who your loved ones used to know. The process will be quick, and your death will mean nothing. No one will remember you.

"Joy Doesn't Mean Joyful" by Emily François

-- Emily is a student at Brooklyn Collaborative Studies. Special mention to her teacher, Dwight Jennings, for helping her with her story. 


Hey, sorry to bother you. Are you busy?
                                                                                                                     Read 11/27/17
Read. Read but not replied to. The date almost taunts me. Five days ago he read it. Seven
days ago I sent it. When is he going to reply? Knowing him, he just opened the message without
really reading it. It’s okay though. I know he’s really busy. That’s what happens when you’re in
college and working. I’m just a full-time college student so I can’t really understand what he’s
going through. He’s just busy that’s all.

Just busy.

I lock my phone, watching the message fade away from me. I know staring at it is just
going to make my mind race more. It’s just going to make me wonder more. I don’t have to
worry or wonder. I’m going to see him eventually. I’m going to talk to him again sometime soon.

I know I will.

I need to. It’s no longer a want. I need to see him, to speak to him. I just need to. I know
that sounds really clingy, and I hate being a clingy girlfriend, but it’s so much of a need now that
it feels like I’m off my medication again. My body and mind are so used to him being here,
talking to me, holding me, comforting me, that this period of absence is driving me crazy. It’s
like seeing my medication so close in reach but can’t grab it and take it. And if it’s one thing I
know about not taking my medicine, it’s really painful and hard to go without it. It’s
destabilizing.

Speaking of taking medication, I have to take my pills once this class ends. I’ll just wait
for Layla and Madelene to come and then when we go to lunch I’ll take them. Let’s hope they
don’t take too long. Those two girls are such social butterflies that they’re always stopping and
talking to someone. And I mean always. I’ll give them this when it comes to food they never take
too long. They always rush to get food, even if they want to continue talking. You’d think they
were in high school by the way they still act. Hey good for them, keep your youth as long as you
can.

I put my bag on my shoulder and leave the room. Now to meet up with those two and
then we can finally go eat. I need coffee. Like a whole large cup of espresso straight. Otherwise,
I’ll never be able to stay awake for the lecture I have at 3 o’clock. I’d be out like a light, and as
much as I’d love to sleep, cause God knows I need to, I cannot afford to miss this class. Quite
literally. Classes are too damn expensive for me to fail and that lecture today is really important.
By some miracle of God, if there is one, when I turn the corner, Layla and Madelene are already
there chatting up a storm. Yes, we can go get food now and my coffee and out of the crowds of
people.

“Took you long enough, Almond Joy. Aren’t you always here before us? What
happened?” Layla says.

“I didn’t pack up before the time so it took me a bit to grab my books.”

“You psychology majors and all your books.”

“You fashion majors and all your papers.”

Madelene laughs as Layla makes a face at me for mocking her. I may carry a lot of books
but at least I’m neat and organized. All her papers are all over the place but for her, it’s
organized chaos. I want to take out that organized part. It’s just chaos.

“What are you laughing at Miss Graphic Design? Your everything is everywhere. You
probably have the most stuff to keep track of out of us three,” Layla says, throwing her a smirk.

Madelene feigns being wounded, doing an extravagant gesture to match the look of fake
hurt on her face.

“Well, I’ve never. I am not that messy. I just have more products to hold and love,” she
says.

“Yeah yeah yeah. Let’s go get some food. I need coffee stat. I’m thinking we go get some
pizza and fries. It is Tuesday.” I say.

Their faces light up at the words and before my mind registers it I am being pulled by
both arms down the block.

They laugh and don’t let go of me. Lunch goes by and we have an enjoyable time
like we always do. Afterwards, classes just go by since it’s not hard for me to focus on what’s
going on.

Before I know it, I’m walking home.

It doesn’t take me long to get home, maybe thirty minutes top. I walk into the dark house.
We really need some light in here but no electricity cost money. Use as little as possible.

“Oh hello, Joy. How was your day?” Aunt April asks.

“It was good Aunt April. Nothing special really. How was yours?”

“It was fine. I did some grocery shopping and then the laundry. There was a great deal on
strawberries so I bought you a whole bunch.”

I smile. They’ll be gone in two days tops.

“Thanks. I’m going to my room now to do some work,” I say.

I walk past her and head to my room. As I pass the living room the familiar smell of
alcohol fills my nose. Uncle Dan is home.

“Hey, Uncle Dan. I’m home. I’ll be in my room if you need me.”

I get a grunt and a raise of his beer bottle in recognition as he continues to watch the tv. I
don’t pay it much mind though. It’s the normal routine after all.

I just go in my room and sit down on the bed, preparing to do homework. It’s only been
two years since I graduated high school but somehow the homework always seem to make me
feel like I’m back there.

On a good note, only one joy comment was made today. A typical “your name is joy so
be joyful” comment that I have been receiving since middle school.
I pull out my phone. I just want to check.

Hey, sorry to bother you. Are you busy?
                                                                                                                      Read 11/27/17
Still just read.
______________________________________________________________________________
“JOY! HEY JOY!”

I internally cringe and mentally curse. Out of all people to run into going to class. The
world must hate me. Maybe if I pretend that I didn’t hear her I could get away.

“HEY JOY WAIT UP!”

I sigh and stop walking as I see people beginning to look at me weird. Heck, I would look
at me weird too if a girl was loudly calling someone’s name and chasing after them. I guess I just
have to do what I do best. Fake smile, say some nice words, and then work my way out of the
conversation. It always works.

I turn around with my famous bright grin. My Joy grin.

“Adrianna what a surprise. It’s been so long since we’ve last seen each other,” I say.

“I know right. Last time we saw each other was graduation day. You had such a pretty
dress that day. You looked gorgeous.”

“Thanks. So how’s college life for you? Are you still dating that boy, uh Mathias right?
How is he? Still a cutie? You guys were so adorable together,” she says.

“Matthew, and yeah we’re still dating. He’s fine just a bit busy with college and work.
Aren’t we all,” I reply.

Time to get going. She’s slowly going into personal territory and I don’t appreciate that.

“Well it was nice seeing you again but I have to get going. I don’t want to be late to class.
You know what classes are like,” I say, slowly taking a step away.

She laughs but it sounds chilling. Not the chilling that’s scary but the chilling that
something terrible just happened and she finds it funny.

“Same old Joy. Tell me Joy dear, do your boyfriend and friends still have to deal with
your little habit? I see you still wear long sleeves. I thought I told you, you’re beautiful no matter
how many scars your arms have.”

My fingers do a little dance at the question on their own will. It’s a loaded question and
her smile is antagonizing. She knows what she’s doing. She always did.

“I’m just wearing my long sleeves because I’m always cold. You know I was always
cold. It is fall, I’m just being prepared. It’s nothing bad.”

“That’s great to hear. It was so tragic when the school found out about your habit. You
looked so unjoyful .”

Unjoyful. She throws the word carelessly but somehow with a point. A target. She did it
with a motive in mind.

I check my phone, pretending to check the time. I need to get out here and fast.
“Yeah, it was a rough time. I really have to go though, I’m going to be late to class if I
don’t start running now. It was a nice chat. Have a nice day Adrianna,” I say, turning on my
heels and speed walking my way out of there.

I walk as fast as my legs will take me. How dare she bring that up? That time out of all
the things. She wanted to see me squirm. Unfortunately, I don’t walk fast enough for my mind to
stay dormant. Instead, it springs to life.

Unjoyful.

I hate that word. It’s hurled at me as an insult, a scolding, a weapon. It’s no longer
viewed as a feeling when it comes to how people see me. It’s just something I never can be. I’m
not allowed to be.

I get to class right before it starts. I quickly take a seat and grab my notebook and a pen.
“Let’s get started. Open your books to page 391. We will be continuing our topic from
yesterday.”

The words go in my head but nothing is really processing. The discussion is just sitting
there. Notes go on my page but I have no clue what they really mean.

I drop my pen when I feel a sharp prick in my right arm. I look down and see my nails
digging into my arm through my shirt. How long have I been doing that? I bend down to pick up
my pen and on my way up I notice my leg shaking. Have I been doing that the entire time?

Come on Joy, what’s going on with you today? Today is just not my day. It’s okay
though. There are those days. It’ll be gone by tomorrow. Just try to focus now.
 

“I heard she cuts so much that her arms changed colors.”
 

“Well, I heard that she messed up a few times and on her arms, you could see the scars
going down the street instead of across the lane if you know what I mean.”

 

“That’s some joy she has huh?”
 

Snap out of it. Don’t let that girl bring up memories that were sworn never to return.

They’re unwanted.
 

“Just like you.”
______________________________________________________________________________
“You okay Almond Joy? You seem a little spaced out. It’s been like that for a few days
now.” Layla asks.

I take a sip of my coffee and shake my head. When I put my coffee down I give them
both a smile. Muscle memory.

“Yeah, I’m fine, just going over class notes in my head. That last lecture I had was not
something that I understood easily,” I say.
“If you weren’t so absent minded then maybe you would have understood better you
liar.”

It’s not true. It’s not true. It’s just in your head.

I go into my bag and grab my medicine bottle. I take out a pill and pop it in my mouth. It
only takes a swallow of water and the pill is gone. Now, all it needs to do is work.

“Didn’t you already take your two pills today?” Madalene asks.
“I don’t think so. I usually take it at lunch remember. I mean I don’t recall taking them. I
take them with my daily coffee,” I respond.
“Stop lying. You took two earlier. They saw you. You can’t fool them.”
Shut up.

“If you say so. We just don’t want you to take too much that’s all. You know what’s
medicine is like,” Layla says.

“Don’t worry about it. I’m cool. I just don’t want to forget about it. You know how
terrible it is when I don’t take my medication. With all the work I’ve been doing, I’ve even
forget to stop writing and go eat,” I say, trying to sound joking.

“Of course. Leave it to worker Joy to drown herself with work. See, you deserved this
lunch. You should thank us for taking you to lunch early today. And you wanted to skip it. You
should take advantage when your class gets canceled. We sure do,” Madelene says.

The rest of my day goes by in a blur, like all my days have been this last week. Ever since
I had the unfortunate opportunity to run into Adrianna my mind hasn’t been able to focus on
anything really. Nothing but those thoughts. The ones that shouldn’t be there.

I walk home as quickly as I can. The walk home is one of my danger zones. I feel my
mind chastise myself every time I don’t have a light smile on my face while walking.
 

“They’re looking at you. Smile. You have to smile.”

I have to smile. There’s nothing wrong with smiling. Smiling is the first step to being
happy. Everyone wants to be happy. I have to be happy. I need to be happy. Right? Right??

The walk is quiet if you take away my loud thoughts. As quiet as it could be in the city.
Well, I guess this is a quiet city. It’s not like New York or anything so it’s definitely quiet
compared to that. I unlock the front door to the house and enter the dark house.

“You’re back early. Were your friends were busy today?” Aunt April asks.
Uncle Dan stands there too with his signature beer bottle in one hand and his other
reaching for another beer in the refrigerator.

“I just have a lot of work to work on,” I reply, smiling.
I watch as Aunt April continues to write her checklist which is most likely for tomorrow.
Always doing something.
“So did you and Uncle Dan figure out if you’re coming to my college community festival
Saturday? I’ll be running a booth.”

“Oh, we’d love to but I’ll have to see if I could make the time. You know how things are
sometimes. Lines here, people there.”

“Yeah yeah I get it,” I give a fake chuckle, “don’t worry about it Aunty. If you can’t
make it then it’s okay.”

I’m not going to hold it against her really. It’s known that she’s usually busy. Her big
heart let’s her say yes to every favor someone asks of her along with the chores she already has
to do. She’s such a sweet woman and I love her for it.

It still kinda hurts though. They never come to anything of mine. Not in middle school,
not in high school, and not in college. The only thing they came to was my high school
graduation.

“Mom and Dad always came to all of your events.”
 

I internally wince at the thought. Those memories are too happy to look back on. Just too
hard to think about.

“We’ll see,” she says.

I silently take that as a no and turn to head to my room.

“You know you should smile more. Your parents named you Joy for a reason you know,”
Uncle Dan finally says from behind me.

“I know.”

I walk away and go to my room. I drop my bag on my bed and begin to dig through it. I
take out my medicine again. Before any thoughts could go against it, I take another pill and
throw it in my mouth. I take the water bottle from my bag and take a gulp.
Taking more medicine. Damn.

‘Only take two a day’
 

That’s not happening. I want these thoughts gone. The medicine is supposed to help me.
It’s supposed to help with it all. It’s been helping ever since it was first prescribed so why isn’t
two pills not working anymore? Days go by, 2 pills, 3 pills, 4 pills. I know I can get sick from
taking this much but I really need this gone.

I remember the days I used to come into my room and listen to music to feel better which
slowly faded into writing which faded into drawing. Now it’s just filled with pills, pills, and
more pills as I try to forget the dangerous thoughts that plague my mind.
I unlock my phone and go to my messages.

Hey, sorry to bother you. Are you busy?
                                                                                                           Read 11/27/17
Still just read. My thumbs hover over my keyboard as I debate on sending another
message to him.

“Don’t be such a clingy girl. He would text you if he had the free time. You’re just
bothering him.”

He would text me if he had the time. I put down the phone and sit at my desk.
“Don’t be such a clingy girl. He would text me if he had the free time. I’m just bothering
him.”

______________________________________________________________________________
The festival looks beautiful.

Everyone seems to be having such a good time. It's lively and pretty crowded. I actually
didn't expect this many people to show up. I mean I heard that these events can be really fun and
buzzing but I didn't think it would be like this. I guess I should've come to these last year when I
wasn't in charge of running a booth. It seems like people really enjoy it.

No Aunt April or Uncle Dan though.

I knew they wouldn't show up. They never ever do. Uncle Dan won't go anywhere that
doesn't have alcohol unless Aunt April drags him and Aunt April is always too busy with her
stuff to ever to go somewhere that's not on her list. I wish they were here.
I wish they would just come for me.

"They'd have to care about me to do that. All I ever do is put more work on them. It's not
a big thing if they don't want to come."
Still hurts though. Everyone wants a bit of support. Especially when they work hard on
something.
 

"Mom and Dad would have been here having a great time."
I miss them. Now is not the time though to think about that. Just enjoy the festival.
"Just be joyful."

People come and go to my booth and I find myself waiting for the person who will take
the next shift to come more and more. It's not that I don't like to do this, I just feel
uncomfortable. For once in my life, my forced smile actually feels forced. It feels unnatural. I
don't like it.

"Woah Joy are you okay?"

Layla and Madelene finally walk up to my booth. I thought they weren't going to come
either.
 

"They probably felt bad for me and came."
 

"You look like you haven't slept in days. How long has it been since you last slept? You
look like you're going to pass out," Madelene says.

The truth is it feels like I am too. I was able to hide a bit better earlier in the week but
now I guess it's really showing. I haven't slept in a few days and the sleep I got before my nights
of staying awake was not that good to begin with. My body is as drained as my emotions.
"I'm fine. I just didn't get much sleep last night that's all. A bit of sleep is all I need," I
reply.

"You need a lot of sleep. Your eyes have dark circles around them. It almost looks like
you were punched in the eyes. You need sleep asap. It's probably all that work you've been
doing. Your mind is so used to working and thinking that it's keeping you up at night," Layla
says.

My mind is definitely keeping me up at night. It won't shut up. Not even for a second. It's
as if it hates the silence so it must keep on going.
"Once the next person comes to take their shift, I think I'm just going to go home. I got to
see some other booths before I had to come here so I won't be missing anything really," I
respond.

I know though even if I go home nothing is going to change. I'm going to go in my room,
just to try to ignore Uncle Dan's choosing drinking over me and Aunt April choosing work
instead of me. I'm going to sit on my bed and take two extra pills that I know my body doesn't
need. I'm going to pray to whoever cares that the medicine works for once and stops the voices
and thoughts. Then I'm going to hear the thoughts get louder and I'm going to throw myself in
work or try to sleep. Nothing will change.

"That may be a good idea for you. We hope you get some sleep. If it means anything, we
really enjoy this festival. It's amazing. You all did such a great job," Madelene says.
I'm glad they did. I would hate it if they hated this festival after I invited them here.
 

"They're probably just saying that to make me feel better."
 

"I'm glad you guys do. I wanted you guys to have a good time. Sorry I look so terrible. I
think that's why kids ran away from the booth. I think I scared them," I say.
Parents also gave me strange looks throughout the time. I must look like the walking dead
right now.

"I think it's because they never saw someone so beautiful so they had to run away and tell
someone about the lovely girl they saw," Layla says.
 

"Stop lying to me."
 

"You're too kind. I'm sure it was because of my eyes though."
I'm a hideous person at this moment in time so I doubt kids were telling others about my
quote on quote beauty.

"You guys go on now. Continue to enjoy the festival. My replacement should be here
soon," I say.

"If you say so. Be good Almond Joy. Go get some sleep okay," Layla says.

"I'll definitely try to," I reply.

The two walk away to go on to other booths. At least they seem to be enjoying
themselves. They always do.
 

"Why can't I be like that? Happy, cheerful, enjoying everything. Why am I stuck in the
dumps?"

Eventually, my replacement comes and I thank him for taking my spot, even though that's
what he's supposed to do. I step out of the booth, glad to finally have the chance to go home,
even though I'm only going home to just suffer.

"Hope you'll be okay. They ask a lot of questions," I tell him.

"I'll be fine, thanks for the heads up," He says.
I begin to walk away but even my tired ears catch things I'm not supposed to hear.
"So unjoyful for someone named Joy."
 

"I did something wrong again. I have to be joyful. People think I'm not joyful."
I turn around and with all my energy I give him a smile as bright as I can. It takes a lot
out of me but it’s needed.

"Have fun. Thanks again," I say, trying to sound as cheerful as possible.

I turn back around before he can say anything and hightail it out of there. I weave in and
out of the crowd with my only goal being to get home.
I failed again at the only thing I'm supposed to do in life.

Be joyful.

I walk as fast as possible, trying to escape.
 

"They look happy. Oh, she looks happy too. That couple seems really happy. Everyone
here seems happy. All except me."

 

My fast walk becomes a light jog as my thought bombard me with more happy people.
 

"Why can't I be happy? Why can't I be happy?"
 

I run my fingers through my hair, tugging on it as my breath becomes harder to catch.
My feet skid to a stop as my eyes land on a family. A mother, a father, and a little girl. I
can see the true happiness in the girl's eyes. Her smile is real. Her laugh is real. Her joy is real.
 

"That can never be me."
 

That's when everything goes quiet.

Everything passes by like a blur and the wind slaps my face. I don't see the people around
me. All I hear is the sound of those screeching tires from that day. All I can hear is the sound an
11-year-old me screaming for my now dead parents. All I can see is the day silence found its
way to my heart.

And with those memories, all I can do is run.

I run out of the crowd. I run down blocks. I run home. I just run. I run trying to escape
that day. I run trying to escape the joy I'll never have. I run just trying to escape.
It doesn't work though.

As I enter the house, silence overtakes me even more. No one is home. I'm all own.
Again and again and again I'm alone when what I need is someone to hold me. Someone to hold
that 11-year-old girl and tell her it's okay. Someone to tell her that she doesn't have to smile. She
doesn't have to be joyful. All she has to do is keep going and be human. Not some emotion.
I immediately run to my room and lock the door. I pace around the room, pulling and
tugging at my hair, gasping for air. I'm breathing much too fast for my lungs to function
properly.
 

"Be happy. Be happy. Just. Be. Happy."
 

No wrong word. Joyful. Just be joyful.

But I can't. I can't be joyful. I haven't been joyful since that stupid day. I haven't been
joyful and I try and try to be. I try so hard but I can't be joyful.

My eyes catch sight of my medication on the desk. The medication is supposed to help
me.
 

"It can put me to sleep. I can go to sleep and wake up with mom and dad. I can go to
sleep and not bother anyone again."

 

I unlock my phone and my hand goes to my messages. There are only five people I text.

Only five people I constantly bother.

I can't tell them this in a text though.

I go to my desk and turn on my laptop. I sign into my Facebook account and turn on the
camera. This is for the better. This is the best.
I take a shaky breath and press start.

"Hi everyone, my name is Joy Bleu. My parents gave me the name Joy because, as they
once told me, I was the joy of their life. My parents died when I was 11 and ever since then I
couldn't live up to my name. Who was I supposed to be a joy for? People always told me that I'm
supposed to be joyful, it is my name. Even though that wasn't why I was given my name, I still
felt terrible every time I wasn't joyful. I felt useless like I failed my only purpose in life."
My hands fidget under my desk as I feel my body shake more and more. My eyes begin
to burn and I know that they are watering up.

"Here's the truth though, I'm not always joyful. I suffer from depression. I haven't had a
joyful day in years without the darkness swallowing me whole. Joy is my name but it's not my
personality. It is not who I have to be. But to everyone else, it's what I have to be so I'm here to
tell you all sorry."

Here I go. This is for them.

"To my Aunt and Uncle, I'm sorry you had to raise me so suddenly. When Mom and Dad
died, you took me in and suddenly had to raise a kid you never expected to had. I'm sorry that
you had to go through the struggles of going to the doctor's with me and the therapist. I'm sorry
you had to raise a niece so unexpectedly and I'm sorry I wasn't an easy kid. I’m sorry I didn’t tell
you how much I love you in the years I lived with you. I’m sorry that I was never able to tell you
how much it actually meant to me that you took me in after everything. I’m so sorry."

"To my two best friends Layla and Madelene, I'm sorry you had to go through so much
with me. I'm sorry that you had to remind me a lot in high school to take my medicine. I'm sorry
that you to deal with my constant hugs and close walking to you. I'm sorry that I'm telling you
this in a video. I love you both and you guys are like sisters to me."

Now tears begin to flow down my cheeks. My right-hand digs its nails into my left wrist.
It stings but it doesn't hurt me. Sharp objects never hurt me. No matter how many times I used
one, how much I dug it into my skin, no matter how much I bled, it never hurt.

"To my boyfriend Matthew, I love you so much. I know you're busy at times and I'm
sorry that I'm so clingy. I'm sorry that I always want affection. I'm sorry that you had to be there
when I decided to stop taking my medicine because I wanted to be 'normal'. I'm sorry that you
had to hold my hand when all I could do was cut and cut until my arms were red. I'm sorry you
had to watch all of that. I only ever wanted to make you happy but I just brought you sad
moments. I love you and the years we have been together. I'm sorry I couldn't hug and kiss you
one last time before this."

A part of me thought that maybe if I get these words out that I would reconsider and just
forget about going to sleep. That's not the case though. If anything, my thoughts are pushing me
more and more to it.

"To anyone and everyone who feels like they just can't find joy but are forcing a smile for
the world, I'm sorry. I'm sorry that you are like me. I'm sorry that you have to smile even though
you're hurting. This isn't one of those cases where if you're positive and smiling you'll feel better.
You don't have to smile. Tell someone, please. Tell someone and let them help you find your joy.
If my purpose in life is to bring joy then let me tell you this. Go find your joy and take someone
with you. Take your medicine if you have to. Talk to your therapist if need be. Paint, write, draw,
dance. Do something. Do something before you get to the point of emptiness where not even
what you love makes you feel better. Do something before you reach the point where medicine
doesn't work and talking doesn't help. Do something before you reach my point."
For the last time in my life, I force a smile. It isn't for the camera though. It's for
me. It's what I'll be giving up.

"So that's all, you guys. I just wanted to say sorry. I guess this is it. I only have one more
thing to say. Joy doesn't mean joyful. Goodnight guys."

I leave the camera rolling as I grab my medicine and take off the top. I pour all the
remaining pills, which isn't a lot but enough for what I need. I grab my water bottle and down the
hatch, they go.

I stop the video and upload it. By morning time, everyone I care about will see it. I leave
the video up and open so Aunt April and Uncle Dan can see it. It's time to lay down.
I take off my clothes and put on my pajamas. No fear, no worries, nothing. My mind is
calm for the first time in weeks as I lay down on my bed and get under the covers.

I close my eyes.
________________________________________________________________________
Screams filled the air the next morning as one couple finds their niece peacefully not
moving or breathing. The only thing on her is a smile. A real smile.

Ambulances swarm the streets and paramedics fill the house. But it's too late to save her.
The couple watches over and over her video. The wife for once doing nothing on her list
for the day and the husband refusing to touch even a single drop of alcohol.

“My little girl! No not my girl! Please don’t take away my little girl!” The wife screams,
breaking down as paramedics cover the girl’s body.
She cries into her hands as her husband holds her tightly. He dares to let the tears welling
in his eyes to fall. Why didn’t they see her pain earlier? Why didn’t they go to her festival? Why
didn’t they just spend more time with her?

“You were our joy,” the husband whispers hoarsely as he just listens to his niece’s video.
She said she was no one’s joy anymore but little did she realize how much of a joy she
was to the people who cared for her since she was eleven. She was their joy and now she’s gone.
Across town, two girls scream and cry as they rewatch the video. They prayed it was all
just a terrible dream but when they got that call from their beloved friend's uncle, they knew it
was real. They cried harder as they were told of her smile resting on her dead face. She went as if
she was only going to sleep for the night.

Papers and books are thrown as everything about them remind the two of her. They didn't
even get to say goodbye to her. How could this have happened? Is this their fault? Why couldn’t
they tell that all those smiles were fake?

“No it isn’t real! It’s not real! I want to see Joy! She’s going to wake up!”
Their screams mix with each other as they cry, wishing they did more for their friend.
They wish they could’ve helped her more, been with her more, watched her more. They wish
they were there.

But sad to say, those were not the only reactions.

A young man comes home that day from working a late night shift. It's a blessing for him
when he takes off his shoes and sits down with a glass of cool water in his hand. He opens his
laptop knowing that he has only so many hours before he has to go to class and there's still a bit
more work to do before he can get some rest.

A notification waits for him there and he sees that his girlfriend posted a video last night.
He clicks to watch it.

Shattering glass echoes in the house as the video plays. He mumbles no over and over to
himself as he watches her cry. He feels his own face become wet as she talks to him. And he
feels his heart stop as she says goodnight.

His breathing is no longer clear as he watches her take those pills. His mind no longer
works as the video stops. He no longer knows what to do.

He takes out his phone, his lock screen being him and his girlfriend together in the park.
He unlocks it and goes to his messages. He looks at her last message sent weeks ago.

Hey, sorry to bother you. Are you busy?
 

His fingers begin to move without thought as his tears blur his vision and cover his
screen. A small sob escapes his mouth as he types.

I'm sorry I was.

                                                                                                                 Sent 11:54 AM

 

-- Emily is a student at Brooklyn Collaborative Studies. Special mention to her teacher, Dwight Jennings, for helping her with her story.