Laughter rolled around them, filling the large restaurant with the mirth exploding from her friends. Her own voice joined in, lost in the cacophony that was their happiness. She opened her mouth to speak, throat poised in its exhalation of her words. Something grabbed her, working its way through her gut, and suffusing her face and body with an unbearable flash of heat. Tears lingered beneath the surface, but she closed her mouth and smiled, eyes sparkling. These moments of melancholy were familiar. They often left her reticent, and distant. Among large groups, filled with friends who cared for her, it was usually easy to hide the shift in mood. Still, the ease with which she could accomplish this–undetected, and undeterred–could hurt as much as the paranoia warping her thoughts, and feeding the melancholy.
“Have you guys seen that one yet? With that guy from–“
Their voices rose in tandem: one denying; another confessing to having seen promos only. A few repeated “witty one-liners”, shaking from their own jokes before they could even get the words out. Words left her mouth as she added her own story, only to be lost among the changing tides of conversation. Laughter rose again, her own stamping its feet among the others, almost desperately hysterical. Her teeth clacked together, biting the grating noise of her laughter in half. Cold, she wrapped her arms around her waist self-consciously, and tried again to make her voice heard in the unnaturally happy crowd. Eventually, she gave up, and waited for the night to end, wedged tightly between her two best-friends.
Their feet hung over the railing–food cartons, bottles, and wrappers laid out between them. She was telling some funny story, the rise and fall of her voice scintillatingly pleasant within her ears. They grasped their bellies, laughing so hard they could only gasp for air. At times, when they found themselves like this, she could almost fool herself into believing that the girl sitting beside her–pondering the very existence of existence–could fill the vacuum the former best-friends had left.
“Do you ever wonder if there’s a place for us? You know, the real kind where we’re not always self-conscious, or too awkward,” the girl asked.
She looked at her fingers, following the curve of each slightly misshapen nail, and chose her words as carefully as she chose her thoughts. She had long stopped asking herself these questions, content to believe they were an echo of her own unreasonable insecurities. To know that this girl she’d marked as normal, could have them, too, was almost reassuring. There was also something terribly sad in the thought that no one escaped such fears.
“I think there can be a place where we feel like if we left, it would change the world some.
“It’s the kind of place you can sit beside the person you care about the most, and be absolutely certain, that all you need is that pocket of time, and understanding silence to help you get through the really difficult things in life.”
She paused, and the girl beside her nodded pensively, turning away. Still, she heard the words quite clearly.
“I wonder if I’ll ever find that.”
She looked out at the world around them, bright lights glowing, and a steady hum to the activities swirling beneath their feet. “You will in time.”
She was about to say more, but their friends came up behind them, dropping in noisy piles. Playful jests filled the night air, and she pressed her lips together. The melancholy set it self upon her, and she was hot, and cold, all at once. Soon, she joined them, but the lilt of her voice remained lost to her. Twirling the bottle closest to her, she laughed until her stomached ached, amused by the girl’s humour, and self-confident antics. Perhaps, the girl was searching in the wrong place.