I can feel their eyes on me


Kelsey Dantuma

View from the patio of the Downtown Market–I love to write up here.

Twelve has always been one of my favorite numbers. I’ve seen it as symmetry, wholeness, fullness; its perfection has always been a glowing idealogy in those moments where my vision blurs and my mind cascades into the blackness—the nothingness.

My brother always used to point out my inclination towards the static, commenting on the times when my eyes blanked and my mouth morphed into a slim grimace. In all honesty, I’m not really sure what I found painful; I suppose there’s always something brimming the surface of my mind that I don’t want to talk about. But I find that I dance across the thin line of talking too much and saying too little, always scared someone isn’t listening but never really wanting them to hear what I have to say.

I would consider myself to be more of a thirteen: my popcorn ceiling tells me so. I say things to her often, twelve-like things, things that contradict the lack of substance underneath that causes the dizziness from standing up and explains why I am always sitting down. She’s heard it all, but she’s cold and rotting and has yellowed spots that stick out against the starkness—her weakness and her fault, so what does her opinion matter anyway?

She’s heard it all, but she’s cold and rotting and has yellowed spots that stick out against the starkness—her weakness and her fault…

Snails are born with soft shells; bendable, breakable, moldable. Social isolation and loneliness can change the way they form memories, and therefore, the way they see things. The slightest touch of a fingertip leaves an imprint that hardens and grows with them—a flaw they didn’t choose, but consequently will spend their whole lives running from. Nonetheless, they cannot live outside of their shells, and any crack too deep will cause them to dry out—dying over what our human eyes perceive as nothing more than a paper cut. 

She used to watch my brain twist around itself in some meek, childhood attempt to force understanding into coherent words about the things around me and how they worked. Now, I tell her how I recognize myself, who I am, what I want, and what I am going to do. I can feel her rolling her plaster eyes into the back of her head, sick and green as she listens to me stumble into a trip and a fall over my words as I watch the change on her face—back to a ceiling. A popcorn ceiling. Something that can’t empathize with me, let alone turn her head to allow half a listen and a response such as, “Yeah, I get that.”

I feel thirteen again, nothing to offer but a glass half empty, a hollow stomach, and pretty paper letters on a string that I shake in front of their faces—spelling and saying nothing at all—nonsense.

“To be ridiculous is to be something which is highly incongruous or inferior, sometimes deliberately so to make people laugh or get their attention, and sometimes unintendedly so as to be considered laughable and earn or provoke ridicule and derision,” or so Wikipedia, the website almost everyone will tell you spreads misinformation, says.

Her face unwinds into a strangely painted porcelain, and a slideshow of emotion clicks faster and faster still, leaving broken flashes between her mouth, sliding across her face and forming a sinister grin. Her teeth sharpen with every click, and her eyes, her eyes, they widen until the whites surround me, and the veins vibrate with intensity as I rip apart my bedsheets in search of the remote to turn the images off—to turn my brain off again. But every time, after seconds that feel like hours, the panic subsides as I remember I am thirteen.

So I talk without saying anything to make their faces, and their voices, go away, swallowing them back into the half that they occupy and flicking the light off.