where it starts

My friend with the resting pained face sat next to me at a table of laughing friends, not meeting my eyes. I knew him well enough now to tell something was wrong and that, due to a recent rough patch we went through, he definitely wouldn’t tell me about it.

The chilly Friday night air blew through half-open windows as all our buddies sat trading joking insults and stories, loading up on snacks and Modelos… everyone except him.

Curious to me at the time – nearly two years ago – because we didn’t wear it the same way… the depression, I mean. The broken.

Yeah, it was curious to me that this atypical nice guy with an intact family, not to mention intelligence to spare and the world at his feet, always seemed to wear an almost-frown on an otherwise lovely face.

And it frustrated me, because I didn’t think he deserved to.

About an hour into the party, the inevitable happened. I sneaked out of the noisy kitchen – calling that I’d be back in a moment – and locked myself in a bathroom down the hall.

A careless phrase someone let slip after one too many beers echoed through my head as I flipped the lightswitch. “No, no, no,” I whispered to myself, watching my reflection’s shaky hands try to push strands of hair from my face. “No, no, no, no, no, no, no.”

My expression looked like my friend’s: hollows of confused eyes deepened by florescent lights; lights that could reveal a face thinly sketched with whispers of pain, trying to scream.

And I stared – stared into the bright blue eyes of the woman with faint scars on her wrists, her side, her heart.

I wrote stories and poetry. I made art projects. I loved to make my friends laugh and tell them how much they mean to me.

I swallowed down memories every morning with a cup of coffee – coffee I needed because a childhood fear of sleep grew into a lifelong battle with insomnia.

I mastered walking down the street with eyes discretely darting in every direction, and my hands so often curled around a can of pepper spray that its paint faded in the pattern of my fingerprints.

Years had passed, and all it took was one little joke for it to all come back.

I slid down from the sink and onto the cool tile, my body feeling that familiar defeat, and rested my chin on my knees as tears started to flow.

I heard the oohs and ahhs of slightly intoxicated twentysomethings through the walls, privately considering that my frowning friend may have a point he didn’t know about.

It was exhausting to put on a show, to hide all that unspoken broken. It didn’t hurt as much to retrace my scars than to pretend wounds never existed. I knew, but the shame – the fear of rejection that kept me company through the night – stopped me.

Most likely, my friend was tired of the facade. A random study verse from a decade’s old Sunday school class whispered in my mind’s ear…”better one who walks in truth than one crooked in speech, the fool.”

I knew that the fool who keeps pretending, lying that it doesn’t matter, isn’t going to help change the perspective of those ignorant to the hurting…maybe that was the point of the almost-frown.

Still weak as I am, I shuddered out a breath, a prayer, asking God again to take it all away. I cupped my face with slightly steadier hands, willingly showing Jesus the unspoken broken He could already see – and that maybe, just maybe, He wanted the world to see too.

I finally stood up just as a concerned knock sounded on the door, checking to see if I’d be out soon.

I listened to the footsteps disappear down the hallway before turning on the faucet. For just a few extra seconds, I let the water flow through my swirling fingers, like the lines of poetry just forming through my similar, rushing thoughts….

“Her face, also mine, the one I hate to see, might just show what they need…

To open their eyes, question their hearts… maybe, just maybe, that’s where it starts.”

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