Have you ever had nightmares? Nightmares that repeat over and over again? Nightmares not of monsters but of real life at its worst? I didn't used to have nightmares until just over a year ago.
They started when I was nineteen and a half, just as my twentieth birthday seemed near. But these thoughts - these fears- these started even sooner, before I even turned nineteen. I never thought they'd turn into nightmares, but they did.
They repeat, exactly the same, sometimes more or less vivid. They are nightmares of my 21st birthday. When I wake up from these nightmares, when I spend all day crying because I still feel that fear, it's because these dreams are so real. "Can you imagine?", I beg my friends, "being alone on your 21st birthday?". I don't think they understand. I don't think they can imagine. Me? I don't have to imagine. In my dreams it's real.
In my dreams, it's December 22, 2011. Evening. My sister approaches me occasionally to tell me how jealous she is that I am 21. How excited she is for me to "party it up tonight". I pretend I am excited too. Inside, I am shaking. I cannot breathe straight. I feel sick. I want to disappear, to die. It's my 21st birthday, and I have no friends to go out with.
As the evening draws on, I am scrolling through my cellphone contacts and facebook friends, thinking of who I should message. I've already texted a few or my closer friends, but they are out of town, or working, or out of money. They aren't there, and there's no one else. I have no friends.
I post a hesitant status: "It's my 21st, come hit the bars with me!" or something along those lines. Inviting, only I can't tell anyone I don't have anyone the truth: that I'm alone on my 21st birthday. People "like" my status. People respond: "have fun tonight!" or "I'm so jealous, can't wait to party with you when I turn 21". I'm not alone. But I have no friends.
The night draws on. My sister is preparing for her own party to go to, and I know I have to leave soon. She can't know. She'd look at me in that way, with that insulting pity. Like "why are you so stupid/socially incapable that you can't even have friends". Insult. Pity. There she is, parties every weekend. Of course she thinks I'm inferior. I'm in college, and I don't have any parties to go to. She doesn't care that I'm suffering. She'll tell me how to fix the problem by making me feel worse about myself. She doesn't understand how I struggle.
So I leave. I look up some bars on Yelp and I leave. I take the lightrail downtown. Things get blurry past this point. Not so clear, since I've never been to a bar. I enter. I show my ID. I order a drink-whiskey. The bartender looks at the ID, at me. "Happy birthday". Then he steps away. And I see him, with a few other people, looking back at me, laughing at me. I have no one.