Social Distance

Image of Long Story Short Award - Fall 2020
Image of Creative Nonfiction
You didn’t expect it to come at all.
You liked it at first—you were finally alone! You could finally catch up on your hundred hours of missed sleep. You no longer needed to stress out on exams. You could stay in the comfort of your own room instead of worrying about what others thought about you.
You were free.
You were alone.
But you overlooked one thing—
You, were alone.
Slowly, that dreadful feeling started to fill inside you, suffocating you, drowning you. But no-one was there to save you.
You were alone.
You became more desperate; you wanted to reach out to someone, anyone. Yet you were scared. Scared of being judged, being rejected, being out casted. You became unsure of yourself. “Does everyone hate me? Or do they even care enough about me to hate me?”
It was an endless loop of self-loathing. It was a black hole, pulling you in deep enough that you couldn’t get out.
Yet months passed, and you slowly got used to it. You got used to loneliness. You greeted it like an old friend.
But you were mistaken. You didn’t get used to it—not at all—you simply lied to yourself that you were okay. You put on that smile, ever so bright, and fooled everyone—including yourself. You ignored that voice inside that was pulling you down into darkness.
When classes started, you were nervous, yet excited. Perhaps inside, you thought that you could finally break out of your bubble, and escape from the prison of loneliness. But it suddenly dawned on you. You weren’t ready. You weren’t ready to be placed under the scrutiny of that tiny camera above your computer screen. You weren’t ready to project your voice awkwardly into the meeting. You weren’t ready to introduce yourself to complete strangers who seem to know each other and have so many things in common. When you stared at yourself in the mirror, you hated yourself for that stupid forced smile, you hated your hair that never straightened, you hated your big forehead that you tried to cover with a hat every day. You hated yourself from head to toe.
But the world doesn’t wait for you to be ready.
And so you tried. At least you thought you did. Maybe you were more active in the class chat. Maybe you sent a few more messages in group chats. But it was futile. Well of course, why did you hope for it to work? You’re still the same old you, hiding behind the computer screen, afraid to find out what others think about you. You feel a distance between you and others. A social distance.
Did you really not expect it?
Or did you simply just ignore it?

It leaves you wondering whether you should cry or not.
It leaves you empty, hopeless, powerless.
How do I escape from its merciless grasp?