The crown they handed to me when I won Prom Queen felt kind of like my heart – weak and plastic. The glare of the lights burned, exposed every inch of my tired skin. But that’s all there was to see. Skin. The outermost layer of my body, the mask that I started wearing the day I entered into popularity and hadn’t taken off since – a way to shield everything that I was on the inside. It wasn’t a mask anymore. It was what I’d become. I was nothing more than a dark and empty hole with bronzed cheeks and silk strands of straightened hair. Empty because all of my energy had gone into making my name familiar, recognised for all the wrong reasons. Dark because I gave up everything that I once was. I gave up the paintbrushes, messy buns and Penguin classic paperbacks.
I gave it up for Friday nights being deafened by music that everyone pretends to like, a pathetic excuse to drown your sorrows in glass after glass and live through another night you won’t remember. When really, it’s your status you want to forget. I gave it up for red pom-poms and a crown that didn’t even fit. Or maybe it was me that didn’t fit. I might have moulded myself into the cookie cutter shape of a popular high school senior, the girl who holds the strings to control others like puppets, when she can’t even control herself. The girl who points and laughs at the outsiders, the ones with thick-rimmed glasses and gleaming metal braces who are too afraid to come to school when really, she’s no less afraid herself. I might have fit into popularity but I didn’t fit into who I was, who I wished I could be.
I stood on the stage as Prom Queen, listening to the drone of the applause until it made my head ache. They thought they envied me. But all of the expensive makeup, branded clothes and endless party invitations, all of that was worthless. They envied what I was on the outside. Because on the inside, I was nothing. Dark and empty. Weak and plastic.