It was the first day of Senior year for Tabitha Lane. Tabitha and eighteen others waited for their Algebra teacher in Room 24. Room 24 was in the basement of Brentwood High School. The walls were painfully white, and the only decoration was a year old flyer for the cheerleaders’ annual bake sale. Tabitha had three options; stare at the maze of equations on the board, the cracked, empty walls, or Ashley Farrah holding a cupcake. The first two options made Tabitha’s head spin, the third made her feel sick to her stomach. The cupcake looked delicious; it Ashley’s false and calculated smile that made Tabitha cringe.
Ashley sat in front of her. Tabitha often wondered if under the fields of blonde, and past the ocean of dark roots, there would be wires and metal deeply lodged within her Ashley’s skull. She imagined stabbing her pencil deep into the back of Ashley’s head, and ripping out some of the nuts and bolts. But in her daydream something always changed, blood always flowed.
Room 25 was the school’s weight room. While Ms. Hanna rambled on about x’s and y’s, the Fighting Tigers fought on next door. The clinks of each weight rising and falling drove Tabitha crazy. Sometimes she would cover her ears and bask in the silence. Sometimes she would close her eyes too. The emptiness was intoxicating.
World religions was her favorite class; Buddhism was her favorite religion. The concept of Nirvana was enticing, exciting, and nearly exhausting. Some nights she fell asleep to Mr. Spelling’s monotone voice saying, “Nirvana; the supreme state, free from suffering and individual existence. The state of nothing.” It was everything Tabitha wanted, but the last thing on earth she could understand.
Tabitha was smart, but she hated Math. The numbers all just blended together on the board, and the smell of dry erase markers always gave her a headache. She spent a great deal of her time in Room 24 playing Hangman in her notebook. Lexi Madden, who sat to Tabitha’s left, sometimes watched as Tabitha sketched the hanging stick figure over and over. The list of rejected letters grew, but the lines under the gallows were never filled.
“How does it work?” Lexi asked.
“How does what work?” Tabitha responded without lifting her head.
“How can you play hangman by yourself? I mean, don’t you need another person to come up with the word?”
Tabitha tried to think of a response.
“She probably summons the ghost of her dead grandma to play with her” Ashley said, chomping her gum furiously. “Right, freak?”
“Wrong,” Tabitha thought. Both of her grandmothers were alive. But why couldn’t she open her mouth? She imagined herself firing back at Ashley, certainly using a better insult than “freak;” but her mouth just wouldn’t open.
Ashley, proud of her work, turned around and continued drawing little hearts and stars in her purple notebook. Lexi faced Tabitha, still waiting for her answer, but Tabitha simply looked back down at her paper, drew a new gallows and began.
A, rejected. The head.
Brian Jacobs, sat behind Tabitha. In 7th grade, Brian was Tabitha’s first crush. In 8th grade, Brian started the rumor that Tabitha screwed her older brother. The more Tabitha denied the rumor, the more widely it was accepted. By the time 9th grade came around, Tabitha stopped trying to deny it. By 10th grade, Tabitha just stopped talking.
B, rejected. The spine.
Taylor Kennedy sat to the left of Brian. She was his new girlfriend. She was also Eli Right’s girlfriend, and Tyler Benson’s girlfriend. She used to be one of the outcasts, one of the Tabitha’s. Sooner or later, the braces came off with the baby weight, and she learned to do what it takes.
Tabitha knew Taylor’s secret. Tabitha had caught her in the restroom, trying to keep off the baby weight; caught with her fingers down her throat. She tried to blame the disgusting school lunches, but Taylor knew Tabitha was not convinced. First she avoided Tabitha, then the threats started. Tabitha promised she would never tell; Taylor said she would be sure of it. Lucky for Tabitha, Taylor gave her sneak peeks of hell, just to be sure Tabitha got the picture.
T, rejected. An arm.
Homer Constantine sat in the back, behind Taylor. In 10th grade, Homer and his family moved to Brentwood from Greece. He barely knew English, and spoke with a heavy accent. He could have been handsome, but his face was nearly covered in acne. Two months after he came to Brentwood High School, Homer and Tabitha joined forces. They spent most of their time in silence, but the silence was comforting for Tabitha. He was far from perfect, but Tabitha did not deserve perfect. She knew her place.
The Constantines were rich. They were also never home. Tabitha told her parents she had joined the yearbook club and she would have to stay late after school. Mrs. Lane was so overjoyed that Tabitha was making an effort to socialize, she never questioned the late hours. One night, when they were alone in Homer’s room, she let him go further, and further, until there was no where else to go. She had never felt so human.
Two weeks later, Homer went to a dermatologist. Four weeks later, the school found out about the Constantine family mansion. Six weeks later, Homer would not even acknowledge Tabitha in the hallway.
H, rejected. Another arm.
Isabel Hoffman sat right by the wall. She was the very definition of normal. She was jeans and a t-shirt. She was A’s and B’s. She was average height, average weight, and a natural brunette. She was close with her family, and had the same friends from elementary school. She had a small pink room, decorated with the odds and ends of her childhood. She was one of the masses. She was everything Tabitha wanted to be. She was invisible.
Isabel never knew Tabitha. She had heard the rumors, but never knew who people were talking about. She had bumped into Tabitha on the way to Chemistry once, but after a quick apology, she continued on her way. She had been invited to the “Tabitha Lane Fucks her Brother” group on facebook, she declined it. Around Taylor, Tabitha felt perfect. She felt like she was the same. She felt invisible.
The day Lexi decided to ask about Tabitha’s game, Isabel was getting some very last minute summer reading accomplished. The Crucible was on the menu. Isabel enjoyed reading plays, they always seemed to go faster than the novels. Isabel was at the end of Act I when Ashley called Tabitha a freak. She was heading into Act II when Brian asked Tabitha if she had fucked her brother recently. She was jotting down some notes when the entire class started to laugh.
As the laughs grew louder, Tabitha looked to Isabel, but Isabel never saw. Tabitha was still invisible. But in that moment, all Tabitha wanted was to be seen.
Isabel was still reading when Ms. Hanna came into the room and told the class to calm down. She quickly and quietly tucked her book under her desk, and took out her pencil. She took notes as Tabitha continued her game.
I, rejected. The last leg. Hangman.
Mrs. Lane was the one who found Tabitha, her feet gently swaying across the closet floor. The note simply read, “At last, Nirvana.”