Tess pressed her palms against her thighs and spread her fingers wide. It was strange, she thought, how her hands never seemed like hers. They were cold, and pale, marked with scars that she’d forgotten the origin of. Her hands should be warm and familiar. These looked alien, they looked human. Like any human’s. Anyone could have had these hands, not just her. She thought this way whenever she took the time to look at them. It was similar to how she felt when she stared into her own eyes in the bathroom mirror. At some point she stopped feeling like Tess and felt like something mechanical, something cold, a body carrying around the idea of her.
As she flattened her palms she felt the cold, formal sheen of tailored trousers beneath them. A feeling she’d never liked. It was so familiar, yet so strange. It felt like school, and politeness and being on her best behaviour at places she didn’t want to be as a child. She’d avoided that feeling like the plague, now, her whole body felt like school. A brand new trouser suit, dark grey, with a white tailored shirt, but with comfortable flat black shoes, she would never wear heels. Even those, though, made her unhappy.
She was not unaware of how silly she must seem, about to start a new job – her first proper one in years – wearing brand new, and fairly flattering, clothes, and absolutely loathing it. She hated this, she hated every single second of it. She hated that she had to get up this early, put on these clothes. She hated that her anxiety made sure she woke up two hours too early and had her sitting on her bed, ready, an hour before she had to leave. Her stomach was a pool of anxiety and anger, and she had nothing to spend it on. No one to blame.
She eyed the clock on the wall, still half an hour before she had to leave. And even then she would be early. Soo early. She’d always been too early for everything, then came a time when she was late for everything. That had scared her so desperately that she found she was arriving earlier again, and never found a happy inbetween. She scrunched up her face and pulled her arms around her stomach, letting out a half-hearted groan. Her stomach, rich with anxiety, and sore from lack of sleep, ached like she hadn’t eaten for days.
She looked back up at the clock, still too early to leave. But anything was better than staying here. She looked around her room, her eyes skipping over its books and paint brushes, and paper. Paper, everywhere. She thought about how nice it would be to just stay here and draw. But then she knew that even with all the time in the world, she would never just sit down to draw. There always had to be a certain amount of time given over to procrastination, and fear, and self-loathing. And that time had turned into years and now here she was. With nothing to show for it, and with no choice other than to work at a job she knew she would hate. Or at least that she had chosen to hate.
Stupid job, stupid people telling her she needed to get a proper job. Stupid job taking away her time. Stupid job. Stupid Tess. Maybe it was all too late for her now. Not really, she could always draw. But she felt like a drawbridge was going up. She knew a new job couldn’t shut her off from what she loved to do, but she was afraid. She was afraid that the moment she leapt off this point, and into a life she’d never have picked out for herself, she would give in, give up. And years from now she’d regret it.
Tess stood up, she breathed deeply. She felt a kind of living she hadn’t felt in years. Fear, worry, panic. Her mind and body alive with energy. Maybe there was excitement there too. Maybe. Tess pulled a bag onto her shoulder, her body feeling like school, and being a child and being scared. She turned to the door, opened it, and carefully closed it shut behind her.