The Voice Inside Her Head
by Jerrad Hardin
The teacher’s lecture faded to the background, and Emma Brown’s mind wandered away. Her first thought drifted toward the game after school against Booneville – a conference rival.
A hint of a smile crept to one side of Emma’s face. She knew that the team depended on her to perform well as the pitcher for the big game. For a moment, she liked the idea. Then her expression changed, as she scribbled on her notepad.
The body aches when the mind wakes.
Steps are involuntary, breathing a chore.
Being lost isn’t confusing, it’s something more.
A day begins, mirroring the night’s end.
What to do, I just want to sleep.
Being lost isn’t superficial, it’s buried deep.
Voices are passing, constant harassing.
The darkness is found at the bottom of the pit.
Being lost isn’t …
Mr. Brooks put his finger on Emma’s notepad and leaned his head to meet her eyes and said, “Emma, I’d like to have a word with you after class.”
Emma folded her notebook shut and nodded.
Mr. Brooks stood straight and didn’t miss a beat in concluding his lecture. When the bell rang, Emma approached the teacher’s desk.
“You wanted to see me?”
Mr. Brooks wore a flat expression but tried a smile. “Emma, can you tell me about the poem you were writing during my lecture?”
Emma’s heart raced and the acid in her stomach rose. She stammered, “It’s nothing. Just some silly words.”
Brooks stood and extended a hand. “Can I see it?”
Emma reluctantly gave it to Mr. Brooks. He flipped through the pages and found partial notes from his lectures, a few odd drawings, and more poems like the one Emma had started during the day’s lecture.
“Emma, I’m concerned.”
She rushed to explain, “No, Mr. B. There’s no need, really. The words are just a way for me to express some my feelings. It may seem dark, but it’s nothing. Really.”
Mr. Brooks removed his glasses and tapped them against the cover of the notebook. “Emma, are you depressed?”
“No, sir. I’m happy. Really happy. We have the big game tonight with Booneville.”
“And are you worried about it in any way? Feeling pressured? Is everything okay at home?”
Emma faked a convincing smile and said, “Mr. Brooks, I’m a creative writer. That’s all. I don’t feel any pressure and my parents are great.”
Mr. Brooks passed the notebook back to Emma and nodded, “Okay, kiddo. But you’re going to need to pay more attention in class. You’re missing all the details.”
Emma thanked Mr. Brooks and promised to be more attentive. When she reached the hallway, she took a deep breath in and blew it out.
“That was close,” she heard the voice in her head say. “You're so stupid.”
A tear escaped down Emma’s cheek. She wiped it away with the back of her hand and navigated the hallway to her locker.
The voice said, “You should do everyone a favor and go home. Skip the rest of the day. Take those pills from your mother’s cabinet and go to sleep.”
“Shut up,” Emma growled through her teeth.
Monica Rodriquez, Emma’s best friend and teammate, slung an arm around her and laughed, “You talking to yourself again?”
Emma smiled and recovered, “Thinking about what I wanted to say to Brooks. Guess I must’ve said it out loud.”
“Yeah, you’ve been doing that a lot lately,” Monica smiled and continued, “everything okay?”
“Other than I’m going to be late for my next class, yeah, I’m fine.”
Emma and Monica walked side by side down the busy hall.
“Big game tonight. We're going to need you to pitch a good one. You ready?”
“Always,” Emma said.