As bile yellow puke ran down his chin for the second time that evening, James slumped down onto the cold tiled floor, exhausted. Retching into the the toilet bowl, James gripped the porcelain rim with white knuckles and sweaty palms. Nothing came up. Finally he felt his now empty stomach relax for the first time in over 10 minutes.
"You're disgusting James. You're so goddamn filthy. No one loves you, you know that right? Do you really think that anyone could?"
The word rang in his ears and painfully resonated in his mind. The words were all too familiar.
"No, I suppose I am disgusting".
He whispered aloud.
James' old, black sneakers squeaked shrilly on the bathroom floor as he slid his feet away from his body and collapsed onto the putrid, foul-smelling floor in a sobbing, vomit covered heap.
His old grey "skate don't hate" shirt was stained with sweat, bile and tears. It was a favourite of his that an ex had bought him a couple years ago at a market in London. That trip was one of James's fondest memories, he regarded it as a time when he was 'normal' and not a freak. It was January and snowing in Central London, snowflakes had rested on his eyelashes and Alex had giggled, saying he looked pretty as she wrapped her arms around him tightly. It was one of the last times that he had felt like he belonged. Not necessarily belonging to a clique at school, or fitting in with his peers, but he felt human. He didn't know how he felt now, but he was sure he wasn't meant to be here.
"You know Alex never loved you. Look at the state of you, you deserve to die".
James clamped his sodden palms over his ears and violently shook his head from side to side, refusing to listen to the cruel, taunting voices.
"Worthless, worthless, worthless, WORTHLESS"
The voices got louder and louder, soon they blended into one large, penetrating crowd and the word 'worthless' was impossible to get out of his mind. No matter what he tried.
Frequently throughout the day he heard insults, taunts and jokes at his expense and there was no way to stop it or avoid it. No matter what he did, he heard the continuous commentary and the repetitive phrases that were favoured "you're worthless, no one loves you, you're not normal; you're a freak". It never stopped.
James was aware that he was a freak. He understood that his life wasn't 'normal' and that other teenagers his age didn't have to swallow a handful of pills each morning, just so they don't have to endure their day trapped in a downward spiral of misery and self-hatred. He also knew that his peers didn't have to live their life fighting a secret battle with a cacophony of abuse from inside their own head. He knew that he was different. He knew that he was utterly and intrinsically alone.
Between tears and desperate gulps of air James noticed that he had been gripping his fingers into his hands so tight that his relatively blunt fingernails had cut into his palms so much so that there were eight, bloody half moons etched into his skin. His pallid complexion caused him to appear almost
green under the fluorescent lights of the bathroom, catching a glimpse of himself in the questionable puddle on the floor, he no longer saw himself but a stranger in his reflection.
When he was young, strangers had commented on the astounding greenness of his large eyes; his most prominent features which had once sparkled with the contentment of a cheeky young boy now seemed dull and lifeless. His slender face had blossomed at the onset of puberty, giving him a strong jaw but a youthful, approachable face. Most often, people commented on his hair, when well kept his golden curls attracted attention from his peers who were clearly envious of his effortless style. Now that he no longer cared about his appearance his hair was commonly greasy and hung in loose tatty curls around his face, settling on his broad shoulders.
"You've really become disgusting James. People vomit at the thought of being near you."
The worst part of this was that he feared that the voices were true, he was beginning to believe them easier than he had originally, as they relentlessly chipped away at his self worth.
Tonight James had overdone it, and he knew it. The clattering of strangers in the public bathroom shocked him as they pounded on the rotted wooden door of the cubicle. Thankfully they smelled the tell tale signs of vomit lingering in the air and left the room shouting,
"There's a lad whiteying in there, it's proper rank in there!"
This warning from the drunken strangers gave James a bit of time to straiten himself out enough to join his friends back in the club. He knew he needed help, professional help, but he was unable and unwilling to find it. He feared the reactions of his friends when they found out that he was mental. He would be shunned from his small friendship group, singled out as that crazy guy that everyone avoids.
James took a deep breath and summed up enough energy in his exhausted body to heave himself off the floor of the bathroom. His weak fingers pawed at the walls, searching for something to hold onto, eventually his left hand found the empty toilet roll holder and he managed to steady himself enough to focus his blurry vision on finding the lock on the stall door.
The slippery lock eluded James for a good minute before he got a firm enough grip on it to slide the lock open and stumble out into the clammy men's room. The air was thick with the stench of vomit and urine from many inebriated young lads. James felt queasy, but well enough to carefully step out the doorway and into the busy dance floor.
The main dance floor was packed tight with sweaty teenage bodies throbbing together with the rhythmic beat of the current popular music. James silently wished that he had never come out tonight. He hated crowds, loudness, other people. The flashing lights made him dizzy and the nausea worsened. James frantically searched the room for his group of friends. The the dense heat of the room made the panic rise up in James and so he briskly left, as fast as his unstable legs could take him, and escaped outside into the smoking area.
"Your friends have probably ditched you. You have no friends"
Even with the constant, deafening beat of the club droning in his ears, the voices managed to take priority. He shook his head slightly, to ignore them.
A short, tanned arm appeared as if from nowhere, around James' shoulder, causing him to jolt forward in surprise. He drunkenly lurched forward, only avoiding a harsh collision with a brick wall
because the mysterious arm shot forward and pulled James back by the neck of his shirt. Bloodshot eyes and an impish grin on a large wide face stared back at him.
"Mate you were gone for ages! Have a cig, here"
A cigarette was inserted in between James' lips and a lighter appeared shortly after, the flame dancing so close he could feel the heat on his chin. He sucked in a breath, a relaxing, nicotine and tar filled breath. He loved it. His anxiety seemed to melt away. He removed the cigarette from his mouth and blew three smoke rings into the air, glancing at his friend Cal, for approval.
"Impressive huh? I was just being sick in the toilets. I feel pretty shitty man, can we leave soon? Crash at mine if you want"
James didn't really want Cal to come home with him, he wanted to be alone. Cal didn't pick up on this.
"Yeah sure man, gotta pull first though, lads night out. It's the rules. Matt's home already with a lass, and so is Sid. Just you and me bud."
He thumped James' back enthusiastically. James saw his opportunity for leaving growing smaller by the second. His head was pounding and his mouth tasted of stale cigs and vomit. He felt Cal prod him in the side, stuff a small item into his palm as he brusquely announced,
"Back inside to the bitches!"
Cal just oozed confidence, James stared at him as he left and thought about how much his best friend was a misogynistic dickhead. He glanced into his palm and recognised the two small blue pills with tiny images of animals etched on them. Ecstasy. He knew he shouldn't have them; he'd had three already.
James exclaimed out loud, and stuffed the pills in his mouth as he followed Cal up the stairs and back to hell.
The bright lights swirled around him, his arm slung around his friends shoulder. James wasn't listening to the conversation that was happening in front on him. He 'ummed' and 'ahhed' in all the right places. The room skinned faster, the lights got brighter, everything seemed better than it did before and James was filled with affection to his loyal best friend. He managed to slur a hushed "I love you mate" into Cal's ear before the room dimmed, tilted and abruptly disappeared.