The day began like any other ordinary day: my eyeliner flowing down my face in heavy streams, me leaning over the sink, blankly staring at my reflection with emotionless, doll-like eyes.
I carefully examined every feature on my dull face, every eyelash, every imperceptible freckle, and focused all of my mental space on trying not to scream at myself.
Every day began like this. It was like a ritual, my way of mental preparation for the day that I had to face. I honestly didn't care about being accepted anymore. That was a long ago dream.
I'll settle for being ignored.
Did I wish I didn't feel like this? Every. Single. Day. But deep inside, I knew things were never going to change. I would always be Tyler Joseph. The emo. The freak. The psychopath.
The nobody. I've heard the names they call me. Yeah, they're not nice. But I've gotten used to them by now. In time, I've learned to build an impenetrable wall against the merciless insults.
They still get to me, but I harden my features against the heavy tide of pain that has risen up against me.
My eyes consciously flick to the alarm clock next to my bed, sitting on my bedside table like a guardian. 7:45.
I splashed some water on my face, trying to get rid of the dark, black tear stains that had settled themselves on my face. I was late. I needed to get out of the house.
"Damn it," I whispered to myself, hurrying down the stairs. It was time to get out the house.
I sent a quick prayer to a deity who's presence with me I highly doubted that I wouldn't bump into my mum on the way out of the house.
Too late. She stood in my way like an unmovable rock, and hardened her features to glare at me.
She had been crying, I could tell, and I felt a familiar lump rise in my throat, but I bit it down. I couldn't help her, when are was as far gone as she was. No one should ever ask me for help.
I'd probably just give them a sarcastic answer as send them on their way. I tried to push past my mum, but she was still standing there, sobbing.
"Your dad's been drinking again," She choked out. I shrugged. Big news. Dad's always drinking. And anyway, I knew that wasn't the real reason she was upset.
She was upset for her own selfish reasons I didn't care to hear about, and that was that. I had enough problems of my own without her fake ones which she made up.
I pushed past her, and this time, she let me.
I grabbed my bag, and headed out the front door.
"Home late today!" I shouted, into the door. It wasn't as if I was going anywhere in particular. Probably just hanging out at the store, out of fear of coming home again.
I flicked my short hair self-consciously into my face, took a deep breath and closed my eyes.
And I conjured up a world where I could be myself, where I lived on the other side of the world, away from my hometown in the dark.
I dreamed about a place without homophobia, racism, and a place where people accepted me. And I was still dreaming about impossible things all the way until I got to school.
As I walked in the door of my homeroom, I pulled my hood up over my face and focused my eyes on a more pleasing corner of homeroom. The corner where I knew Josh was sitting.
Josh was well... Josh. He was the new kid, but the kind everyone loved. The very first time I saw him, I knew I loved him, that I wanted to go out with him, that I wanted to be with him.
I loved his red hair, dark enough to be considered crimson. I loved his rich, mocha eyes and his way of laughing with his head tilted back.
I loved his way of making jokes about Taco Bell no one else got except me. I love his personality, and his way of making me feel like I was alone in this world.
I had always known I was gay, of course. I had spent hours agonizing about it, crying, wondering how I was going to come out.
Wondering if I was going to be damned. But something about Josh made me want to keep going. To carry on. I knew I was in love, so what did it matter? I wasn't going to change.
But still, something always held me back, before talking to him. I hated it. I hated myself, for who I was. Even though I knew I could never help it.
As a regular church goer, we were always taught homosexuality was a sin. Which was why I could never tell my parents.
Not my mum, with her random mood swings, and not my dad, with his drinking tendencies and his love of lashing out. I couldn't tell Zac or Jay or Maddy. That was out of the question.
I couldn't talk to anyone about what I was feeling. Except Josh, but I had never plucked up my courage to ask him, and I hated myself for it.
And now Debby Ryan had zoomed in on him in the first few seconds of school, and now I had no chance whatsoever.
I abruptly snapped out of my daze with the teacher asking a question to the class.
"How do we know if a person is suffering from depression? And how can we help them if they are?" For some reason, this infuriated me. Tentatively, I raised my hand.
"Yes, Tyler?" The teacher smiled. I didn't usually raise my hand. Suddenly, what I wanted to say stuck in my throat. I felt 30-odd eyes boring into the back of my head.
I imagined them storing up insults to hurl at me after class. I knew what I was about to do was damn-well stupid, but I had to express my opinion. I owed myself that much.
"You don't know," I said quietly, looking at my hands. "You don't know because they don't say.
And they don't say because they want to leave without interruption," I took a deep breath, closed my eyes, and persisted. "But these people, they want to die. But they stay.
And they stay because of small things, like they want to see their new song come to life, or because of family,"
Some gasped, then tried to cover it up by coughing.
"But when these things leave they find they have nothing left," I paused, swallowed, and continued. "And as for helping them, well, you can't change their circumstances. You can't help them.
But you can be the little things that make them want to stay. It's your choice, what to do. Add, or take away." Then I pulled my hood up over my face and looked at my nails.
"Tyler! That was completely unacceptable. Next time, maybe you should think before you speak your mind so loudly," Everyone pointedly nodded in mock agreement.
I sank lower in my seat, wondering why I had done it.
Wondering what had possessed me, to express myself in this way. A stray tear rolled down my cheek.
You're pathetic. Stop that. You know that. There nothing more pathetic than a cry for help.
"Let's carry on with the theme of mental health," I completely zoned out after that. I was too busy staring at Josh, who had been looking at me an expression of curiosity and amusement.
I felt an unfamiliar tug in the corner of my mouth. I was smiling! I grinned at him, tentatively. He grinned back. Then he flicked me a note. Slowly, I unfolded it.
"Meet me in the music room at lunch. You're not as different as you may think,"