Red tile, right foot. Black tile, left foot. Repeat. The bell was about to ring and I couldn’t be late for class again. A quick glance down the hallway told me I was almost there. A few people shuffle past and throw a few weird looks. I ignore it. If I stopped caring about where I stepped maybe they would stop. Just as the impulsive part of me is shifting the stack of plastic and paper under my right arm and putting my left foot forward to defy the seemingly fixed program a voice, The Voice, stops me.
“That’s wrong.” It hissed. “You know how it always goes. Stick to your designated tiles or else.”
I comply, as irrational as it is. I’m scared and I listen. This is the way things go. This is the route I take to first period, science, everyday and that’s not allowed to change. In retrospect the “or else” will seem nonexistent and silly, but at the moment it’s terrifyingly real.
By some miracle I make it into the classroom where the familiar scent of baking soda and chemicals pulls me to my seat. It’s the third row back in the middle of the table, where at least one girl accompanies me. We have the freedom to choose our own seats, but The Voice chose mine for me on day one.
I carefully put my stuff onto the large black table and walk off to find my chair. The bell rings and I freeze. One, two, three, four, five, silence. I seem to regain the ability to movie and I grab the same chair as always before walking the eleven steps back to my seat, The Voice selected it on day one as well. There’s nothing special about the seat, it’s just a faded blue plastic slab with a hole in the back that seemed to serve no purpose. The other available chairs were nothing special either, they were all almost the exact same design, the only real difference being the vibrance of the blue and the shape of the holes on the back. I put the chair, which may as well have been a cathedra at this point, down and used my right index finger to touch the upper right corner of the cathedra five times before I was allowed to sit down.
Today one of the similar structures to my left sports a girl named Paige, a petite person with always colorful braces and flawless skin. To the right a slightly older female known as Alyssa greets me, coffee in one hand and homework in the other. I respond with the only phrase I’m allowed to, a simple “I’m good. You?” and a slight nod of the head, slightly to the right.
Class begins and ends indifferently, a joke here and there, a few boys cracking wise remarks, and a brief overview on evolution. The usual last five minutes of free time beings and my peers take to chatting and starting homework. I stack my belongings in order, green binder on the bottom, followed by a blue folder and then a teal one, my school-assigned agenda, and a worn out pencil case on top.
I get up and take the usual ten steps to double check the homework, printed neatly everyday on the small whiteboard. Repeating the assignment twice I return to my seat to find that Paige is occupying it as she talks to Alyssa.
“Tell her to move. You can’t sit anywhere else.” The void in my head hisses and after a moment I comply.
“No!” She laughs as though it’s all a joke. I know she does not understand. “What’s the big deal anyways? It’s just a chair.”
My palms begin to sweat and I’m at a loss of words. My brain goes into overdrive and I feel as though someone has punched me in the chest. I can feel myself shaking and The Voice seemed to give a deafening scream as it too freaked out. How can something as simple as a seat be so panic inducing? I resign myself to stand for the last few minutes and I begin to use other compulsions to cover the lost one. My right hand tucks my hair behind my ear, once, twice. The left heel of my white shoe is lifted up and meets the ground once, twice. I repeat the routine over and over, four times to be exact until the bell finally rings. I freeze. One, two, three, four, five, silence. Oxygen returns to my lungs and it seems as though everything is right again. I hastily grab my belongings and take the tiles to my next class, English. I hated second period, almost everyone pointed out my compulsions. A few snickers would always accompany the endless questions as my peers tried to pry into my life like I was a rusted door just waiting to be opened.
“You need to touch your binder twice it’s exactly on the hour.” The familiar presence of The Voice returns. I of course listen.
I feel empty, as though I’m not human, just a puppet, bending to the will of the puppeteer whenever it calls upon me. I’m like a body that cannot think for itself and I feel trapped, because the compulsions are calming, intoxicating even. Everyone likes to say how they are “So OCD!”, but they have not spent hours of their life touching and checking and worrying. Why do I feel so alone when this mental disorder is so common? Tests online read “How OCD are you? Click here to find out!” and people make jokes about it. Autism is also a mental disorder, but if anyone was to make jokes and online quizzes about it they would be shunned. Why is this any different? People want to claim to have OCD when all I want to do is escape it, because it’s like invisible chains tying you down. I wish more than anything to be in control of my own brain, my own body, my own life.
I hate OCD.