there are two settings. the first is success, a crushing perfection that simmers below the surface, a gritted-teeth force that breaks down more often than it runs. it is relying on panic to wake you up, it is nightmares about numbers, it is being unable to stop shaking when the test comes back, it is empty scores, no flaws found but still feels sore. it is the appearance of self-assurance, top-of-the-class, always-in-yoga. nobody gets into the room when you’re sobbing over your gpa. they only smell the candles and not the burning.
the second is failure. it comes in the wake of the smallest thing. a shrug and “you could have done better” rather than a smile. that’s it. and then it’s time to destroy everything. she frowned at me once, we aren’t really her friend and we must never speak to her again. he didn’t want to get dinner, not only is he not interested but he finds us repulsive. it is realizing you are sixteen minutes late and just skipping class rather than showing up late. it’s refusing to study because you understand nothing. it’s taking something down before someone can rip it down for you. it’s isolating yourself so nothing can hurt you and it’s hurting because you’re isolated. it’s missed calls, never-at-work, always-too-drunk.
that’s it. all or nothing.