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I'm that beautiful girl. You know, the one you idolized in high school. You wouldn't recognize me today. You wouldn't want me now, you wouldn't want to be me or be with me. In fact, you now try hard not to see me as you walk by.

I'm sitting on the sidewalk, holding out a paper cup, asking softly for some spare change. My hair is short and bright pink, and you wonder why I didn't use that money for food instead of hair dye. If you asked me, I wouldn't know what to say. I'm so skinny now, my cheeks are sunken, and I can barely keep down the food I eat. An eating disorder on top of everything else. It all comes together, part of the spiral downwards into this life where you won't even look at me.

Sometimes, I'll recognize you. But I don't say hello, I don't want you to remember me as the girl who used to tease you, the girl who you thought you might love, the girl who sent you home crying at night to stand in front of your mirror willing your body to look like mine. I don't want you to see me like this, you who have grown into your body, you who have a great job fresh out of university, you who walk hand in hand with your newly wed wife.

It started innocently, with the high school parties. I was cool; I had to keep up appearances and have done everything. Freshman year I dated a senior. He used me, but I thought he really loved me, even though he and his friends would just laugh at me. I got drunk, I had sex, I tried drugs one after the other because a few people told me that everyone else was doing it and that it was cool. I was still the hot girl, the boys all liked me and so I was popular. I lied to my parents, I lost all my friends, I became obsessed with the way I looked, with being sexy and cool. I did anything. I thought I was living it.

Eventually, I wasn't really alive. I wasn't a person, I was an object. Of desire, certainly, but if you were cool enough I was all too easy. I had no self-respect.

It's a common story. My parents didn't know what was going on, but they could see the scars forming on my wrists. I started a fad at my school of wearing thick bracelets, or many little ones when the scabs were healed... no one knew. I got more into everything, more wild, more "cool," and I just left. I got up and couldn't take it anymore. I didn't want everyone to know. I looked at myself in the mirror and didn't think that I was beautiful. The boys talked about me like I was trash; everyone had had a piece. It was like an initiation to get with me. I told myself that I didn't care, but I did and there was no one there to tell me that it was okay, that I could stop. And so, I didn't.

I left a note, stepped out on my own into the world with nothing at all. I cut my hair because I couldn't stand to see that part of myself. I made myself ugly because I couldn't see that I was anything else. It's not like I'm clean now. It's not like I'm making the right choices, not like my life is getting any better. I can just look back and see the mistakes, I can remember when I was that beautiful girl. I can't go back. I don't know how to go forward. I'm forgotten along with the trash you drop on the street. You don't see me. Why would you? I didn't, when I was you, when I was alive... when I was beautiful.

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