Authors Note: 'Don't Touch' has been updated with a revision and updated on chapter length. Almost all comments will not match with the previous chapter they were commenting on. Also, all photos on the chapters are personally taken and owned by me. Thank you!
[cover was created by the artist: BabyLiska [TapasComic LoveMe HateMe KissMe KillMe] and you can find her on Instagram @_babyliska_
Entering a new school has always gotten the better of me since I was young. Thinking about it, this is my fourth time transferring schools since middle school and it just never gets easier. I woke up today at five starting my morning by taking a shower, changing into a clean pair of clothes, shuffling around my room before I decided that I didn't like the clothes I was wearing and. I changed once more. I needed to wear something comfortable and after some time my mom came to check on me. It's unbelievably difficult to start school halfway through the year when I was barely adjusting to my last school even though I had already been attending for a year. I sat on my bed feeling my heart pounding against my chest and my throat felt tight.
I knew I was already having anxiety trying to make myself feel ready and not let this pressure get to me, but it was so difficult to focus while my chest felt so heavy. Not until the day is over, I can return to my room to cry over this feeling I am having and just relieve the stress that I’ve put in my body. These past four years have become a struggle whenever I leave the house and I know it’s been difficult for my mother to deal with me now that I’m living with her. There were times that it would take me five days to just talk to a teacher, two weeks to try to speak with my classmates, and a month to even sit with them during lunch. The only reason it’s been so difficult now is that I can’t handle people being so close to me and it’s so difficult to explain it to people because they just don’t understand these challenges that they never went through or experienced.
During the summer, after my freshman year, I developed a disorder that the doctor called haphephobia; when I was released from the hospital almost two years ago I noticed that it had gotten worse even after treatments and my mother began to grow concerned about my behavior. I knew it got worse when my cousin reached out to hug me when I visited my relatives during winter vacation two months ago and I couldn't let him near me being left alone with him. I pushed him away from me without thinking because in my mind I was terrified and he hit his head against the wall after losing balance. Soon after I couldn't let a stranger shake hands with me and I was afraid how I would react with anyone near me in any circumstances. How is it that when I feel their skin touching my own it’ll give me this burning sensation like I’m on fire and I just can’t bear it when that feeling lingers.
I'm a sixteen-year-old teenage boy who completely hates to be touched, has social anxiety, and to top it off all I wanted to do was to live a normal life as quietly as I could while also afraid. Living this way has grown so exhausting with every single day passing that I didn't want my mom to worry about me just for today and I'm going to try to push myself more because I feel like I have to. I’ve become unfamiliar with my own body and I could just hope that someday I wouldn't have to be disgusted being by someone or with myself. Could there be a much simpler way to grasp a normal life without being triggered or find a way that would help me stop myself from these habits that I’ve created to cope through the day?
I needed a coping mechanism to help distant me when I approach something that I have a difficult time dealing with and the one I developed recently is by pinching my arm which I should stop doing because I’ll wound up bruising my arms. I also have a rubber band around my wrist, but with my mind unfocused I realized that I’ve already left a bruise on my arm and it’ll most likely show more by the end of the day. It was seven now so I finally stepped out of my room and made my way to the living room to look for my backpack wanting to make sure that I have everything that I’ll need. My mind was racing from one thought to another; from wondering how I’ll last throughout the day to how will I be able to go through all my classes without panicking. I only want to have an easy first day.
“Are you hungry?” I heard my mom ask from the kitchen.
“No,” I answered, reaching for my black backpack and opening it.
I had to double-check everything was still inside from the notebooks to the new pens my mom bought and made sure I wasn't forgetting anything else.
“Hun, you didn't eat dinner last night. You have to be hungry. Eat something small.” She said as she came to check on me.
“I'm not hungry. I'm nervous and I can’t think about anything else right now.” I said, closing my bag and turned to her. “I've been thinking about this new school all night and since I woke up I’ve been feeling anxious.”
“You can skip school if you want to and let them know that you're sick.” She suggested.
I wish I was sick.
“Mom, that's not going to help and you know that I'll still feel like this tomorrow as well; until I go to school,” I tell her.
“I told your principal about your haphephobia. She was very understanding about it and said that she would try to make it comfortable for you as best as she could.” She said, taking a seat on the couch beside me. “Maybe this year will be good for you.”
“Don't give me this false hope, Mom. I'll just try my best today. My top goal is to step inside all my classrooms and come home to sleep… We should head out now.” I said with a sigh.
“Now? The school doesn't start for another hour.” She said as she saw me put on my shoes.
“That's a good enough time for me to enter the school and find my class,” I said, taking a deep breath and debate about putting on my jacket. “I'm trying, Mom.”
She gave me a small smile reaching out to hold my hand; she’s the only one I was comfortable enough to allow to touch me. “I know and I'm proud of you.”
We left the house after a while because my mom was trying to shove a few fruits into my bag and a homemade sandwich that she had prepared in case I was hungry. I regretted not bringing my jacket because it was still cold outside with the February winter air and in this new town that we moved to was a lot colder considering we live near the ocean by a few miles. I was calculating everything; it’s a ten-minute drive to my school, three minutes for me to step out of her car to stare up at my school, and another fifteen minutes for me to walk through the front gate. The pounding on my chest grows louder as we went through the main office for them to give me a print out of my class schedule and once we were done she turned to me knowing that this is where we part-ways.
“You're going to be okay.” She said trying to calm me and was patting down my short curly hair.
“I feel like throwing up,” I whispered as I pinched my arm again.
“You know your old therapist said to find another way to relieve your stress.” She said as she watched me and reached a hand out to stop me.
“I know. Sorry.” I said as I put my hands in my pockets. “Okay, I'm going.”
“Want me to pick you up?” She asked before I turned around.
She smiled softly, “Of course. I'll be here; the same place as I parked the car.”
I nod my head as I try to smile back at her then turn away pressing my lips together exiting the office building and trying to prove to myself that I can do this. I tried not to pinch my arm again because it was starting to sting now and walked towards a building while looking at the schedule. It took some time to figure out if I entered the right building as I started folding the paper, wrinkling in my hands, and it took me a couple of minutes to find my classroom. I stopped a few feet away from the door feeling uncertain about walking into a room knowing that I’m in new territory. I crouch down wrapping my arms around my legs and covering my face as I take a deep breath hoping that I’ll calm myself. In the corner of my eyes a teenager, a classmate, steps out of the room and walks over towards me, but I tried to ignore him. I was starting to feel frustrated with myself and at the same time, I was getting a bit anxious that the person was still standing beside me making me feel like I’m being watched. He sat down next to me and was quiet as if he was keeping me company.
“You want to go to the restroom?” He finally spoke.
I shook my head and finally looked up, wiping my face with the sleeve of my long sleeve shirt.
“Can you leave me alone,” I mumbled
“How about we step outside? We can sit somewhere.” He suggested next.
I glanced over at him and saw that he was wearing a name badge on his shirt. “Who are you?”
He smiled, showing a small dimple only on his left cheek. “I'm the student-teacher aid. It's my senior elective.” He explained.
I looked at him seeing someone who is the complete opposite of me by looks and body. A dirty short blonde while I had dark curly hair; his eyes were light brown shade; he was far more built compared to me who feels so scrawny and short. Turning away feeling shy, wondering if I starred a little too long than I had meant to, and hoped that he didn’t notice. Honestly, a lot of people could have a better body built compared to me since I never took care of my health and have a very low appetite.
“Are you allowed to step out like that?” I asked him, now that I’ve calmed down a little.
“Not really... but I guess for you they'll allow it and the teacher was curious if you needed some help.” He said and his smile fades a bit. “My name’s Elliot. Elliot Thompson.”
“Michael Hernandez.” I introduced myself but I'm sure he already knew my name. I stood up to step away from the door before turning back to him. “What did they say about me?”
Elliot looked like he hesitated for a second before standing up as well and stood there. “Just about your condition... that you might not be too open to the class for a while and to make sure you're comfortable with the distance between the students. We're still a little confused about how to be around you…” He said, rubbed the back of his neck.
“It's fine. I'm not planning to be that interactive this semester…” I said then glanced over at him. “I don't want to go in yet.”
“That's fine. I'll go in with you when you're ready.” He said, watching me. “So how long have you had this condition?”
I glanced over at him and tapped the floor with the end of my show, “Almost two years, I think. It kind of built up to it a few years before that.”
I wasn't too comfortable discussing my haphephobia or my disorder that I’ve been dealing with but I can answer a few basic questions about it since a lot of people are always curious and I knew I should share some information.
He nods as he thinks about my answer and slowly holds his hand out towards me. “Let's be friends? I'll help you as much as you want to let me and I’m very patient so you don't have to worry if you think I'm bothered or anything.” He tells me. “I took AP psychology last year and I’ve been studying independently... Not that I think you're a test subject or anything of it but I just wish I can help you if you need help.”
I looked at his hands before slowly reaching out to shake it and felt a little annoyed by his introduction. “You do know that that sounded kind of rude... And a simple handshake doesn't always frighten me.”
He quickly let go of my hand after I touched it and blushed, “Sorry, I kind of realized that as well too after I said it... I didn't mean it like that.”
“It's fine. I know what you're trying to say. It’s great that you take psychology seriously, but I think I could use a friend more than feel like you're my therapist.” I said, clutched my hands into a fist, and looked over at the door that's still open.
“She's going to always leave that door open for you in case you feel closed off in the classroom or if you ever feel uncomfortable in the classroom.” He explained. “We weren't too sure if you were comfortable with opening doors either way.”
I pressed my lips together trying to breathe through my nose as I listened then slowly walked towards the door. “I would rather be the last person to leave the room right now and I don’t do so well in crowds. Where am I going to sit?”
“We have two empty seats to choose from: one in the back of the room and the other is in the front right next to the teacher desk.” He said walking beside me.
I thought about this for a second: the back sounds safe yet I have to walk past people every morning and it'll be a hassle to walk around everyone while I can just easily enter the classroom to sit right away but once the class is over everyone has to walk past me. The thought of people hovering over me gave me an overwhelming feeling. It made me feel sick or the stress on my body was now overwhelming me, but I wanted to change this school year and not pick the easy way out to just simply deal with it without making myself better. I took a deep breath walking to the door, being able to see the teacher writing on the whiteboard and she saw me standing there. She smiled softly, trying to welcome me in, and I glanced back at Elliot wanting to make sure that he was coming in with me. I can do this, I tell myself repeatedly. I entered keeping my head down and walked over to the front desk that Elliot told me about. It was in the far left corner of the room and it didn't seem that bad to sit at, but walking towards it felt so long and that all I felt was pounding against my chest. Elliot followed right behind me as if he was attached to me and grabbed a spare chair to move it nearby me.