A beaming twenty-something sits, gesturing wildly as they speak to a camera. Treating it as if were another person sitting there. A friend. As if you would have a friendly conversation under two softboxes, a ring light, and a maybe not too tightly rigged boom mic. The familiarity they speak with is genuine, but in the end was tainted by the intention of it all. Product in hand as they incorporate the ad read at the end of their video. It was all manufactured.
Just like them.
“I’ll see you guys next time~”
They hold their smile for a few moments before their lips fall. Reaching forward, they stop their recording and flip the camera off. The room around them is quiet, almost silent if not for the light buzzing of the soft boxes illuminating their recording area. The buzzing becoming more noticeable with each passing second. It almost consumes them as it becomes a deafening comfort. A state of being that was neither good or bad. Moments pass as they sit there, eyes locked forward on where the camera lens would be. If they were truly seeing anything at all.
Shaking their head, Nevene attempts to refocus their attention. Drifting was definitely dangerous. Keeping focused was the only way to assure they wouldn’t fall completely numb or worse.
Their hands loosely brush the long lavender locks hanging heavy from their head back and then up. Scooping them into a loose bun before maneuvering a hair tie from their wrist around the mess. An almost haggard sigh releases from them as they stand and move to remove the SD card from their camera.
They almost mindlessly move about their apartment, collecting their laptop and a few other amenities needed for going into editing mode. Bare feet cold against the wood flooring as each step reverberated off the highly decorated walls. The place was filled with bits and bobbles that pieced together the interests and story of Nevene. Highly curated aesthetic with some chaos. Instagram worthy décor and backdrops in every direction. Pictures of them and their father littered about. French horn tucked deep within a closet along with torn music and applications. A lack of clutter and mess from visitors. A whole extra room of their house that would usually hold a guest room, taken by their work. Their father didn’t need to stay overnight anyways. He was a short drive away. Why else would they need a guest room?
Their apartment would be completely dark if they didn’t keep a few strings of LEDs lit throughout the main areas of their house. They only needed one room lit at a time and electricity definitely could get expensive.
Returning back to their recording room, Nevene flips off the video lighting and switches to the soft yellow glow of their LEDs. They settle into their desk and begin their editing workflow. They commonly just instantly pipelined their videos unless they were making a collab or prerecording. They didn’t much sense in waiting to edit another day. What else was there to do? That was the “influencer grind”. They almost gag at the thought. But it’s not like they could call themselves an artist or filmmaker. All they were doing was following trends and making basic beauty/lifestyle content. Not that there wasn’t merit in that when it was good. When the creator wanted to actually make it.
Nevene loved makeup and DIY. But even more they especially loved having an audience. Someone to talk at and respond to their quips and questions. People who seemed to genuinely enjoy and maybe even love the content they created. It was almost intoxicating at times with the influx of positivity and love from online strangers. Someone to at least feign interest and care for Nevene and how they felt.
“How sad is that?”
Their fingers pull back from the keyboard and their editing. The voice is almost foreign as it comes out of Nevene. It is low, unenergetic, and every opposite to the “influencer” voice Nevene spent almost every moment of their day using. It had become almost innate at this point. An accent they could never shake even when feeling so lost and numb. There is still some kind of humor, even if sad, to the question they ask to an empty, almost dark room.
A tear begins to fall before Nevene is even aware they’re crying. Their hand comes up to quickly wipe it away before pinching the bridge of their nose.
“You just need a break~ Calm down. It’s all in your head.”
They slowly stand, closing the screen they were working from. They weren’t going to be much of use in editing a video of a warm, pink makeup look. Seeing the sickly-sweet smile across their perfectly coral lips was almost nauseating at the moment.
Without thought they find themselves staring back in the large vanity in their bathroom. Tears muddling the precisely smudge colors under their eyes. Dragging mauve tears down their foundation, contour, and highlight before dropping off their jaw and hitting the floor. They didn’t even realize they had continued crying.
Maybe they really couldn’t feel anything anymore.
That may actually be a welcome turn of events at this point. The lack of pain would be welcome. But almost as if spoken into existence, Nevene’s powdered face scrunches as a sob rips from their chest. The cry vacates all air from their lungs as tears begin rushing down over their jaw. A tearstain painting spattering across the tiles as they fall.
Their hands catch the vanity counter as their knees begin to buckle. The sting of the ornate gold pieces digging into their skin the only sensation keeping them present. Every other part of their being pulled towards the void opening in their chest.
‘You’re so alone. You’ve always been alone. Did you just notice now, you idiot? No amount of positive feedback from text online will ever change that. Or erase the isolation you feel. If you wanted friends, you would just apply yourself. Get out there. Interact. So many people say how much they would love to be your friend-… Well, your personas friend. On second thought, you’re far better alone. Better off no one realizing how pathetic you are behind the sparkle and smile. Stay sparkling and at the very least the nice text will stay.'
Nevene is pulled from the spiral as their hand smashes against the vanity once more. They come to toppled to the floor, mostly in a seated position thank god. Hands shaking so badly they had smacked against one of the ornate legs of the vanity. Luckily, there was no bruising or cut to cover up later. Just the sting and small ripple of pain radiating up their forearm.
They slowly lean back against the wall behind them, a sigh almost coughed out as they attempt to normalize their breathing. This had been occurring a lot more frequently. The never-ending loneliness of the isolation they had created was becoming all consuming.
They had created it though. It was their burden to bare and in essence, all they had aside from their father and work. There was no point in moping. No one was going to call them. No one was going to walk through the door. No one knew they were so lonely they feel like they are just drifting through a void. They had no one, so who were they expecting?
‘Get up you child. You’re pathetic. No one cares if your feelings are hurt.’
Their hands wipe at the lingering wetness as their tears begin to cease. Makeup smearing into a mess of pink and black.
‘Finish your work or you’ll truly be alone. And none of that sappy crap in the edit.’
Standing, their eyes meet the reflection staring blankly back at them. Their eyes were dark set against the colorful smear of highlight and eyeshadow that was their face. Did they always look so dead? Were their eyebags always so pronounced? Were their frown lines becoming more apparent than the deep-set smile ones they had always been praised for as a child.
‘Stop stalling with moping and get back to work.’
The makeup they were once wearing is slowly wiped away before Nevene returns to their editing. Sitting down at the desk they reopen their laptop and are greeted with a smiling face. One so familiar to their own. Just a bit more polished and manufactured happiness.
“At least I’m beautiful at being alone.”