Aha! Math, my specialty! Amazing! that somebody so young and from such an unremarkable family could be chipping away at Algebra II (at such a young age!) I don't think I heard a bit of Mr. Jackson's math tirade as I sat in the back of the room, drawing on the desk with a sharpie marker. I had drawn a circle with eyestalks and sharp teeth in one corner, and a butterfly with guns coming out of it in another corner. The circle, which I had named Amadeus, began to emit a black smudge from its eyes as I smooshed my marker all over the desk's surface. Gun Butterfly could do nothing in response but release a flurry of black dots against Amadeus' smudge flood. The two waves of projectiles collided in the center in a giant black marker whorl, and I spun my hand round and round, faster and faster creating the humongous lightless orb in the center of the desk. Who would prevail? Would Gun Butterfly gain the upperhand, with his deadly toxic spore dots and his heart of gold? Or would Amadeus, with his devil-may-care attitude and his troubled past, smother Gun Butterfly's spores with his overwhelming marker smudge? Round and round, the vortex grew and grew, and I began to sweat as my hand circled round and round and round.
My heart began to beat and for some reason the voices around me grew louder and louder. Mr. Jackson's voice was suddenly surrounding me, pressing in on me like a sauropod carcass, and every whisper barraged me like a million deinonychus feet spinning round and round encompassing my head, slashing at my face and then scratching into the scars deeper and deeper and infecting the scars with cretaceous bacteria. My marker spun round and round, my arm began to ache and the whispers grew louder, and somebody's giggle sounded like thunder.
"Hey man, are you all right?" Someone shouted from next to me.
"AAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH," the black orb of colliding energy erupted and lost control, and the marker flew in wide arcs all over the desk. It was over. The two foolish beings had destroyed one another in their quest for glory, and now the two-dimensional world would never lay eyes on Gun Butterfly or Amadeus again. Alas!
All of a sudden I was in the hallway, staring Mr. Jackson square in the eye.
"Carson? Carson, are you all right? Can you get to the nurse's office by yourself?" I blinked dumbly and began to peel the tiny bit of skin off between my fingernails.
"Yeah man… Um, yeah, I'm fine. Yeah. Yeah…" I managed to say. I swivelled around mechanically and marched down the hall.
"Hey, do you know where you're going?" He called, but I quickly turnred the corner and power-walked away.
For the longest time I walked aimlessly through the hallways. My head felt like it had detached from my body, and my fingers and toes were tingling. After a while, I completely forgot what time it was, and where I was. The floor tiles felt infinitely dense, hard, and the hallways seemed to curve into nowhere. But nowhere was there a nurse, and nowhere was there an exit. I stopped at a water fountain and splashed my face several times. High school, awesome! Yeah! Only then did I realize what an ass I had just been, and that I had actually started screaming like a pterodactyl in the middle of math class. Why was I there? I should've been at home, learning to shovel shit. Yeah! That's what I wanted to do!
"Are you lost, little man?" A woman asked from down the hall.
"Are you kidding?" I yelled back, "I'm not lost, I know exactly what I wanna do for the rest of my life!"
"Oh? Do you want to walk back and forth in that hallway for rest of your life, then? You've been doing that for the last 10 minutes. The bell's about to wring, little man," she replied. At that moment I wanted to burst and my remains to be disintegrated and disappear from Earth for all of eternity.
"Uh, yeah… I'm looking for the nurse's office, I guess," I said.
"Well, you're in luck young man. Come inside." The bell rang 9, and I fled into the doorway before the flow of students engulfed me.
I was in my first algebra class long enough to meet some little cabrón named Carson, a grade-skipping little upstart who managed somehow to get into a high school math class despite being 12. Her blonde curls made me throw up and pass out…well, it was the disgust associated with them, but it was still vomit-worthy.
15 minutes, several long, skeptical glances from Ms. Hollingsworth, and one angry Latina madre (“¡estupido!” she smacked me) later, I dived into my freezing bed and dozed off, my esophagus aflame.
(I'll wake up, guys, when the explosion happens)
I walked into class about two minutes late, and got a dirty look from Dr. Godfrey in response. I ignored it and surveyed the class, seeing who was there. There were a few people I recognized—Matt Kukuchka, a senior, was sitting in the back of the room with his head against the wall— and then that jackass, Chester Masters. I shot him a dirty look and walked to an open desk in the back of the classroom. Lindsay was supposed to be here, but she wasn't in the classroom. The class was a typical first day class, and Dr. Godfrey started handing out syllabi and outlining the course. I was only taking chemistry because I needed to take an AP science class and Lindsay was in this one. She was interested in chemistry, something that I could never get. I always loved visual arts, and started painting when I was young. I nodded at Matt as I sat down next to him and he nodded back, and I sat down next to him. I leaned my head back against the wall and stared at the board, but didn't really pay attention.
The class progressed. I kept wondering where Lindsay was… she had better attendance than I did, and took the school bus so she was usually on time. I figured she missed the bus, but when she wasn't there and the clock read 8:40, I decided that she probably wasn't coming for the day. I looked out the window at the cloudy fall day outside. The classroom looked out on the parking lot, and I saw my sister pulling up in her car. I sighed, wished I could be anywhere else. I had a painting class fourth period, and was looking forward to that more than anything else for the rest of the day. I pulled out a pencil and started doodling in my notebook, not drawing anything in particular. Just lines and circles, all coming together at a central point like an explosion. It got bigger as I stared off more, eventually expanding over the entire page of my notebook, overlapping onto the back of the page before, expanding as the explosion spread and time progressed. As I drew more it became more rapid, more intense, darker lines as I held the pencil tighter. I kept jumping from position to position, as if my pencil saw places that needed to be expanded on and wanted to work on them. As I reached the end of the left side of the page, my hand slipped off the notebook. I started pulling it back up as it hit the table and it snapped in my hand.
The snap resonated through the classroom. A few heads snapped up like the pencils itself, turning and craning their necks to see the origin of the sound. Dr. Godfrey glared at me.
“Everything all right back there, Michael?”
I smiled as sweetly as I could while maintaining obnoxiousness.
“Of course, Dr. Godfrey.”
She rolled her eyes and turned back to the board. I looked up to see what I had missed and saw the board full of terms, and heard her defining the second-to-last-one. I realized that I had missed forty-five minutes of definitions that I should have been taking notes on.
“Fuck!” I muttered under my breath, and turned the page in my notebook. I started writing down the last two definitions that were left. It was a mindless task, and I only wrote down snippets as I rushed to write down all of the terms that were on the board—Lindsay would probably be able to help me with the ones I missed. I had figured that she'd end up helping me with a lot of the work in the class anyway, and so I wasn't too worried. One thing that did worry me, though, was getting off on the wrong foot with Dr. Godfrey. She had a bit of a reputation of being a hardass, and so getting on her bad side so early couldn't be a good idea. I wondered if anyone had—
“…is different from diffusion in that…” and I realized I had stopped paying attention again. I started taking notes again, putting as little brain power into it as possible. I was like a stenographer, not listening to the words but simply writing them. I flipped back to the drawing. It was expansive and meaningless, and sort of scared me. I had drawn it as if possessed, and now I couldn't understand why it had grabbed me like it did. I went back to the definitions half-heartedly, finishing them off as the class wound down. Chester, that tool, was leaning forward in his desk, taking notes like his life depended on it. I flipped the notebook shut as Godfrey started talking about the homework assignments for the next class, and stuck it into my bag. I yawned and stretched as the class ended and walked out, heading towards my second period class, English. I was a little bit excited, but tiredness was getting the best of me after spacing out for an hour. I walked slowly to the next class, bumping into friends and having quick conversations on the way there. The bell rang, signaling 9:00.
I watch an episode of some show. It’s okay. Entertaining, but not redeeming. Eh. I remember school. I call my dad. He tells me to call my mom. I call my mom. She tells me to call my dad. I tell her I already did. She tells me I need to learn how to get up with the alarm clock. I tell her I know. I tell her it’s the first day. I haven’t been up so early all summer. It’s too hard to adjust that quickly. She tells me she’s busy. She has a meeting. She can’t leave it. I call my dad again. He says he can’t. I call my mom back. I tell her I could just stay home. She says no. She says she’ll be back at 9. She’ll drive me over. But she’s angry, she tells me, she wants me to know that she’s angry. Parents, man, fucking parents.
TV? No, I should do something a little more productive. I go upstairs to take a shower. I need to make sure I don’t get distracted, that I’m ready to go when mom comes back. Hot water. I take off my pants, and pull off my shirt. No bra. Maybe I should put one on when I get dressed again. Take off my underwear. I get in the shower. It’s too hot. I turn it down. I think about things.
Michael. He’s pretty. Too manly though. Maybe I just like effeminate boys. Maybe I just like girls. Fuck. I don’t want to think about this. Think about death. That sinking feeling you get when you remember that you’re going to die and how much that sucks. Okay, okay, no, no, no, I’d rather think about Michael than that. Michael’s big cock. I’m touching it and he’s giggling. He has the cutest little giggle sometimes. Michael, what a hotty. Girls are totally jealous of me. Is that a shallow thing to be happy about. I need to think about something else.
Where am I going to go to college? Fuck. That sucks. I’m going to get a shitty SAT score and then I’m not going to get in anywhere. And the fucking new SAT, fucking writing sample. I hate writing samples. I don’t want to think about this.
I hope it’s not too late. I hope I still have some time. What can I think about? What’s something happy? Happy, happy, happy. I hope I’m not depressed. Maybe I should see a therapist.
My hair is too long. Fuck shampooing this shit. Fuck conditioner. I could cut it really short. I could be a cute fucking dyke. Michael wouldn’t like it though. Fuck Michael. I need to break up with him. How to tell him. If I broke it off I could have my hair however the fuck I want. Fuck Michael. Girls are hot.
I’ll think about that. I think about that girl in my dress. Punk and angry. I touch myself and think about her, touching me. She’s in the shower with me. And she’s got the cutest little breasts. Man, girls.
Fuck shaving my legs. Fuck Michael. I’m going to be an angry dyke. And fuck my parents too.
I get out of the shower and dry off. I go back to my room. I find a bra in the hamper. I find some clean underpants. I’ll wear a skirt, I guess. It’s clean. And a shirt from the drawer. Deodorant. Socks. Shoes. Backpack. 8:55. I go and wait by the door.
I take out a piece of paper: “Dear Michael, You are pretty and smart and nice. But I like girls. Sorry.” Maybe I will give it to him when I get to school. We will start off the year clean. I can’t give this to him.
I look up and mom’s pulling into the driveway. I grab my bag and run out to her. I hop in the car. I’ll get to school by the middle of second. That’s not too bad. Eh.
John the Principal:
It was eight o'clock. First period. I had to sit in my office and wait for any troublemakers. This involved a lot of sitting. I'd never gotten into trouble as a kid, because I'd never had the opportunity to make trouble. I made trouble for my parents, which became steadily more conscious as Oedipus reared its ugly head. Well, I was a girl then, so it wouldn't be Oedipus. First day. Day one.
Introductory assembly, 11:30. Meep. I got to lecture students. "Yeah, I'm a bi tranny fag, wanna make something of it?" Hands on hips, everyone laughs. Ugh. What was my problem? I needed to work on that. I needed to listen to less rap music. I needed to choose my words more carefully. I needed to think less opaquely.
I looked into a reflective surface. I looked so much like Ziggy Stardust. I played guitar, jamming good with Weird and Gilly, and the spiders from Mars. They'd kill me one day, if my students didn't first. Oh, well. They'd have to break up the band. Curse you, David Bowie. You've got your mother in a whirl, 'cause you're not sure if you're a boy a girl. But hey baby, you're social skills are all right. Hey baby, sleep in my bed tonight.
I like it all. That's something interesting. There are a lot of theories regarding bisexuality. Some revolve around parental abuse, but my parents loved me too much, giving me my sexy Latin catboy. So, in any case, they held me as their own - was that a kind of abuse? Society would say no. They never touched me. They possessed me, but never touched me. They taught me everything I knew. Everything I knew.
Sailors! Fighting in the dance hall. Oh, man, look at those cavemen go. It's the freakiest show. Take a look at the principal molesting the schoolchildren. Could I be forgiven? Is there life on Mars? I paced the school.
Cattle. I feel like cattle. We all look like cattle. There are too many people going in the same direction and I feel like cattle being herded to be slaughtered. I didn’t want to go inside. It was going to be bright in there, prison light ugly bright. I wanted to stay outside and breathe, breathe up all the cool and cloudy air.
I had math first. This was good. I love numbers. They only make sense in my head though, when I try to write them down they stop meaning anything. I always get in trouble for never putting any of my work down but I can’t help it. It calms me down, figuring out the problems. I didn’t know where the classroom was so I had to ask someone. I was still near the girl in the red shirt so I ran up and asked her. She said that she was in a class just a few doors down from that so I could follow her and that her name was Lydia. That was nice of her.
I sat in the third row… one, two three. The third row at the end near the window. The teacher’s name was Mr. Jackson and he looked really young, like he just got out of college. He wrote his name on the blackboard and then walked around to the front of his desk and sat down on it to hand syllabi to the front row to pass around and talk about the course and all. I think sitting on his desk was supposed to make him cooler, more personable to us or something. I’m not really sure. I wasn’t paying as much attention as I should have because the lights hurt my head.
He talked a lot and I tried to remember to write things down in my notebook but I wasn’t doing so well. I was staring out the window when the blonde boy in the desk next to me screamed… really screamed. Bloody murder scream. It made me jump out of my chair and when I looked at him his eyes were rolled all the way to the back of his head. It made my skin crawl. What was going on? I wanted to jump out the window and into the fresh air and run far far away from this prison ugly bright light room with screaming little boys. He was so little, little and beautiful. What was he doing here? Oh god, what were any of us doing here? He screamed for so long. It seemed like it took forever for Mr. Jackson to run over to him. He grabbed his shoulders and shook him a little until he stopped screaming and then he half picked him out of his chair and rushed him out into the hallway. The door shut behind him and the room fell into silence, that empty echoing silence that happens when you’ve been in a room by yourself for too long. The hair on my arms was still standing up and I couldn’t get the picture of that little boys eyes rolling back and I could feel panic coming on. I started counting to myself… one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine… then someone laughed and it was like time had all of a sudden returned. Time had fallen back into the room and the hair fell back to my arm. Mr. Jackson came back into the room, he looked worried and I didn’t blame him one bit. He tried not to make a big deal over it though and went back to writing on the blackboard but after a few minutes he turned around and looked at the seat the boy had been sitting. He bit his lip like he was thinking and looked over to me and asked me if I would mind going to check on Carson. That must have been the boys name. I said no, I was glad to get out of the room. I walked into the hallway and turned to the right. I got to the end of the hallway before I realized I had no idea where the nurse’s office was or if he had even gone there. My head hurt and I needed air.
The bell rang and I left my homeroom with haste. Students poured out of the classrooms like they were water spigots. Everyone just coagulated together into a giant mass of people. I shuffled my way through the hall until I got to the appropriate classroom. I was early. Godfrey shot a look at me. I nodded in response. I sat down in the back and put my head against the wall. Kids came in about a minute later. I was trying to sleep. Fuck Nodoz. Mike Johnson came in. Alright kid. Junior. Dating that girl Lindsay. Now her, I dig. Wouldn't tell Mike that. He could probably kick my ass. Hell, a hard breeze kicks my ass most days. Think Lindsay's supposed to be in this class. Meh. Mike is Sara's little brother, right. Never cared much for Sara. Always wanted to. I guess she tries too hard. I try too hard. What the hell am I doing. Whatever college I go to, it better be far. Maybe then I wouldn't have to come home for Thanksgiving and shit. My parents hate paying for things like airfare. Or, you know, anything that would make me happy. Fuck them. Doesn't matter, I'm not gonna get into any college. I failed second grade. I'm naturally stupid. And here I am again, self-loathing. Wee. Jesus, all my classes are going to be like this today. Syllabus. A syllabus for a high school class. Chick's not gonna follow it. If I throw it away though, then she definitely will. Murphy's Law and all that. Shit. Great, definitions. First goddamn day and we've got shit to define. I didn't bring a notebook. Jesus, I didn't bring anything. Where is my bag? I must've put it in my locker. I haven't been to my locker yet. Eh, it'll turn up. God damn there's a lot of words. I'll just get 'em from Mike later on. What the hell is he doing in that notebook. Looks nice, I guess. Doesn't really look like he's trying. I'm not good at anything. Except spite and sarcasm, I'm damn good at that. I genuinely wonder if everyone else is as bitter and self-doubting as I am but they just fucking deal with it. I guess I deal with it. People think I'm cool. When I graduate I'll almost be twenty. What's cool about a 20-year-old high school senior. I guess there's something appealing about it. God damn it I'm alone. If I'm so damn appealing then why am I a virgin, huh? Fuckers. Janice wanted to fuck me. But then I had to go and screw that up. I'm such a goddamn failure. Product of my environment I guess. Middle American town still clutching onto the last few strands of American industry, refusing to admit that it's a failure. Seriously, this is a town built around a steel mill. A steel mill. This is 2007. What the fuck. I think class is wrapping up. No, she's just getting a drink of water. If I taught here, that would not just be water in there. And now I'm stuck. My mind has stopped. I fucking hate it when this happens. If I don't talk, I think, and if I don't think, then what. It's weird how often this happens to me. I guess this is thinking.
Ten minutes, later, and I haven't thought of anything. Great. I'm fucking two steps from a nervous breakdown, brought on by nothing. Can't blame my parents or my childhood, I mean they both kind of sucked but not anymore than anyone else's, in fact probably a lot less than most people. Only real problem is they always praised the shit out of Rick. I mean, it's not like I was neglected. None of that shit you got in Death of a Salesman with Happy striving for Willy's attention. I really don't know what I would have done if I had Dad's full attention, honestly. I used to wish I was an only child. Nowadays, I think that if I were I would have killed myself. I guess I like being alone sometimes. I don't know how. As a general rule I'm incredibly dependent.
Okay, now class is wrapping up. There's the bell. I have no idea what I've got next. Consult the paper. I've got a free. What the hell am I going to do with that.
Jay and Lena and I wander through the field, laughing at nothing. I’m kind of in love with both of them, but we’ve been good friends for years, so I’m not about to tell them. And they’re both going to go off to college next year. So telling them would probably just hurt the time we have left together. And what if I find out that one of them is in love with me and the other isn’t? I don’t want to be with just one of them, leave the other out. No. I watch them glowing in the sunlight. Bored, we walk into the CVS and buy a bag of candy. Sit on the pavement and shoot little colored gumballs at each other. Like kids playing with marbles. I think about Jay and Lena. Think about touching them, kissing them. What would happen right now? I start to think that it’s already happened. That everyone is okay with it. But then a cop car pulls in, and we all get nervous. It brings me back to reality a bit, and watching Jay and Lena, it is clear that I didn’t do or say anything.
We jump into our respective cars and make our way toward school. Lights blur in the corners of my eyes, distracting me, and I have trouble staying on the right side of the road. Luckily, everyone’s already at work. Factory jobs start at eight, and most of the town works at the factory. The bored cops are sitting around Dunkin Donuts or hanging out around whatever poor person happened to get caught speeding on the main road. The side streets between the strip mall and school are empty after eight. I sing along to the radio and try not to think about school.
I walk into the school, and I hardly recognize it. First of all, there are all of these small people milling around. They're small, but I feel smaller. I'm kind of tall actually. I just feel so frail. I feel so empty and weak. This is ridiculous. How can I let myself be so emotionally dependent upon someone else? That's not what I do. I'm cold, aloof. People fall in hopelessly in love with me, not the other way around. I'll kiss them, but only to keep up appearances. At least, that's what I would have done.
Also, what are all of these signs welcoming freshmen? Who would've made them besides me? Oh right,
Valerie and Sophia texted me this week, didn't they? Something about the orientation committee. I think I might've texted them back with whatever required the least effort or creativity. Being sick? Early admissions applications? I don't remember. What did I tell Johnny, come to think of it? I'd been blowing him off all week. I loved him, I really did. I just stopped caring on that day. Everything became a little less important.
When my eyes focus, I notice that I'm standing in front of the chemistry classroom. This is my class, I think. No, I don't think, I know. This is where I have to go. I've already looked through most of the textbook. It will be easy.
I walk in and Valerie and Sophia are sitting in the front row. They look at me very critically before looking at one another and then waving enthusiastically. Too enthusiastically. I know they're full of shit. I don't really care, anyway. They're just supporting characters in the movie that is my life. They will always just be a degree less good than me at everything. That used to make me feel good about myself. Now I just don't care. I walk to the back of the room as I try not to throw up.
I sit down and my hands start shaking as I open up the notebook that I wrote “AP Chem” on a month ago. I try to write my name at the top of the page, but I can't really, my hand is shaking too badly. Maybe I've forgotten how to write? I haven't written anything in a week. The person sitting next to me asks me a question and I can't really hear them because they are quiet and I try to ask them to repeat their question but my throat and tongue and mouth can't make words for some reason and this scares me and I just hand them my pencil because I think that's what they want and I turn away before I can see their reaction. I feel like I'm dying and I don't know just what's wrong. Is that that I'm dizzy or nauseas or tired or hungry or empty or pale or I can't talk or I can't hear or can't think about anything except her?
I look out the window and I know that she's nowhere near here. A week ago she was real, tangible, but I didn't realize how much I needed her. I look back at my notebook. There's a faint scribble where my name is supposed to be. I know the only thing that I can write. S- I can't be in love with her. A- I don't even like girls. D- Seriously, I don't. I- I have Johnny. E- Fuck, I need her. Sadie. I start:
This is a love letter to you, but it can't be. It contradicts everything that I am; everything that I've made myself become. I am a straight girl who has a boyfriend and everything is planned out and I thought I was happy. How did it take me this long to realize that I was in love with you? Or something? Is it because it is illogical and contradictory to everything that I am supposed to be? We've had years of friendship and a summer of closeness but it just took that one day for everything to change completely. Should I blame it on the drugs? No. I won't. That's copping out. I know it's you- I know it's us. I know that it's everything that is right and I know that we know it. But what the fuck am I supposed to do about it? I'm here and you're there and then there's Johnny and I'm straight! I must be going crazy. Maybe it was the drugs? Maybe I haven't recovered. Maybe I'll just be crazy forever and I'll just live in a mental hospital and I'll never have to worry about colleges or volleyball matches or clothing. I will wear the clothes they give me and play checkers for the rest of my life. You don't have to visit me- don't worry. You'll probably find some girlfriend or boyfriend who is crazy too, but just not willing to admit it. You must like crazy people if you like me. I don't even know why I'm writing this, I don't think I'll give it to you. How can I ever talk to you again without being with you? We've written a year's worth of letters between us and they've all been about nothing. Drugs and sex and gossip and boys- none of it matters. All that matters is us. Fuck.//
My pencil cracks when the bell rings.