John the Principal:
I sat there, banging the phallic pencil against the desk. This was ridiculous. Wow. Nine o'clock already? This day was going by fast. I decided to kick up onto the desk and lie back. My problems with women stem from being a woman, the same reason I had changed my name from Misato to John. Not that my parents were Japanese, but they liked the name. It's a nice name. Bitch.
I decided to do the angry-patrolling thing. I walked up and down the halls, looking as intimidating as a "man" of my appearance could look. I took an angry look at that Chester kid and took off. I hid in a little cave outside the school grounds and masturbated. I'd always found the feeling of my artificial penis and its transmissions back through my defunct vagina and my mons…interesting.
I looked back. Did I have a single thought that day that didn't have to do with sex? I went back into my room.
"Oh, he's back," said my secretary.
It was some mother complaining that her child had failed a course. "I didn't fail her. You're welcome to talk with the teacher who did? Which teacher? Ask your daughter. Well, if she doesn't know, she deserves to fail. Why are you calling during the schoolday, anyway? Call tomorrow. And call the teacher. My secretary will give you an appointment."
No, I was not ready for highschool. I was going crazy. The nurse checked on me and found nothing wrong, but told me to rest on a bed for a while until she called my parents to tell them what had happened. I asked if she called the parents of all the students here when they something happened. She laughed and disappeared behind a curtain. No she didn't. She was calling my parents because I was a 12-year-old with the body of a 10-year-old and the maturity of an 8-year-old. Plus, I was going crazy.
"Mhmm. Mhmm. Yeah. Mhmm, oh, ahahahah!" the nurse, Ms Hollingsworth, said on the phone. God knows what my mother was telling her. I just stared at the ceiling and thought about… stuff. The little patterns looked kind of like little horses and dragons. In fact, they looked somewhat like little dinosaurs! I smiled as I traced the beak of a protoceratops, the menacing horns of a triceratops, the massive sail of a spinosaurus. It reminded me of that one mohawk guy who had shoved past me in front of the school earlier this morning. When I thought about it, I remembered seeing him around before, but I didn't remember when or where. His hair had taken the form of a compact, black-dyed mullet before it had spread its silky wings and blossomed into the two-foot foliage he wore today. I remembered then where I had seen him before. He used to hang out with my older brother, following him and his group around like a lost little mulleted kitten. This one time (oh man, it was so fucking hilarious) my brother started bare-knuckle boxing with Mullet Guy in the middle of a rave. My brother's nose is permanently disfigured, pointing downward towards his left cheek because of that oh so hilarious episode. And then, oh man, this one time? Oh man, they threw the computers from the computer lab out a window and destroyed thousands of dollars worth of school property. And this was the person whose footsteps I wanted to follow in. The phone clacked onto the receiver and Ms. Hollingsworth strolled over to me, a giant, yellow smile plastered all over her face like a bumper sticker. She bent down and for a moment I thought she was going to assimilate me into her shiny yellow vortex mouth.
"Well little guy, you're all set! You still have twenty minutes left of class, but you can stay in here until the 10 o'clock class if you'd like, okay! Huh?! Little guy?!" she said, only barely letting her massive grin waver as she spoke. I guessed I was going to be "little guy" or "little man" for the rest of the school year, having to live in constant fear of being absorbed by humongous teeth and being destroyed in the crossfire of imaginary sharpie marker conflicts.
"Sure, I'll stay here for a while, I guess," I said, putting my hand in my hair and twisting my curls around a finger. Ms. Hollingsworth nodded and began to walk away.
"Oh, that's fine, that's fine. Whose class are you missing right now? I need to call them to say you're not feeling well and won't be in," she said. I reached into my pocket, brought out a tiny cube of paper, and began to slowly unfold it.
"Carson? What class are you missing?" She repeated.
"Yeah, this is my schedule," I said, "hold on a sec. I don't have it memorized or anything… there we go." I handed her the unfurled list of classes and times, laid back, and went to sleep, ignoring the nurse's coos and titters. Maybe I just hadn't gotten enough sleep last night. Suddenly it became very obvious that the reason I was wigging out was that I hadn't gotten enough sleep, and the only way to solve this problem was to sleep and sleep and sleep and sleep, through every single class, through the bell shrieking every hour, shrieking right now. If I slept long enough through enough classes and enough bells, then everything would be all right…
The bell rang, signifying 9:00. I sat in the middle of the room, mainly to avoid being able to lean my head back against the wall. I thought that might help me stay awake. The class trickled in, mostly juniors except for a few seniors who failed their junior years of English. The teacher came in excited a few minutes late.
“Hey, guys. I'm Mr. Stone, I'll be your English teacher this year. Now, I know that some of you don't see the point in taking an English class.”
“Amen!” someone yelled out from the back of the room, and then laughed. No one else did. It was an easy joke, but that didn't mean it was funny. Mr. Stone continued.
“In this day and age, people don't read as much as they used to. Television, movies… that is where we get our stories now. What I want us to do in this class is think about what sets books apart from these things, what makes them a medium worth standing for. Any ideas?” Nobody said anything for a few minutes.
“Books are harder.” I surprised myself by talking.
“Harder? Can you explain that, uh…”
“Michael. Can you explain that, Michael?”
“Well, television is easy. You can just watch it and that's all. Books make you think, and television shows just show you everything. You have to figure out what happens in a book on your own, and you can't just space out and read. You need to be involved.”
“That's excellent, Michael. Books require us to participate more than almost every other form of art. Except for performance art, maybe.” He laughed at his own joke. “What else?”
I didn't really listen to the rest of the comments—I was awed by my own answer. I tend not to speak in class, for whatever reason. I'm usually moderately self-conscious, and so I didn't put to much faith in my own ideas. The class continued on, with a few good ideas (“Movies rely on special effects and acting ability, writing relies on a compelling story”) and a few bad ones (“Books don't need electricity.”) After about forty five minutes, Mr. Stone walked up to the board and wrote down the books for the year.
“These are all well-known classics, books that have been read many times by people smarter than you and smarter than me. I don't want you to read them and think about what you can come in here and say about them, or what you can write a paper about regarding them. I want you to read them and enjoy them, I want you to read them and think about what interests you, what you get out of them. Okay, that's all for today. Read the first forty pages of Brave New World for tomorrow.”
I wasn't really paying attention as I walked out of the classroom towards the cafeteria. I wanted something to drink, maybe a cup of coffee. While turning a corner, I saw a familiar head of brown hair in front of me.
“Lindsay!” I shouted. She turned around as I walked towards her, and hugged her.
“Hey.” I gave her a hug and went to kiss her. She pulled back a bit, and I ended up kissing her cheek.
“How are you?” she said.
“Good.” I was confused a bit when she pulled back after I tried to kiss her, but I shook it off pretty quickly. “You missed AP chem this morning. I don't think Dr. Godfrey likes me very much.”
“Aw, sorry. I was asleep.” She didn't smile as we were talking, instead just seemed distracted. “I just got here.”
“Yeah, I almost missed the bus too. What class do you have now?”
“Oh. I have a free, I wanted to hang out with you.” I had no other idea for what to do for the hour.
“We'll see each other at lunch.” She looked over her shoulder, as if she was trying to find someone.
“Yeah. Have a good class, ma belle cherie.”
“What?” Now it was her chance to be confused.
I smiled. “You'll find out in class.”
“Oh. Okay. Bye.”
I walked to the cafeteria confused. I grabbed a cup of coffee and fell into a chair, burning my tongue. The bell rang for third period as I shut my eyes and leaned my head back.
We arrive with fifteen minutes to spare and I load my stuff into my locker and head to the cafeteria to see if anyone I know is around. I wave to some kids, but I don’t want to talk to anyone, so I wait outside my classroom and feel like a dork for going to class early. The door opens. The earlier class floods out in broken movie frames, a giant, bunchy, colorful caterpillar. The noise echoes in my head. I wander in, pick a seat near the back of the room, and slip back into Jay and Lena. Noise blurs. People blur. I drool on my desk. I become conscious when the bell for lunch rings. I am in a different classroom. I have notes and syllabi from both English and Trig. I feel a little more coherent now and walk toward the cafeteria.
I run to the car. Mom’s frowning. I know she’s angry. I open the door and smile. “Thanks so much mom! I’m sorry! It won’t happen again!” She’s totally confused. She doesn’t know how to respond at all. Sweet.
“How was your morning?” she says.
“Even with sleeping in,” I tell her, “I’ll still sleepy. But I’ll get used to it. It’s just a change from summer.”
“How was your morning?”
“Shitty,” she says.
“I don’t want to talk about.”
“Can I put in some music?” I ask.
“Okay,” she says. I reach into the back seat and grab the CD-case. I try to find something she’s find tolerable. Maybe we can actually get along with each other. Coldplay, we both like that. I put it in and leave back. “Just the meeting,” she says, “my boss was being a total bitch. You think this shit ends in high-school, and it just doesn’t.
“How are you?”
And it’s totally weird sometimes. You just blurt shit out. “I think I’m gay.”
She frowns. Fuck. But then it’s just “Michael?”
And then I have to be honest. It sucks. “Yeah, I should probably tell him.”
“Yeah,” she says, “probably.” Awkward.
Mom pulls up in the front of the school and stops. “Good Luck,” she says.
“Thanks,” I say, getting out of the car. The car pulls away as I walk towards the building.
I stop in front of the building and look around. Fuck. I don’t know where I’m supposed to go. And I don’t want to see Michael. I hope we don’t have class together. I guess the office can give me my schedule. I’m going to look like an idiot. They sent it to me, and I left it at home. I don’t want to see Michael. I hope he doesn’t cry when I break up with him. Am I going to break up with him?
I go into the office. “I need a new schedule.”
“You’re late,” she snaps.
“Sorry. Bad morning.” She lectures me and gives me my schedule. It’s twenty of ten, already. Somehow. I go to the bathroom to kill some time until my third period starts. And then it’s lunch. Cool. I pee and then I sit on the toilet for a couple minutes, staring at the graffiti. I think the same stupid things. I figure I’ll head of to class, try to avoid running into Michael in the hallway.
And then, of course, there he is. He runs over and hugs me. “Lindsay!”
I say “Hey.” Not who I wanted to see. At all. Horrible. Fuck. Fuck. Fuck. Ask like I’m happy. Fuck.
He goes in for a kiss, and I pull away. Didn’t mean to do that. I just paniced. Awkward, I ask how he is. “Good,” he says, “you missed AP bio this morning.” He’s giving me a look. “I don’t think Dr. Godfrey likes me very much,” he adds.
“Aw,” I say, “I’m sorry. I was asleep. I just got here.”
“Yeah,” he says, “I almost missed the bus too. What class do you have now?”
“Oh,” he says, “I have a free, I want to hang out with you.”
He wants me to say I’ll skip. I don’t want to talk to him. “We’ll see each other at lunch,” I tell him. I can tell he’s disappointed. I can tell he doesn’t want me to know. Does he realize this relationship is declining. Does he realize this isn’t working. Is that working for him? Is this what he wants?
“Yeah,” he says, smiling, “Have a good class, ma belle cherie.”
“You’ll find out in class.” Pretentious fuck. God, god. Kind of romantic, too. Sickining though.
“Oh,” I say, “okay. Bye.”
“Bye.” He smiles
He leaves. I turn to go. That didn’t go right. Fuck.
I walk slowly to my second period gym class. Gym isn't my favorite class, but it's the easiest. Because of the constant and consistent effort which I put into maintaining my physical fitness, gym is- what the fuck am I thinking? Why do I always sound like an official document? Why do I always sound like a college essay or a main character coming to some profound realization in a blockbuster film? Why can't I just say what I feel? I'm not even talking to anyone. This is just the narrative that goes on in my head. Why do I need a narrative? Does it really keep me sane?
I really need to talk to Sadie. Like, really. I saw that I had missed a couple of her calls this week- but I didn't dare call my voice mail and see what she had said. She never texts. She always calls. That's what we do- write letters and call each other. At least that's what we did when things were simple. When we were just friends and she would tell me about college and I would tell her about high school and neither of us cared about the stories we told- we just liked talking.
I look around the hallway and notice that no one is really around. I wonder if that means I'm late? I've never been late to a class. I've never really been late to anything. Even when I started sneaking out and partying and hanging out with Johnny late, I'd always get to whatever I had to do in the morning on time.
I get to the locker room, and no one's there. I didn't have any gym clothes with me anyway. I sink down to the floor, whether willingly or not, I don't know. I shuffle through my bag and grab my cell phone. I'll finally check my messages, and see what she said. I can't keep hiding from this.
There's no service. Of course. Why would I think that there would be? As I put my cell phone back in my bag, I feel something round and cold. I pull it out- it's an apple. How did that get in there? We ate apples and she smelled sweet and there were pieces all over my bed- the messiest it's ever been. I won't cry I can't cry. I close my eyes to try not to, and I lay down on the ground, my frail little body as cold as the tile.
I need to sleep. I'm gonna go out to my car and sleep. To sleep is the solution. The door handle is cold. Why the fuck is it cold out. Maybe it isn't cold, I've just gone completely insane. God willing. Lie down in the driver's seat. Put the seat back 'cause I'm gangsta like that. I don't drive at 10 and 2, I drives with my hand at 6, boyee. I fell asleep quickly. So much for Nodoz. 5 minutes later Jack's knocking on the window. I ask him if he's got a free. “Nah, I'm just skipping. Wanna get some food?” Not really. I'm not all that hungry. I've also got no money. “I have zero dollars to my name, dude.” “No problem, I'll cover for you.” Awesome. Open the door, let him in. “Where'd you have in mind? Anywhere but McDonald's is fine with me.” “I was thinking of the Beagle. You can smoke in there.” “Rockin'.” Start the car up. The CD player's sticking its tongue out. Shove that CD in. What do I have here. Couldn't tell from the CD. I really should label these things. Donovan. I'm definitely in the mood for harmless Scottish folk today. Forward. Left. Right. Right at the light. Forward. Left at the light. Sweet, I have a green arrow. Green Arrow is awesome. I should really read more comic books. Parking lot. Lot of spots open. Any got a pull-through? This one does. Hooray. Turn the car off. Skip to the next track so it starts when I get back in. Party of two, smoking. Diet Coke and a Sausage, Egg, and Cheese on a bagel for me. I refuse to make small talk. Jack's kind of a whore in that respect. He really does flirt with everyone. I have to admit this waitress is cute, though. She's gonna take forever with this food. Jack takes out a cigarette. I take one without asking. I quit over the summer. There that goes. “So what's up, man, I didn't see you at all this summer.” People always sound weird with a cigarette hanging out of their mouth. He lights. Hands me the lighter. I light. He's right. I didn't see him at all. I didn't see anyone this summer. Jesus, I did nothing for three months. I like Jack, though. I've been friends with him since 3rd grade too. Most times, those friends fade. I think the reason we purveyed through the years is because we got cynical around the same time. “Yeah, I hardly saw anyone this summer.” “How's Janice?” “I really don't want to talk about it.” “Dick.” Whoa, nic-buzz. I haven't smoked since June. “I kind of fucked it up.” “How so?” “Did I not say I don't want to talk about it?” “But then you said 'I kind of fucked it up.' That's a continuation. I thought you had changed your mind.” “Well, I didn't.” And now for an awkward silence. I really did fuck that up. She had nothing to do with it. I have no libido, I guess. Jack's just gonna go home after we're done. I'm gonna sleep in my car until English class. Woo, our food is here. Jack hits on out waitress again. I shoot her a staring depraved glare. I'm good at those. If I'm alone, why should Jack get any. Ha. Eat quickly, I want to sleep some more. I finish my sandwich and go back to the car. Wave to Jack. I need to hang out with him more often. 9:30. Sleep for ten minutes in the parking lot. I don't dream. I never dream these days. I mean I guess I dream but don't remember my dreams. What's the difference, anyway. God damn, I'm a wreck. They say your dreams mean things, unspoken desires and all that. Do I have no unspoken desires? Shit. Drive back to school. There's a spot in the parking lot of the school now. Sleep for another fifteen. Still no dreams. Asleep or awake, still no dreams.