Thirteen

12 was a common number to round things off to. in a general sense. a dozen. the surrounding numbers didn’t have that, a nickname like a dozen. a dozen eggs, a dozen months in a solar year… that last one technically counts but isn’t as common as it reads. a dozen hours in a day, on the face of a clock. i wonder if that’s because it was just a natural fit or because it was natural to stop before 13. i don’t know why it’s considered unlucky number. there’s so much mythology behind numbers that maybe stories were created to talk about the numbers. what if stories were teaching us math instead and moral lessons came as a by product. you know that feeling when hearing a story and how it reminds you of something else? or story archetypes? hero gets the girl in the end, is a phrase often mistaken as a regular thing. but just summarizes a part of our upbringing. I wanted to be a hero. who didn’t?

I really enjoy science and science fiction, but i wasn’t very good with math growing up. it didn’t seem like something i could get better at. math is cool as heck! when you see it do its thing, but i couldn’t see why there were people that called it fun. it was something else i like a free pass at not trying something to see if i liked it. like veggies. i liked veggies when i got older. I like science -fiction more when i got older. people have adverse reactions to things they didn’t understand. I count with my hands still. thinking back on my math classes growing up, i think it was how everyone finished off a problem with, presto! and i felt dumb because i couldn’t see how easy they did.

I remember i thought it was the coolest thing when i met somebody that knew the 13th multiplication column? I wonder if anyone else feels strange that i don’t see ‘the 13th Doctor being a phrase floating around. instead the original just does a last second cameo and doesn’t seem affected by meeting the 12th. time, man. i keep an analog watch and use military time because it’s the laziest way for me to show i didn’t give up on math completely! plus it made me feel cool and different, as if anyone cared. but, oh well.

waiting for the next hollywood remake to come out and numbers are like, times infinity.
math rocks! posters with the cheesy graphics and a pencil stabbed in a wormy apple, is what i picture when i remember math class.

The word necessary, when i learned to spell it without thinking about how many c’s or s’s went where was a very proud moment for me. but i still don’t know the i before e except after and when it’s this and that rule.


Five

I had to wear a school uniform along with all the other kids in all the grades leading up to high school. High school didn’t have a uniform dress code. The other boys all wore clean and hip clothes that looked like they were from the same place, and mostly talked about girls. That was like, their code. The girls wore bell-bottom jeans mostly or tiny shorts or tiny skirts. In the last grade, some of the girls starting taking to hiking up their uniform skirts, but that was against dress code because shorts or skirts weren’t allowed to go higher than 3 inches above the knee. They’d pull them back down when they got scolded, only to hike them back up when the scolder left. That was their code. There wasn’t any of that kind of silliness in the rules to stop them here. Then there were the weird kids that dressed differently because they wanted to be the only person in the world to dress the way they did. They splintered off into different factions of kids that all thought they were the only ones that dressed the way they did while saying bad things about anyone else not like them. That was their code, too. I didn’t know where they sold the hip clothes; I didn’t ask, but I was sure my mom didn’t either. I didn’t want to be the only person in the world that was like me either. But no one could find out because no one talked to me because I wore my school uniform. My school uniform from last year, I mean. There was a faction of us that wore our uniforms, but we were spread out like were were one-man armies. I couldn’t ask if they felt like one-man armies like I did, they probably did, but we didn’t talk to each other like the other factions. Nor did any of the other factions talk to us. I think the radio silence was supposed to be our code.

My uniform polo shirt had gotten tighter around my belly. I sucked in my stomach whenever anyone else was around. Especially girls. I even had to start slouching so my chest would look less like the some of the junior or senior girls’ chests. I ate when I wasn’t hanging out with anyone because I didn’t know what else to do. I wasn’t hanging out with anyone, a lot of the time. My growing belly resulted from my boredom. It wouldn’t bulge in front of me as bad though if it wasn’t for my pants. The seat of the pants were to small for my seat this year. I had to lie down in order to hook the two ends together. I wished I could look like I was lying down whenever I put my pants on. They were tougher to put on after P.E. because there wasn’t a safe place to lie down inside the bathroom stall. But once they were on, it made my lower part look smaller. I thought that was good because I was glad a part of me looked smaller. My polo shirt, now no longer white, stretched, but my blue uniform pants had my back, my backside too.


Four

Kittridge High School Academy was about a decade old. Newly formed and originally re-enrolled with nearly a third of the students that attended Hornby High School, and thenceforth, split the district. They also took the 8th grade graduating class of Lawrence Preparatory and a few others. Hornby High School had overpopulated classrooms, and a big problem with delinquents. Gang violence and graphitied walls from buzzed haircuts and baggy jeans. H.H.S. didn’t have a uniform policy like K.H.S.A., but the third of the students that were taken didn’t seem like delinquents anyway. They weren’t as savage looking, nor did they look like they were in gangs. Like the cliched popular high school kids in some movies. I’d even heard that K.H.S.A. had received a 20 million dollar grant for construction and education programs because one of the departments exceeded expectations and others showed tremendous promise, or something along that line. I even felt a bit fortunate to be enrolled. But it seemed like K.H.S.A was life raft of survivors rowing away from a sinking H.H.S. I liked that idea, I thought as I looked at the newly built clock tower during break period. It read two minutes til the bell. I ducked back down and quickly scarfed the rest of my lunch beneath the bleachers. Pizza in the shade. I was a survivor.


Three

I could go a week without showering. My parents weren’t home enough to force that habit on me. When I was younger, they’d bathe me in hot water. Boiling hot. I’ve only used cold water to shower for as long as I can remember. It wasn’t as though the cold water was preferable to me, it wasn’t, it was freezing and sometimes it even hurt. It was because I felt like I couldn’t trust warm water from the shower head. Warm was closer to hot than cold was, which I considered to be the warning temperature of the water that I’d bail the shower from. If it was warm, it could switch into scalding and hit me before I could escape. So I safely used cold water instead. I easily went a week without showering.

I turned on the cold shower one evening. Unbuckled my belt and my size 34 khaki uniform pants fell straight down. I had stopped wearing underwear because there wasn’t any danger of uninvited hard-ons in gym class anymore. I pinched my socks off with the toes of on the other foot and took off my white uniform polo shirt, knit-vest with it. (The vest was optional, but made my tits less noticeable.) I soaped my body, arms, shoulders, pits, the whole belly, ass, flanks, and feet. I rinsed in quick circles while squirting shampoo onto my hair, then rubbed my whole scalp into a bubbly foam, then rinsed that too, before I shut off the water. The process took no more than 7 minutes, (I timed it several times with the watch my dad gave me.) and always watched the dirty water and the bubbles escape into the drain. I was freezing but I always wanted to watch that filth escape before I grabbed my warm towel. During the shower I took that evening, was when I noticed it. Protruding an inch and a half, squiggly, thick, dark brown; my first pubic hair. But all I thought was, “what the fuck is that!?”

Forgetting to dry-off, I quickly struggled my dirty clothes back onto my body in a wave of anxiousness. Suddenly, I started taking off my clothes again. I had no idea what it was, or why it was on my body. I sat on the toilet seat cover and examined the pubic hair. I didn’t know what a pubic hair was because I had missed the Sex Education class in the 7th grade, nor did I receive the talk from either of my parents. The hair looked like a terrifying mystery, pointing outward and off-centered from that flabby fat area of skin next to and above my dick and below my belly. It was a hair that grew an inch and a half without being noticed. My belly hid my dick from view usually, and my sad sight of a body, deterred me from looking into full-body mirrors. I didn’t beat off very often, just when I had my mother’s Victoria’s Secret catalog, but besides that I didn’t think anything exciting could happen down there.

I was scared. I didn’t know who to go to about it either. I decided remove it. I looped my finger around it, inhaled and exhaled a few times, held my breath and yanked the fucker out. It stung. Bad. My eyes watered, but not a single peep escaped through my gate of clenched teeth. I flushed that thing away like it was my shit. I searched the area around my dick for any stragglers. All clear. Everything was normal again. I dried off, put my dirty clothes back on and left the bathroom. I didn’t understand how anyone could enjoy a damn shower.


Two

Fuck P.E. I hated that class the most. It was the class I was most passionate about. Richard Johnson, was my teacher, and he was so supportive, informative, and encouraging. He was irritating. I was 5’7” coming in at 180-185. I didn’t like standing on scales so I wasn’t sure. Dick, which was appropriately short for Richard, always cheered me on while the class did something physically strenuous. Well, strenuous for me. Like the warm-up laps. Sometimes Dick would run with me because I fell behind, as usual, and he’d shout eye-rolling things like, “Come on!” and “We can do it!’ and I’m thinking, Yeah, I know you can Dick, you do it all fucking day, dick. What a dick. The girls in the class (the class was hopelessly co-ed) all loved him. He was fit, nice, told dull jokes, and only the girls would giggle. He could have them all. I didn’t care about their mandatory sports bras or their loose fitting sweatpants anyway. Dick. I think johnson was another name for a dick.

It was a whole process, having to get up for school in the 8th grade. My alarm would go off at 7 a.m. and I’d hit snooze, and it would go off 5 minutes later before I hit the snooze again. But P.E. was my 0 period class of my freshman year. An optional period that preceded all other periods of the day. It showed me what my clock looked like at 6.am. It was ugly. Everything looked ugly; milk in the cereal, toothpaste, flipped underwear, blue yawning skies above a mile walk. All in my P.E. uniform because it was my 0 period. My day began in my P.E. uniform and ended in my P.E. uniform because wearing it to bed the night before would save me time in the morning. I didn’t noticed the smell after a while.

Everyone was groggy during that class so I didn’t have to make any conversation nobody wanted with anyone. Any talking would probably have been about how stupid the class was or how stupid a 0 zero period was. I thought the girls looked better without their make-up on, but it was obvious they didn’t think so. They looked the same almost, but some of them were nicer, looked happier after they caked them on at the end of class. The others still looked sad. I wondered about wearing make-up now and then.


One

Drobomir Cartright Asimovo Smolensk Class Schedule
Kittridge High School Academy – Grade 9

0 Period – P.E……………………………. P108-Johnson
1 Period – Algebra……………………… M203-Makiyama
2 Period – Intro to Theater………….. S301-Henderton
3 Period – English………………………. E102-Newman
4 Period – Computers 1A…………….. Admission Offi
Break Period B………………………….. Cafteria
5 Period – U.S. History……………….. D209-Campbell
6 Period – Biology……………………… M113-Lee

Orientation is mandatory. All students must arrive at
scheduled time to ensure prompt service. Student i-
dentification pictures will be taken. So don’t forget to
dress for success! Uniform Dress Code must be followed
at all times on campus. (Review p.3 under “Uniform
Policies” for allowed attire.) We hope to see 
you all
there!

Welcome to Kittridge High School and hope you all
have a great school year! 


Part II


Eleven

A month and a half after I began resuming the rest of my eighth grade year at a new junior high school, my father had received a phone call from a hospital. They informed him his mother, my grandmother, had had both a stroke and an aneurysm that had caused her to fall into a coma. I only knew this because I’d overheard him tell my mother (whom had only been back for a month) in the kitchen when he arrived home, earlier than usual. I was sitting on the floor, sketching on the coffee table. The walls were paper thin to the point where it was nearly impossible not to hear everything. Including the sounds of my parents fucking, which my brother and I had gotten used to but still found irritating. Morris was in our shared bedroom playing a video game.

After I’d finished hearing that part, their voices stopped before continuing in another language, French. I recognized the smooth, flowing syllables from a movie I had seen. After their conversation, my father left the house silently and without a glance at me as he walked by. My mother retired to her room for the evening. The  living room suddenly became cold as I sat alone on it’s floor while feint sounds of gunfire, explosions, and musical fanfare were carefully sent to loom in the lifeless, nonchalant air that was the living room. I started a new sketch of which the pencil in my hand that seemed to have begun leading it’s point where it pleased. It placed lines where it may, and that felt almost consoling. More-so when I believed I’d heard a quickly muffled sob from my mother’s room. It may have been a whimper all the same. It felt strange.

Lawrence Preparatory became my new school. It was a uniform school which meant all students were subjected to a uniform dress code and it’s guidelines. I liked that because none of the other kids would notice the same art four articles of clothing I had (which consisted of two shirts, white and off-white, and two pairs of pants, both blue jeans). I also liked it because I knew it would be harder to figure out how much less money my parents made than theirs did. I’d always known their parents made more money despite the uniforms. It was the way they spoke to each other, the absence of a poor posture, the smiles they had in their little groups, pant creases, wrinkle-free shirts; they just generally looked more crisp and sunnier.

With the same uniform, the furthest I could get it from looking  unkempt was after it finished in the dryer. I would fold and plant them between my oblivious mother’s mattress and it’s box-spring. Even then, I felt like a wolf in a sheep’s clothing. More-so because I knew we owned an iron. I was never shown how to use it. I had maimed myself once, trying to learn. My hair had also reached a long enough length below my bottom lip. I wanted to hide my face, because I had so many beauty marks (which I found ironic) on it. I just generally looked blurry with an overcast and I knew it. I was just trying much harder to make my image seem intentional, but sincerely too embarrassed to ever say anything at all.

When I walked through town (mainly to find a replacement comic book store), I would occasionally overhear someone mention to another, my resemblance to Kurt Cobain. He was the rock musician that had died a few years earlier. Often on days my hair greasy carnival red hair covered my chubby face. However, most of the students carried on as though they really loved him, so that eased a bit of tension. The only music I’d heard of was Rod Stewart’s music. My mother loved it. My father had (and still does) his mullet hairstyle but I didn’t want to emulate that.

I began to feel as though it were possible for people not to be afraid of me so much so, that I believed there was possibly a chance I could make friends here. For a while, I believed all of it.

I had never heard any of his work before, only seen pictures here and there. He looked like he had the same clothing situation as I did, only he had intended it. To be different and he was praised for it. I thought they praised him only because he was a famous rock star, but  it seemed like those who really were different could not have been given any kind of break. Those that claimed non-conformity had started groups where a strong, loud mutual distaste was shared for those were indifferent. That could have been anyone, I thought. I wanted to be indifferent to everything but I looked different because I didn’t have a way to afford otherwise.

The outcast members of my peer were nicer to me, despite my being academically exceptional and not wanting to listen to their music.

I couldn’t stand anything on the radio stations everyone always talked about. It seemed the radio was guilty for telling most of us kids where we belonged, anyway. And if you had MTV, you had an idea of what you’re supposed to look like while you’re there. More of an authority. I looked poor which led me to want to look richer, which I couldn’t do, and being compared to a popularly different person that dressed poor, whom hollered annoyingly sad songs unproductively with thought-provoking mantras to angry teenagers, eventually led me to feel even worse for being poor.

I gave up trying to find a comic book store and stayed home as much as I could. Being outside among the people I wanted to get along with, in general, led to me feeling even lonelier than I’d possibly imagined. I had already kept a fuckload of irritating shit to myself, and I just didn’t have anymore room.

At home, I could sketch my drawings without interruptions, play video games with amazing storylines, laugh with all my favorite actors, and shoot all my imaginary friends in the face without an inkling of guilt. Morris wasn’t home often because he was tricked into one of those groups. At the least, during school I would be guaranteed a poorly kept sheep costume. Everyone has always said an education was the most important thing, so I just had to stick with it and stand tall. My intelligence towards what I saw going around me, only ever made me more miserable. Of course, anyone was always the tallest in a room if no one else was in the room. In any case, I knew I was safe staying with the things I knew. I knew that it was improbable for me to deal with any and all consequences with the routes I knew were safer. The comic book stores I wanted to find were replaced with dumb music stores.


Twelve

By 8th grade graduation from Lawrence, I had successfully retained a count of zero friends. There were others that retained the same count. They had recognizable expressions cemented on their faces. Terribly pathetic mugs. I had a straight face. I was still chubby, but I’d feel better once my carnival red hair hid my face. Every now and then, a new breed of neo-bullies would utter a “faggot,” in passing. Or they’d make an  insinuation of me being female. But when I would stopped in my tracks, they opted not to escalate their situation. Not once. I’d usually need the energy to give a damn to do that. I hadn’t noticed their choice of derogatory barks were a ruse for closeted sexism. I just found them boring and less than 8th grade. I never so much offended as I was annoyed. All it took to shut them up was a, “what’d you say you little bitch?”, and they’d stop barking. The dumber annoying ones always barked the loudest.

I thought they’d even decide to fight me had they known I had only ever been in a single fight (in which I had lost). I didn’t know how to fight, and I didn’t look like I knew how to fight. I just looked like I would have made it very unpleasant for the whomever I did fight. I graduated with straight A’s, no visits to the principals office. No problems, but I couldn’t walk across the stage to receive my certificate.

The entire Smolensk family had gone to the hospital to visit my grandmother that had the stroke followed by an aneurysm. I remembered little about her among the years. Recalling only tiny tidbits of unrelated moments we shared during my nascence. She’d always give me these little bits of advice that I didn’t know were illogical, but they stopped me from doing things. Mainly bad habits. Once, she convinced me to stop spitting everywhere (I had a habit of spitting everywhere and on everything as a child) by telling me it was the same as spitting out blood. I was young but already skeptical. So, to prove her claim, she exposed her bottom row of teeth and lifted the lip toward me to reveal a gathering pool of blood, claiming that had started to happen when she spat one day. I remembered it to be the most disgusting sight, that I never spat everywhere freely again. It turned out she had really bad gingivitis and had used that to convince me to start brushing many moons before the fourth grade. Incidentally, aside from exorcising a few peeving habits, she imposed a few of her own.

After my father had disappeared, his mother (my grandmother) was still there. I had started 1st grade after skipping pre-school. My mother started becoming a rarer figure. Grandma would get Morris to sleep, and manage to walk me to and from school. She did unfailingly. She also unfailingly bought pizza during every walk home with me. The pizza was our diurnal supper. I wasn’t privy to the concept of money, but it didn’t matter. I only knew I always had pizza for dinner. It showed me the concept of routine. A wheel that spun in place, never changing. I digested this sense of safety as easily as a pizza (which also added to my childhood obesity).

When snapped out of my daydream, I found my grandmother coldly staring me in the face. A routine felt like walking home from school with grandma and a pizza, I thought to myself. It felt better than having to toughen up whenever I had an urge to cry. A thousand times better. Even the urge to vomit was more inviting in lieu. Grandma was paralyzed from the left side down. Her memory had regressed, short-term memory was inaccessible. She lifted her old feeble left hand and pointed at me. The hand was wrinkly, with visibly blue veins. I felt nausea kicking in while the air around my neck thickened as though I were in a pool of water. That isn’t my grandma, I thought to myself, I have no idea who that is. I stood as still and as undisturbed as I could.

“To je, jak pozdravit svou vlastní matku?” my grandmother said. It was Czech.

“To není Sam. To je jeho syn Drobomir. Je to váš vnuk.” my mother responded as she placed her hands on my shoulder. My father sat on the empty hospital bed a spot over. There was a white curtain between my grandmother and my father. I knew they mentioned my name along with my fathers, but my father looked uncomfortable. My grandmother kept staring at me.

“To je stejný kluk jsem našel. To je Sam.” she said after a moment. She kept referring to my father’s name.

Seeing my grandmother like that, left me feeling awful. In a gravely way. I toughened up the Smolensk family way, but it wasn’t working. I looked at my father as he seemed to sigh. I don’t know why what happened next, but I let out the scream of my life. The first scream of my life. On the day of my 8th grade graduation.

BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I collapsed to the ground from running out of air. The world was black. It felt like everyone on the 3 hospital floors must have heard me. Even the deaf could have mistaken it for an earthquake. It felt… really fucking amazing.

When I came to, my mother was fanning me with a pamphlet. A look of worry covered her face as I thought, Finally. I sat up and focused my eyes. Everyone was staring at me, even Morris. A few nurses were there.

“Wuzzup, evra’booooooody?” I said in a surly tone.

“What?” asked me mother. She had a genuine look of confusion. Just then a doctor approached from the crowd.

“Do you feel dizzy, Daniel?”

“I dunno, I feel like I’m yawning. Like ah been yawing for a lil’ while now,” I answered as he checked my eyes, “whatcha doin’ Mista’ Docta’ Sir? That’s a tiny flashlight.”

“I’m checking your pupils to see if there’s anything wrong. There, you look fine to me.” the doctor said as he put his pen light back into his breast pocket.

“Oh, well that lady,” as I slowly pointed to a nurse across the room, “looks fu-n, fine to me, can I look up her pup-eelsss to see if they are… anything… wronggggg?” I felt dizzy for a moment, and shook my head as if I was getting the marbles to roll back into the right place. I knew I was saying very inappropriate things too, because my mouth said the things I usually thought about saying when my mother wasn’t around. It felt good to speak. The nurse giggled and my father gestured for a cup of water and left with her.

“This isn’t him, he usually doesn’t speak that way, are you sure he….” my mother asked the doctor, before he reassuringly raised his palms and cut her off. She didn’t look happy about that.

“Yes, he just needs a moment to fully come around. He’s responsive, his brain is just trying to plug back into the right sockets as he speaks. Boys will be boys, Mrs. Prochazka.”

“It’s Ms. Merriwether, and no, that isn’t like Daniel. He never even speaks in public, he’s so shy.” She said directing to me. I had been sitting perfectly still. Precociously moving only my eyeballs as though it were my first time.

“I’m sure it’ll be fine, let’s take another look,” the doctor knelt down again, “it doesn’t usually take this long… Daniel, do you know where you are?” he asked as he ran his finger to the left and the right, my eyes followed.

“My ma and pa never married, so she kept her last name, I’m here to see pa’s ma, my gram-ma. I’m sorry, I’m not sure if she kept her last name though.” I answered.

“Very good. Do you remember your dad’s last name? say AH.” I opened my mouth and answered as he checked my mouth.

“EEEE-AAAAA, CCCAAAANNNNGGG AAAAAAACCCC NNNNNGGGGGGIIIIIIIIIIIIINNNNNNGGGGG.” I finished answering as he finished.

“It’s close enough,” towards my mother still employed a look of confusion, “he just needs a little rest.” I didn’t know why he thought my mother’s last name was Prochazka though. “thank you doctor.”

The doc got up and asked, “Can you stand?”

“I did last time, I hope I still can,” I pushed myself up slowly off the floor, and sneered at my mother, “I knew you knew I could do it mom,” I saw a smirk grow on my Morris’ face, “I see you laughing, let it out brutha!”

“O.K. that’s enough, say good by to grandma, we’re leaving.” my mother said as she picked up her purse and ushered us out.

“Bye gramma-ma, thanks for the pizza wheel.” I said, stumbling to the exit.

“Bye grandma.” said Morris with a tone devoid of emotion.

My mom walked behind Morris and I, but I started to speed-walk with my hands kept stiff to my sides. I tried to get my body to mimic the gliding of a car on wheels with my walk. It felt funny, as I coasted through the hallways. I started giggling. Morris was about 10 feet behind me and my mother several more feet behind. I didn’t feel my being pedantic was so bad, even though I knew I wasn’t supposed to. But the fainting made it seem like no one was going to punish me for it. I’d be immune to any consequence. I only had a little while with this free ticket and I wanted the most from it. I started mimicking siren wails as I glided through the halls. Stiffened arms and all.

“REEEEEEEEEEEUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUOOOOOORRRRRRRRRR!!!!”

I heard my mother yell something like a cease and desist order, but I ignored it. I hit the elevator call button when I got there, but had decided to take the stairs down soon after. I wasn’t followed. The primer-white stairwell echoed triumphantly.

By the time I reached the lobby, clumps of hair had been pasted to parts of my face. Symmetrically placed round spots of sweat had visibly soaked through my shirt beneath my tits, the rolls over where my rib-cage was supposed to be, and one perched below my belly button. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what the rorschach behind my shirt looked like. The shirt clung tight to my body from to the moisture that I was glazed in. On a normal day, I’d have felt embarrassed, insecure, timid, etcetera, but I didn’t have to feel like me at that moment. And it only got better.

“I’LL NEVER HAVE TO SEE ANY OF YOU FUCKERS AGAIN!!!” I proclaimed as I raised a stiff arm, and thrust the doors to the exit open. I had to squint because the light on the other side was bright. Like heaven’s hospital doors, I thought as I exited with a, “FUCK YOU TO ALL!!!!!” My head started spinning again beyond the doors. I stopped moving and kept my eyes closed as I regained my balance. Then opened my eyes to see the asphalt, and slowly directed them horizontally and stopped. Uncertain, I turned to look behind me, then all directions. “Aaaaaaah…..FUCK!!”

I realized from the absence of mountains in the horizon, I had exited the south exit and not the north exit we came from. It was a trick to find the nautical north in the Los Angeles County. North was where we parked. I started along a walking trail that was paved around the entire hospital. Panting heavily, but with a grin on my face.

Everyone was  already at the car when I emerged. A smug smile pinned like a gold star to my face as I got closer. I decided to wave excitedly at one point.

“Get in the car.” my mother said coldly. Her hand was on her waist and the other pointed at the car. That image was television show cliche. I liked it. I felt the smile on my face tighten. I happily hopped into the car but with a mopey sluggishness. Also a cliched image.

I felt there was something happening, something changing. In a good way. Every connecting bone in my body felt it. Maybe it was the fact that I’d finally be a high schooler, or maybe it was the adrenalin from the hospital escape. Maybe it was because I didn’t believe something like volcanic lava would blanket the earth. Or maybe I didn’t think a finger would be pointed at me while they angrily bitched at me for something I didn’t mean to do. But I knew, and my bones knew something was happening. No one in the car was smiling. Whatever was happening made me to be the only one smiling. What was more, was that I didn’t feel the least bit like vomiting.


Ten

I played video games a majority of the time when I was at home. Often only the one’s with a riveting story line. It felt like I was apart of it, like I was playing the character’s life and I did so however I wanted. Another world. I averaged about 6 to 7 hours in this other world until my mother came home from work, as it always went. My dad worked as well, except he’d started coming home in the middle of the night most nights, since I was eight or nine, a few months after his reappearance back into our household. I had [and will never have] any idea where my father had come back into our lives from. My mother didn’t seem to react strongly in any way when he returned, only acted as if he’d been out picking up groceries. So I followed suit; thought and reacted to the predicament as such was so.

I did so because of two reasons: I had already been raised privy to the consequences that would be implemented through any oppositions I had with my mother. And the other because my brother probably had no recollection of him nor his departure, anyway. He’d only been on the planet for two years and the only person I could speak to about it. I was three years older but I remembered when he left, and remember my mother’s reaction. She didn’t have one then, either. The odds were 2 to 1 should I have had any questions about him so I didn’t. I played it safe and never did. In all the years we spent living under the same roofs, it was as if I had taught the “do not talk to strangers” rule with him. I didn’t know I was doing that, but I hadn’t spoken to strangers growing up because that’s what everyone taught us. My father felt like a stranger. The biggest attempt at bonding was when he presented my brother and I, a Gamestation game console. That was also one of the last attempts, and I found it almost moving because I knew how expensive it was and how frugal the family had to be.

I had absolutely no idea what other 8th graders were doing after school nor during their weekends. I didn’t care. Before the Gamestation became a part of our lives, my brother, Morris (preferred over his birth-name of Morriz), was the only real relationship I had with someone close to my age. His dull interests were a justified because he was three years my junior. I just watched all kinds of movies, collected comic books, and acted out action movies of my own.

There was a shop on the route I used to walk to and from school. I was always scared to walk in that store because my mother wasn’t with me. Whenever I walked into a store, my mother was always there. She never actually told me I wasn’t allowed in a store without her. I didn’t like to do it because it felt different, and something different meant something wasn’t right, and if something wasn’t right to me, something was wrong. I thought there would be some kind of consequence. Different scared the shit out of me. Me in the shop alone, was different, but I managed to walk in one day.

A perk about the route I took was partly responsible; it was the same route another student from school used, a girl. A pretty one I wanted to know the name to, whom suddenly, walked into that store one day. I did not follow. I debated for a week, whether or not to walk into that place. Oddly, it taunted my ever-increasing curiosity, but alas, my curiosity became too fucking loud to ever become quiet. I finally entered and discovered the addicting world of comic books.

Before long, I no longer cared about what that girl’s name was. She was just something I stared at the ass of while I walked to the comic book store. I wasn’t particularly fascinated in a comics’ story line as I was fascinated by the drawings themselves. Some I recognized, others I began to recognize. I’d begun saving up spare change, and whatever I had went to that store. My favorite magazine to buy was this one called Sorcerer. Sorcerer magazine was to the world of comics as Vogue was to the world of fashion. Artists interviews, collaborations, jokes, things to look forward to, and most importantly, detailed sketches of how certain drawings came to fruition onto the page of a comic book. Renders of characters faces and bodies dramatically exaggerated emotions so beautifully. I didn’t feel the need to pay too much attention to whatever was written inside the dialogue bubbles. I already knew with the next frame. I read some of the comics. Familiarized myself with a character’s name, but often I came up with my own dialogue for them. I made them say what I wanted them to say within the corresponding frame, and these drawings and their stories flowed through my mind like a river, as a children’s Saturday morning cartoon would on the television screen. I wanted to create my own, despite the fact I’d never drawn before. Which is why the sketches were intriguing to me as they were like blueprints from which I could build. Whatever I’d create could be anything. Something that I alone, desired. I shared that power, that feeling with my brother because the overflowing excitement from it all, couldn’t be shared with anyone else I didn’t know. I thought it was the coolest fucking thing in the world. All kinds of colors.

Throughout our youth, my family and I relocated often, and a large database of foreign and american films were always with us. I watched every single one multiple times, including movies that were supposedly inappropriate, which never mattered unless it was porn (of which I knew was hidden above the closet). I was already very well exposed to the variety of profanities courtesy of the schoolyard, as well as exposed to violence. Some dead bitch that was shot with a 12 gauge shotgun blast to the neck with her head rolling a few feet away in a movie didn’t scare me. I’d even act them out. My reenactments were often of me blasting bad motherfuckers to hell with my finger pistols or slicing cocksucker criminals in half with a katana made of lightning. This was playing to me. A childhood sport.

If Morris played with me, we’d act out similar cheesy story-lines as well. I made-believe with my brother even after the 8th grade. I had no I idea I wasn’t supposed to. I have had a cast of imaginary friends from a young age, except I shot or killed them all. Morris had his own cast and movies often as well, but mine were too interesting for me to ask him about his. It felt like an imaginary competition. It was show business, and it was the mother and father that raised us.

My father was unexpectedly home one day after school. My brother attended a different school so he arrived home earlier and was sitting at the kitchen table. Our father was cooking something in a skillet that smoked dangerously from the stove. He turned his head and saw me, frozen in place with my backpack dangling off my forearm, then continued back to the stove. Without a word, I pulled up a seat next to Morris and quietly asked him what he was doing home.

“He was ‘ready home.” he replied at full volume.
“Oh,” I said, trying hard not to question the unscheduled appearance. That was my father after all, he was allowed into his home at his leisure. It became increasingly hard because his presence was different. Something was wrong, ergo, wasn’t right. I felt nauseous and ready to vomit. I didn’t want that to happen in front of my father. I turned back to Morris, “What is he cooking?”

“I dunno. He just said to sit.” Morris replied in a tone absent of curiosity.

We watched a few minutes more until my father was done. He pulled two plates out of the white cupboard (which turned grayish) and placed them on the burners atop the stove. He split the mystery he was cooking onto the plates and walked them both over. He placed them in front of Morris and I. The thing on my brother’s plate was flat and had the silhouette of a top-hat, and mine of a boot. Both charred with a deep blackness. It was the first time I’d seen my father cook, and I found out why. My father walked back with the same skillet and poured a brownish sludge onto our plates. Then he sat across the table, picked up a fork, and started eating from the skillet. His eyes focused only into the skillet as he ate, a ring of black crumbs collected around his mouth. I stared at him, still wanting to vomit. I had hoped the meal would be the only change that afternoon. The change had already irritated my nausea. The brown sludge was different and looked wrong. The whole plate looked like a consequence as opposed to a meal, and when I turned to see Morris’ disgust, I saw that he’d already eaten half the fucking thing without a hint of distaste. Then my father looked up at me.

“You should eat. We’re moving tomorrow to a safer part of L.A. at noon, your mom isn’t coming home tonight, you’re both going to new schools, we have to pack everything, there’s a Gamestation in the hall the both of you can play at the new house.” He listed. He stared a moment longer then slurped the last of the sludge leftover in his skillet as he got up. He washed it off quickly in the sink, and disappeared into the next room.

“There might be a cooler comic book store at the new place.” Morris said briefly and continued eating. Suddenly, with his mouthful of char and brown sludge, a thought hit him, “Ooooh, I gotta go say bye to some friends!” he exclaimed as he kicked his feet. Then scarfed down the sludge, and disappeared into our room.

I wasn’t worried about my mother because my father seemed to be calm. So I was too. However, the idea of going to a new school, meant my reputation at Rutherford would be gone. I’d have to start from nothing. People could speak to me without fear or having been forced to. The possibility seemed very inconvenient to me. The comic book store would be gone from the route I took to go home. That seemed disappointing as well as inconvenient to me. I’d have to learn a new route to go to and from school which also seemed inconvenient. The dead rat corpses would be shared for dissection, which seemed inconvenient without an obvious reason to me. Miss Spittel’s glorious, bouncing tits wouldn’t shine headlights of joy into the darkness the loomed over most of my days, and that seemed less inconvenient as it seemed more inhumane. The ever-fortunate 4th period Gym class and Aubrey Porter’s blossoming tits would be gone, though inconvenient seemed heart-wrenching. All those things were so routine, so fucking O.K., would be replaced with different, change, and incorrect. The stable structure safely securing sanity, sanity I gave myself was being deconstructed overnight. As these thoughts perpetuated, the room spun itself into a blur, echoing the last words that came from Morris. With that, I vomited onto the charred black dinner boot on my plate before everything went black. Morris said his goodbyes to friends that, for him, seemed inconvenient to have to say a goodbye to, which inconveniently felt like a betrayal to me.