I had all the stationary necessary for school packed neatly in my backpack. Pencils, erasers, blue pens, black ones. A paper-filled binder to hold notes I had to take. They had dividers with labels in accordance to the schedule I got in the mail. It said, To the parents of Drobomir Cartwright Asimovo Smolensk, but I always read those letters anyway. I also read the ones addressed to my mother, so I could summarize them to her when she came home. My father didn’t get too much mail because he was presumed dead in a war he said never even fought in. We collected the money they sent us anyway. He disappeared when I was 5, and reappeared when I was 8. He smiled and said nothing. Then he carried on as if that was the way it always was. the way it’s always been.
This school is going to be different. I’m a new person now, I said to myself every night. For the whole week before school started. I had always thought that before. When I whispered to myself, I sometimes even managed to convince myself. I checked my backpack every night before I went to bed. I always had to make sure my supplies were there in the same spot. In tact. They always were. Also checked my class schedule to make sure my binder had the dividers in the right spots. They never changed. I always made sure.
A mirror hung on the front door of my bedroom door. I would stand in front of it and rehearse funny things to say in certain situations when my baby brother was in another room. If the other students didn’t like the teacher, I’d have something to say. I also prepared myself to not like the teacher, which I thought was going to be hard, but safety is with the masses. Everyone did that. I couldn’t sleep the last two nights before school started. I stayed awake, my heart was tap-dancing. The excitement of a new school took away the drowsiness. My brain filled with the idea of something new. Someone might even talk to me.
I woke up exhausted on the first day of school. My back and shoulders sore from fidgeting the last two nights instead of sleeping. I had also opted to roller-blade to school as opposed to having my mother drive me. I made a point about how an extra half hour of sleep would benefit her. She agreed. She even purchased the roller-blades for me, along with kneepads, elbowpads, shinguards, wristguards, and a helmet. I made a point about the importance of safety for those. She agreed with anything that let her sleep in longer. I wanted the protection because I thought they would make me look like an armored superhuman cyborg or something. I liked that. I thought, there couldn’t be a single person out there who didn’t think an armored superhuman cyborg was cool. Especially if they were going to school with one. I was exhausted, was roller-blading, and wearing armor to my first day of junior high. The dividers in my binder were in place.
It seemed as though I had a premature sense of independence. As I neared the school, everyone was being dropped off by their parents at the parking lot. Students that walked, lived nearby, and walked in groups. I had roller-bladed once before, and was terrible at it. My palms were on the ground more times than the wheels. I was much better at being dropped off. I was getting up to the gate. I stumbling, I sweated, and I was getting sadder. Some had already noticed me. I was as easily noticed as you would a tornado. If I was turned around to go back home to change, I’d be late to class, I kept thinking. I kept thinking that hoping it would change. It wouldn’t. I wasn’t exactly a thin boy, but I had the armor on so I would look much better. And the girls, oh the girls, had already started whispering and giggling to each other, pointing in my direction. It’s over, I thought as I neared the gate, I shouldn’t have done anything. This is what happens when I try do anything.
I was about to forfeit and accept the end of my social career, I noticed my mother’s black Honda. It had the same smashed passenger-side mirror. It was driving by. I locked eyes with my mother for a moment, but she bit her lip and quickly looked away. She kept driving. My mother knew this was the end for me too. I passed by underneath the marquee that read, “Welcome to Wellington Intermediate! Get ready to have a great year!” I was the roller-blading punchline.
I aimed and stumbled into a shrub by the faculty parking lot. I began removing my blades and armor. Fast as if they were on fire. I had stuffed a blue knock-off Addidas duffel bag into my backpack to keep my gear in. I had known it was a knock-off because the D was misplaced and spelled, Adiddas. Any person living in the 90’s would notice it. All of Wellington would notice it. So I kept it in my backpack. I unpacked my shoes and put them on. They were brown dress shoes from Shopless Shoes, they were under ten dollars. The roller-blades and armor cost more than anything I’d have seen in the Smolensk home. I packed it all neatly into the blue duffel bag and slung it over the shoulder opposite my backpack. Tried to play it cool as I walked to the gate.
“Addidas, ain’t spelled right on your bag, dipshit.” somebody said to me. I rolled my eyes and kept walking. Here it comes, I thought. I didn’t turn around. “Hey dipshit. Big-ass blue purse.” said the same voice. I should have planned something funny to say to that, but I just didn’t picture this happening. So I kept walking because. I was hoping he would give up not mind me, but suddenly my upper body jerked backwards. It was the voice. I fell to the ground with both my bags but sprang back up immediately. All on impulse and adrenalin, my fists clenched. It was Rudy.
Ol’ bloody gums Rudy from Dentally Hygienic Mrs. Kents class. What the fuck was he doing at Wellington Intermediate, I wondered. His eyes didn’t seem to recognize me. At all, and I sat next to him. I figured he wasn’t going to high-five me or shake my hand. I felt I should say something.
“I brushed my teeth with you.” was it.
“What?” he paused a moment, searching his brain, “Fucking weirdo!” Rudy said as he looked at his friends and laughed. They joined him. I guess he couldn’t remember.
“In Mrs. Kents’ class. Your gums bleed.” suddenly everything came back to him, his eyes widened. Instead of acknowledgement, he stood there. Motionless. It was strange because I had no idea what he was thinking, or even if he knew what he was thinking. He was the most absent minded bully I’d ever met. I’d met several, but the best bullies never seemed to think, and that made them great bullies. Rudy just stood there. Then, in an instant he threw his was thrown into my face.
I fell to the ground like a lottery ticket with the wrong numbers. I felt like I was falling in slow motion and the fall made think of all the decisions I’d ever made in my life leading up. How could I have been that unlucky, punched in the face by a guy I used to brush my teeth with, all the junior high school girls watching, and I hit the ground. He saddled me and continued to rain knuckles into my chubby face. Everything happened so quickly so I wasn’t feeling the punches. I was in shock. My first fight. Well, Rudy was doing the fighting. It seemed to happen slowly, I was watching and waiting for the next punch to hit me in the face, the decisions I’d made, the girls were watching. They had to have been. I threw a punch, the hardest punch I had ever thrown. The only one I’d ever thrown, inched closer like a wrecking ball into a building. Everything was so slow. The best punch of my life, must have been actually slow because it hit nothing but air. It looked more like I was trying to run my fingers through his hair or wipe ketchup off his lips. A sissy punch. It was a pathetic punch. He continued punching, except even harder and faster. My sissy punch probably pissed him off. I started feeling his knuckles. The adrenalin was wearing off and things were speeding up again, but it still seemed to go on forever. I couldn’t even lift my arms anymore. I felt like I was dead, but he was still punching away, a dribble of drool came down the left side of his mouth like a rabid dog. I was annoyed because I had to keep watching. I wondered when this guy was going to be finished? I was still alive, but I couldn’t care if I was anymore.
“STOP!” screamed a voice, and Rudy did instantaneously. The fight had lasted about 20 seconds. Well, his fight. My entire face was puffed like a muffin and marinaded in my own blood. I could smell it. I tried to to my eyes toward the voice. The one that probably saved my life from Rudy the rabid psychopath. “Get off him!” the voice continued as it pushed Rudy off. It was clearly a girl’s voice, and then a length of brown hair breezed over my face. There was a scent on it. A pair of hands lifted my head up. “Are you okay?”
“He shouldn’t have been talking shit.” yelled Rudy.
“…I was just saying I remembered his gums bleeding.” I mumbled. I only mentioned the gums because aside from that, he was only remembered as a bully. Rudy got pissed again and came back at me, but the voice heldhim away with a hand. No resistance. She didn’t even touch him. Even bullies knew when to not hit a girl sometimes.
“Who’s gums are bleeding now?!” shouted Rudy. One of his boys shouted. Then Rudy picked up his backpack. It didn’t look like he carried anything in it besides pens. Random ones probably. I’d have been surprised if he knew how to read, let alone write, I was getting angry because I started to feel. My vision was coming back. I turned my head toward the voice. It was Aubrey Porter. Clear as day. Her brunette hair with the vanilla scent. Deep blue eyes looked into my bloody, bruised and brown ones. I knew those eyes, I’d always know those eyes, the only pair of eyes that didn’t look at me like I was an anomaly. Though, I probably did looked like the clog in a toilet there on that floor.
“My gums are bleeding?” I said as I lifted a limp hand to my mouth.
“It’s okay, the principal and nurse is coming.” she said. I mumbled something. I didn’t expect to meet the nurse and the principal on the same day, especially not during the first day of my new world. I thought about my dividers.
My face was cleaned and bandaged up by the nurse. I’m sure she didn’t expect to be doing this on her first day. She was really nice and gentle like a cloud floating by on another sunny day. Then she told me the principle wanted to see me in his office located down the hall. I started walking over, looked back at the nurse and gave what I had left to smile with. I liked the nurse, but I also hoped I didn’t have to see her again. It turned out I didn’t see her again, because she was replaced the following school year. The cloudy and gentle nurse had hanged herself in her apartment, and her body wasn’t discovered for an entire month. I often speculated why it took an entire month to discover the corpse of the gentle nurse.
“Tell me what happened.” said the principle. He was a stout man, his coat and pants never matched. He seemed like he was either edgy, or on edge most of the time. He didn’t even ask me a question then, he demanded a synopsis of the situation that even I couldn’t figure out.
“I roller-bladed here, sir.”
“You’re saying what was done to your face was because you roller-bladed here?”
“In a way, yes, sir.”
“So this, Rudy, had a hatred against roller-blades?”
“No, sir. He was pointing out the name on the bag I kept them in, sir.”
“Oh, so he didn’t hate roller-blades, just the bag.”
“I don’t think he hated the bag, sir.” I was beginning to feel annoyed with his tone.
“The name on the bag, sir.”
“He doesn’t like your name? What is it, Polish or Russian?”
“Not my name sir, the bag itself. It was a knock-off Adidas bag and not spelled right. It was the only bag my roller-blades and gear could fit into. Polish, sir.”
“Hmm… Well, from the information I’ve obtained, you did not retaliate. These situations usually mean the oppressing party is guilty.” the principle stated. Somehow, that made me feel both low, and, Rudy was only going to be even more pissed.
My mother was sent for to pick me up from school immediately. I never even got to my classes on my first day. The entire drive home was silent, my mother drove as she always did, the only thing new was my face being bandaged up, like a mummy.
At the dinner table, my father was smiling as he always did. He just stared at my face. I wanted to ask him what he would’ve done in that situation, but expected his response in the form of a smile. That wouldn’t help. Then my mother finally spoke.
“Was it the roller-skates?” I looked at her and paused momentarily.
“Roller-blades. And no.” We ate in silence for a bit.
“Then what was it?” asked my mother.
“Rudy is just rude. I don’t know why. Maybe he didn’t have roller-blades.” We continued eating in silence.
After dinner, I had a terrible time brushing my teeth. I looked into the mirror for the first time saw the damage done to my face. Rudy really went to town on it. Just then my father walked in. He didn’t say a word. We stared at my face through the reflection together. I broke the silence.
“What?” I asked. He didn’t respond. There was no smile. We continued looking into the mirror. After another while, he spoke. With a deeper, grittier voice than I had remembered. The first time I’d heard him speak since I was 8 which was a bit awkward now that I think about it.
“When I fight, I fight to win, I don’t fight to prove a point because fighting isn’t a part of logic to begin with. We fight to fight, that’s human nature, and it’s a proven fact that we need to be on the winning side. So win your fights.” with that, he left with his smile again. When I think of my father, I always think to myself, “who the fuck is this guy…”
I went back into my room for bed. I threw the blue duffel bag into the closet with no intention of wearing them ever again (I hadn’t roller-bladed since.) I’d gone to school the first time in the 7th grade with intentions of achievement, satisfaction, and hope, and ultimately went to bed that night hating roller-blades, and knowing that asshole, Rudy with the pathetic mouth, had it in for me. Also, discovering my principle was an idiot, my father having a deep philosophical voice, and that Aubrette had saved my life, giving me another reason to be in love with her. The first day of junior high was not eventful in the way I’d hoped it would be.