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.