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That night I stood in the shower and began to think. I wasn’t sure exactly how old I was, but I guessed I was around fifteen. That’s what M. told me. I thought about all of the people from the church service that I had been to that morning. I imagined the old people who were singing in the choir as young children.

They were taught, as I was being taught, what was okay to wear and how they were supposed to look. The only difference between them and me was that I wasn’t buying it. It wasn’t working on me, but why not? Most of the men there kept their hair short, wore the ‘better’ clothes, and agreed that they were doing what was right. I wondered why I was cursed with being different. I wished that I could fit in with all of these people and be able to do so happily. But alas, this was not the case.

I imagined those children growing up and having children of their own. Some had happy children, some had healthy children, and some did not. What determines whether or not the children are happy and healthy? Finally, the old people singing in the choir had re-aged in my imagination. They were once again the old people singing in the choir. Soon they would leave this plane of existence. Maybe that is why they sang in the choir. They sang songs of a wonderful beautiful reality awaiting them upon their deaths…a world free from pain, much unlike the one we currently lived in. It didn’t sound very likely to me, but I was sure that believing it would make it easier to die.

I extended my arm and held my hand in front of my face. I could see all of my fingers spread out in front of me, five on each hand. They wiggled around underneath the stream of water that spurted from the shower head. I could feel them, and I could them feeling the water. I could feel them tingling all the way up my arm.

I could see them too, but I knew that what I saw wasn’t a perfect picture. It was just a representation of what was really there, made by my eyes. I may not ever be able to know exactly what these fingers look like, or exactly what anything looks like for that matter. I could feel my brain, soft and squishy and marinating in the blood inside my head, aging one second at a time.

In a mere instant, like the spark of a match, the children of the old people in the choir would become the old people in the choir. I would be old as well, and my brain would be tired from marinating and thinking and wondering and learning for so long. I was afraid to die, but I imagined that it might be a happier thing than was living. I wished that I would never grow old. Maybe I wouldn’t, but it was now time for bed.

I dreamed of going to school and meeting other people my age. I tried to talk to the other children but they weren’t interested in being around me. All of the teachers, however, were very happy that I was there. And a girl…Anna? No, it wasn’t her. She ran away laughing, carrying her books in hand. She wanted to be chased. I ran after her, and out the front doors of the school we went.

“You’ll never get away!” I was wrong. A bus was there, her bus, big and bright and yellow, full of teens ready to be taken home. The engine was rumbling and the door was open, as if it had been awaiting her arrival all along.

“Silly boy, I’m just as sidewindy as you. You won’t catch me that easily.” The door shut behind her and the bus flew off into the distance. Then someone tapped my shoulder. “Scaredy-cat. You’re too used to everything being the way that it should be. You don’t understand the true power of imagination.” I turned around. It was her! She was now standing right in front of me. How? I quickly jumped back in shock. “Do you want to keep your preconceptions and your sanity, or would you like to lose them both?”

“I have no real use for either.” We were suddenly sitting in the back of a silvery Styrofoam bus that was now squeaking down my street, driving past all of the nearly identical houses.

“Why don’t you kiss me?” And so I did. Magic exploded all around us, light shot out from our bodies and into the sky, and for a moment the world stood still. In that moment I could feel her heart fluttering inside of her chest. It sounded much like mine. Could she hear mine too? Who was she? The bus came to a halt in front of my house. It was now early morning. “Don’t worry, Tristan. You’ll see me again.”

Instantly I was at the front door of the house. The bus slowly disintegrated and was blown away by the wind. The house was made of only wobbling TV static. I floated through the front door, my body still tingling all over. Once I made it inside I found Anthony. He was there, awake, energized and heading toward my room. He opened the crystalline bedroom door.

“Tristan, wake up!” By the end of the day I was scheduled to begin school at Pinewood High. It was obviously named this because of all of the towering pine trees that surrounded it. I didn’t think it was a very original name. It was mid-October, so they told me that I would have to work vigorously in order to catch up with my classmates.

Apparently the new ‘school year’ began two months ago. I was still very new to public education, extremely new, in fact. This was my first day. I had never had any kind of formal education, and the school’s administration warned me that I would be facing a difficult challenge. I was ready. They were not yet aware of my abilities.

I started on a Wednesday. The school seemed very large and intimidating on that first day, and far too easy to get lost in. I was a bit frightened at first and refused to talk to anyone. Most of my teachers quickly took notice of me and told me. They said that I had great potential to succeed in life, but they might have been lying. At first I was put into special ed. classes due to my lack of prior schooling, but within a week I was transferred into regular courses. This was still unfulfilling. Eventually I would have to make it into the honors classes or I wouldn’t be satisfied.

Sometimes I noticed the other students pointing at me while they quietly talked amongst themselves in their huddled circles. They seemed to be mimicking the football team’s huddles, the ones that happened during a game before a play, or maybe football was mimicking them. I guessed that it was the latter, because it seemed like huddling would have been around long before football was. Maybe quietly talking in closed off groups is just part of human nature. I imagined they were saying a lot of negative things about me. I didn’t care. That’s what I told myself, but secretly I did.

I was sitting alone at the lunch table, like always, when she first came. I hadn’t gotten anything to eat today. The food here tasted like shit and I wanted to lose weight. I wasn’t as physically fit as the jocks, though I didn’t care about them, and not yet quite as thin as most of the skaters and artists. It was just one more thing that was wrong with me. Why would she want to sit next to me?

“Hey there, I’m Elena. What’s up?”

The ceiling, I thought. I didn’t say it out loud. It was far too overdone…too cliché.

“Not shit, really.” That wasn’t any better. Fuck it, now I couldn’t blame the school for its unoriginal name. She slammed her disgusting high school cafeteria rubber chicken sandwich, floppy French fries, and small bottle of potentially spoiled milk down onto the table. Brown hair, blue eyes, a seemingly sinister smile and a fit body…I guess one could that she was attractive. I was sure that the other boys, and probably some of the girls, would agree. Why was she talking to me? I was a bit suspicious.

“I see you sometimes in class, you know. Have you noticed me? I’ve noticed you in biology class. Fitting, isn’t it?” She laughed hysterically for at least twenty seconds. This was high school, after all. “I think you’re cute. You should meet me after school, how about behind the gym?” This time I laughed, mainly in surprise. But I considered it for a moment.

“Okay.” I hadn’t really done anything sexual with anyone before, apart from Anna and my rapist dad, but at this point I had given up hope of ever seeing Anna again. We would never be permitted to be together anyway. I still couldn’t figure out why. I did, however, figure out that what Father taught us wasn’t called “the game we play with daddy” by the people out here. It was called sex or fucking, as the other guys at the school called it. And it was not acceptable for fathers and children or brothers and sisters to be doing it together. This made me feel much worse.

I talked to Cindy about it the night before. She said that I had been abused and committed a great sin with Anna. I wished I would have never known. I wished that she hadn’t told me. Now I felt even dirtier, more worthless, more like a victim and an outcast. How could Anna and I have sinned if we didn’t know that what we were doing was socially unacceptable? It didn’t make any sense to me. Maybe Elena would help me take my mind off of all of it.

At 3:45 the bell rang. School was over. It seemed like it lasted forever! Time crawls when you’re awaiting fun. As I walked toward the gym I began to feel a very peculiar feeling. Was I nervous? Whatever I was, I didn’t like it. I looked up at the clouds. One had formed the shape of a fist. It collided with a cloud that looked like a person’s face and then the face exploded…how odd. I made it behind the gym and there she was, waiting for me. The bright sunlight made her hair shimmer like a rare jewel, so much that it hurt my eyes. I made my way over to where she was standing, trying my best to seem confident.

“There you are!” She said excitedly. She grabbed my hands and twirled around in a circle. I followed, tripping over my feet a few times as I tried to keep up. I felt a little embarrassed and rather clumsy.

“Alright, you stupid shit…” The chemicals inside of my brain instantly wiggled around in a very unpleasant way. What did she just say? “I can’t fuckin’ do this anymore. See ya later, babe.” What the fuck? What was happening? She walked back around the corner of the brick building and out of sight before I could process what had just happened. I started to walk the other way to get back to the buses, still a bit stunned. Okay, well now my expectations are being met.

Unfortunately this wouldn’t last. My expectations had not been set low enough after all. A boy appeared from behind the corner that I was walking toward and blocked my path. I recognized him. He was on the football team and I couldn’t remember his name, probably because he was on the football team. His intentions today didn’t appear to be very friendly.

“Hey man, what’s up?” He asked. Not ‘the sky’, too cliché ja vu…but I didn’t have time to think about that right now. “You’ve been tryin’ to get with my girl, huh? She told me you were tryin’ to get in her pants all day. You know anything about that?”

“What? No. I don’t want anything to do with her at all! This is fucking ridiculous.”

“That’s not what she told me, man.” I turned around to walk the other way, but two other guys were coming from the other direction. I was surrounded. Oh shit. The first boy came at me, smacking me squarely in the jaw with his fist. Surprisingly I was still on my feet, but the world around me began to wobble. I tried to fight back, but it was no use. The odds were stacked against me. One of the boys in the back spun me around hit me right in my nose. It was the boy who had ripped apart the picture of Anna. He was back again…back again…

I’m not sure what happened after that…only that it must have looked like a cartoon, a slapstick comedy, when I fell like a plank and smashed into the ground. It wasn’t comical to me. The big strong guys beat down the lone somewhat unsuspecting boy, who had never even seen the inside of a gym. The only time I had was when I sat and sulked at out pregame rallies, but that gym seemed to be more for basketball. Oh well. Good for them. Oh, what big strong fucking men they just proved themselves to be.

Detention…that’s all that they got. It sure does pay to be an athlete. I might have been expelled if I had done the same thing. I had learned another very important lesson about the way things go in the world.

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